Adapting to Leadership

Dominic Thurbon August 20th 2019

Thirteen years ago I started a business with a friend of mine, and over the course of ten years that business was essentially two people, and then it grew to five people, and then it was thirty people - and all of a sudden we had over one hundred and fifty people spread across three countries. Very recently our business was acquired by a very large organisation, which resulted in my current position at EY. Here’s the thing I learnt over that journey: In the words of my business partner Peter Sheahan ‘All the things that make you a good entrepreneur make you a dreadful manager of people’. Back when it was just my colleague and myself we would burn the candle at both ends, focussing only on results, pushing ourselves to only care about the bottom line - That’s all great when you’re an entrepreneur. However, I learnt the hard way that when you start doing that in business you begin driving your people into the ground and robbing them of development opportunities.

Essentially what I’m trying to confess in a moment of vulnerability is that I’ve been on my own journey of leadership development as you have. Everyone who plays a role as a team leader in an organisation or a manager in a company are all on the same journey to become better at being leaders.

We need to connect with why that journey is so important. Leadership development is given so much air time in speaking topics and workshops, and there’s a very good reason for that. I would argue that there is no more important thing in a company that the quality of its leadership. In fact we can quantify this. When looking at the sources of changing transformations of C.O driven leadership you can discover that leadership impact (that is the behavioural impact that you have as a leader on the people around you) is a better predictor of organisational outcomes than strategies or a score carding system combined. 

The behavioural impact you have is the fundamental determinant of the quality of success of your organisation. You can take a company with broken systems and a misaligned score card and a strategy that doesn’t really work - Put a good leader in it , and through sheer force of will, charisma and power they will find a way to make it work. Take a company with good systems and a great score card, and put bad leadership at the top and they will find a way to screw it up. Leadership impact is the determinant that pushes us one way of the other.

We need to become students of our impact as leaders. We need to start understanding the impact that we have on the people around us day to day, the role that our behaviours play in driving the right behaviours or engendering the wrong behaviours, and hold ourselves to a very high degree of self assessment. By looking at these factors with a laser like focus we can begin to turn our leaders into an accelerator of performance and not hand brake on performance.

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