The bar for leaders has risen: can you reach it?

 Britain has always revered its leaders. Think ‘memorable leader’ and one’s mind will be drawn to characters such as Winston Churchill and Bobby Moore.

But leadership today is consistently being asked to ‘be more’. It is no longer enough to be great in your discipline, one also needs to contribute to more than just their own ambitions and needs.

Act bigger and think bigger
JFK famously said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.’ This is the same ethos that sets the benchmark for leadership today. Leaders today must act bigger and think bigger than themselves, and contribute to society.

Thinking has also become narrower and there is a strong argument that certain skill sets, especially networking and social competence, have declined. There is also a belief that younger emerging talent is more intelligent but not as empathetic to the world-at-large.

Leaders cannot be taught just by textbooks, they need to be nurtured and developed through their own exposure to the world.

Where have all the leaders gone?
I’ve recently come across boards asking: ‘Where are the next generation of leaders and why are they not breaking through?’ A common answer is that many professionals seem to do exactly as they are instructed. This is undoubtedly intertwined with an increased fear of failure, far less questioning, and less self-expression.

This can be neither healthy nor productive for business. The best teams often include difficult characters who challenge thinking. Many of the best leaders have not followed the rulebook but instead have trusted their own instincts.

This has happened in sport, for example, the All Blacks created two mantras’ as they became arguably the best ruby team in history.

1. Better people = better players. The more the players were exposed to real life and other interests, the more they thought for themselves. They expressed themselves and became better decision makers when they were playing.

2. The ‘no d*ickheads’ policy. A player could not be an egoist off the pitch and a team player on the pitch.

Exposure to life means more than job and home
A leader needs an understating of people and life, needs the courage to stand and believe in something more than their own interests, and requires values and principles.

The only thing that will nature such traits is exposure to life and being involved in more than just the job and home.

Many argue that we have already seen one of the greatest generations of leaders, but that generation grew up in a time when the young were arguably freer to express themselves. The late 70s and 80s were a period of CND marches, great political debate, university grants, and of being given accountability at a younger age. Many leaders held roles of genuine responsibility by the age of 25. They were exposed to life in a broader sense and they had fun.

Moreover, these leaders understood the importance and value of friendship and team culture. Now there is a need to understand and recognise that younger generations are growing and developing with a very different foundations to past years. More work needs to be done to help nurture their talent and that work must start today.

The younger generation want and need to change the world. They are also asking more of today’s leaders and they will not accept those that do not reach towards the higher bar.

By Chris Sheppardson, EP – Business in Hospitality

About EP – Business in Hospitality 
EP is a leading communicator in business thinking and opinion with a focus on shared knowledge and connectivity across the hospitality industry. Bringing like-minded communities together, EP provides a central resource for the discussion and debate of key issues affecting businesses today. With an intention to facilitate and advise, EP also creates live face-to-face events, bridging the communication gap between organisations and their prospective audiences.

Working with hundreds of entrepreneurs across the UK, EP also provides consultancy and advisory services, professional communications, and entrepreneurial development while publishing a range of printed magazines, books, reports, and digital content.