The employee/employer dynamic changes in
times of adversity and can lead to the em
ployee becoming more engaged instead of
disengaged, according to the CEO of HBOS,
Smith said that in tough times employ
ees become less focused on rewards and
become more focused on what the leader is
saying, on whether they are providing clari
ty and direction and look for more one-on-
one conversation with their managers than
“It’s quite remarkable to see the dynamic
between employee and leader change,” said
Smith. “The engagement levels go up and
often employees do a much better job.”
Speaking at a breakfast hosted by
Stephensen Mansell Group this week, Smith
emphasised the importance of leadership and
communication in difficult times.
“I know it sounds like 101 leadership, but
it’s so important to pull all your top leaders to
gether and cascade the messages down,” he
said. “If the message is communicated prop
erly it’s a powerful thing.”
Smith also believes it is in difficult times
that the best relationships are often formed.
“Some of the strongest relationships I have
made have been during times of adversity,”
he said. “It’s because the things you achieve
together during these times are way and be
yond anything that you could experience in
the normal course of work.”
Resilience and endurance he believes are two of the characteristics that leaders who are going through this economic period will build up.
Smith who joined HBOS as CEO in January this year had, as he described, a baptism of fire – taking up the position in the midst of the financial crisis.
“As a leader during a crisis like this you have to take a different approach and question “what is normal” in leadership,” he said. According to Smith, he believes the fundamentals of leadership will be questioned and changed as a result of this global economic crisis.
As the financial crisis spiralled out of control, particularly in the UK where HBOS’s parent company is based, Smith said the challenges he faced were huge.
“It’s quite daunting and overwhelming to be a leader amidst a global catastrophe” he said. “We were treading untrodden ground so there were no norms to fall back on.”
Colleagues and employees often expect the CEO to have all the answers so one of the lessons Smith learned was the importance of acting quickly and also admitting that if you don’t know or have the answer. He said that it’s only the questioning of the role of the leader is only beginning and he believes that there is a whole school of argument and debate around leadership which has only just beginning.