Leadership Conversations: Transformational Leadership

Hosted by Livingston James, iconic Scottish business leaders Alistair Phillips-Davies (CEO of SSE) and Dame Sue Bruce (NXD and ex-CEO of Edinburgh Council and Aberdeen Council) discussed the hurdles to be overcome in building truly adaptable organisations to enable them to meet the relentless succession of challenges in today’s rapidly changing competitive and political landscape.

They gave their insights regarding the need to develop leadership across all levels of an organisation to proactively future-proof a business; what challenges they have faced in building a team with the adaptive leadership skills required to deliver organisational success; and what they think business leaders need to do to reframe what it takes to make a business thrive.

For a summary of the views and opinions of Alistair Phillips-Davies and Dame Sue Bruce, please see below.

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At the latest in the series of our Leadership Conversations, we were privileged to host Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO of SSE, and Dame Sue Bruce, NXD and former CEO of both the City of Edinburgh and Aberdeen City Councils.

With their wealth of business experience and varied backgrounds, our two speakers tackled the issue of transformational leadership, focussing on its role in creating truly adaptable businesses equipped to face the challenges of the current economic and political climate.

Addressing a cross sectoral audience of senior business representatives, the conversation was honest and wide-ranging.  They discussed the challenges that businesses face in the current climate and how transformational leadership is needed to navigate them, and also touched on the skills required in order to be a strong leader.  We have summarised the key points below.

Current challenges faced by CEOs and Executive Boards

  • The board must establish distributed leadership across an organisation, with clarity about the rules and responsibilities of each leader, including leadership based on the organisation’s values and culture
  • The board itself must be agile and capable of running a company for the future – desired credentials include; drive, ambition, diversity, different backgrounds, flexibility of thought, and the desire to achieve change
  • The pace of economic and political change is accelerating – organisations must be ready to adapt to these changes guided by strong leadership
  • Organisations must have a social conscience and demonstrate this publicly in order to earn the right to make a profit; addressing issues such as general mistrust of ‘big business’, the wealth divide, and the loss of lower paid roles due to digital disruption
  • Be prepared to build and rebuild competitive advantage – change may not always be transformational, but leaders must keep the organisation moving forward incrementally
  • The board must recognise the value of young people and invest in them, demonstrating this through the organisation’s employment policy

Leadership skills – do you have what it takes?

  • Leaders must demonstrate resilience even when they don’t have all the answers – this doesn’t always come with the role and some leaders may need to work to develop strategies to become more resilient
  • A CEO must be able to consider the needs of both employees and shareholders – dividends are no incentive for employees
  • A successful CEO must be able to demonstrate; resilience, strong personal values, integrity, tenaciousness, and the ability to value others for what they can bring to the organisation

Both our speakers were clear on the continued importance of strong and confident leadership in order to effectively guide businesses as they adapt to changing conditions – both economic and political.  And it was fascinating to learn from their extensive personal experiences.

To find out more about this event please contact [email protected].

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