TOP-PERFORMING COMPANIES ‘The fish rots from the head down’. It’s an old saying and sadly it’s true. It’s the leaders who provide the vision and set the bar in all respects – organisational culture, work ethic and performance. As a respondent said of one of HRD’s Employers of Choice: “We have great drive from the top of the business and a good way of delivering thoughts and dreams about where the business will go.”

It’s clear that employees value transparency and openness from their leaders, even during tough times. One respondent described how their leaders handled a potentially damaging court case in a way that demonstrated authenticity and integrity: “The leadership team put out their position to all employees, explaining their reasons for it. There was no whitewashing, and while it would have been easier for the company to let it go, their stance showed me that there was considerable leadership and values in the decision… In other cases, I might side with an employee who’s against a company that oftentimes has more power, but in this case, I admired the company’s leadership and the way they handled the situation with their employees.”

It’s apparent that great leaders also know when to delegate. Lee-Martin Seymour, CEO and co-founder of Xref, explains his approach to leadership: “Small business life is often determined by daily decisions – some hard and business-critical and some that are not so hard but are absolutely necessary. [Co-founder] Tim Griffiths and I cannot oversee everything all the time, so we must be able to rely on our leadership team to handle the easier decisions with their impact on the business in mind at all times.”

“Our leadership team is made up of like-minded, driven and ambitious individuals. They – like us – recognise the growth opportunity for Xref in international markets and are hungry to see first-hand how the solution is adapted and used in different countries. We give individuals the opportunity to explore new areas of their job and build their own role. The beauty of joining a small business in a leadership role is that the position will often be new to the company, which gives future leaders the opportunity to demonstrate their value to the business as soon as they walk in the door. These autonomous and accountable traits are the mark of a good leader in my eyes” - Lee-Martin Seymour, CEO and co-founder, Xref