CEOs Talk Leadership : Corrie McLeod

by HRD14 Apr 2014
No one said leadership was easy. Getting to the big office requires a special mix of talent, ability and drive. Joshua Gliddon talks to Corrie McLeod about the attributes she thinks are required for a good leader

Corrie McLeodCorrie McLeod
Managing director
Espresso Communications

1. Culture. I have worked with hundreds of clients, and the common thing among all of them is that culture flows from the top. A company’s culture is almost always a direct reflection of the values held by its managing director or CEO. Most organisations put a lot of thought into the kind of culture they want to build, and ideally have this thinking documented in everything from mission statements to internal HR documents. But in my experience, the most powerful influence on company culture is the boss. It goes like this: show me an MD, and I will show you a culture. You can’t pay lip service to culture. You have to live it, and you have to be seen to live it.

2. Tell it straight/ask it straight. I read a really important blog recently about the debilitating nature of uncertainty in the workplace. Whether you are an employee or the MD, not knowing where you stand can be incredibly draining and unproductive. This means that communication needs to be open and clear, and it has to be two-way. Issues need to be addressed as they arise. This can mean difficult conversations. But the hardest part of a difficult conversation is the lead-up to it – all the anguished thinking and projection. The conversation itself is almost always cathartic, because one way or another it is communication that leads to resolution.

Listening is an underrated skill – and asking the right questions. Don’t make assumptions about what an employee wants or what your staff think.

3. Vision. Having a medium- and long-term vision is incredibly important. To attract and retain good people, it is really important to communicate this vision to the people around you. They need to know how the company is growing and changing, and how they fit into the bigger picture. I have always found that the people around you want to get on board and grow and do great things, but they also want to know how they can personally grow and do great things in the process.

As a company, we have tried standing still. It doesn’t work. You need to keep moving, evolving, and talking to the people you work with.

4. Hire people who make you nervous. I think we all get nervous about a new person starting in the workplace who has the potential to show you up for what you don’t know. Over the years I’ve found that if I’m concerned about hiring someone who might do this, then I’m on to a good thing. The person in question usually has a huge amount of insight and experience to bring to the organisation and is in a position to bring vital skills that challenge me. You can’t be everything to everyone, so I think it’s important to be honest about where your professional gaps are, find the right people to help you fill them, and then have the guts to hire them.

5. Commit to your ongoing education. I put a lot of emphasis on and investment in professional development of the people who work at Espresso. It is important for people to know they can grow in their jobs, and for them to have a say in the professional development programs they do. It’s good for them, and good for the company. The same goes for me. I also make sure I spend time on my own professional development, through networking and working with peers. This gets back to culture. I want people to see that personal and professional development is important to the business, and to think about opportunities that they can commit to themselves.


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