I came across a quote recently from the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, which for me perfectly sums up the concept of leadership: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”
Historically, the most celebrated leaders have often been those charismatic heroes who pioneer change from the front. But there is something entirely more powerful in creating the space for people to contribute their own ideas and perspectives, rather than simply imposing your own ideals and asking them to conform. Giving the opportunity for people to feel empowered ultimately leads them to be more productive.
This is certainly the experience of Christine Deputy, group HR director at insurance giant Aviva. In this issue’s big interview, she discusses how the organisation underwent a cultural transformation to shift from a paternalistic business to one focused on trust, honesty and adult conversations. At times, she confesses, it was intense, but involving everyone in the business – from executive level to front-line staff – has helped build trust, solidify the organisation and ultimately yield significant results.
Turning to a modern-day philosopher, in the view of Alain de Botton, what distinguishes good leaders from great ones is their ability to think. Too often, he says, there is a division between those who think and those who do. We were thrilled to welcome Alain back to Changeboard’s flagship Future Talent Conference in April at London’s Royal Opera House, where he brought some thoroughly entertaining perspectives on how to prepare for change – arguing that taking time to stop and think is the best way to gear your business up for future success.