Can you learn the qualities that modern leaders need?

Has the world changed so much today that the qualities in leadership now need to change? 

There are two questions to be addressed here: First, yes, the world has changed dramatically and due to the speed of technological developments around the world, it will continue to change at an even faster pace. But, looking at the true leaders of well-known companies such as Virgin Group, the famous coaches of quality sports teams such as the England Rugby team, I believe the same values and key points of great leadership still apply – and I believe they can be taught.

Every time Richard Branson is asked about leadership, he always talks about empowering the team he has around him. Like many great leaders, he is fantastic at hiring great people and giving them the opportunities to excel within the group. He is a naturally charismatic person, which helps hugely in leadership, but more importantly, he inspires and empowers his teams.

On top of that, he leads by example. This is the first key point of any great leader. If you aren’t doing something yourself, then why should your team behind you do it? If they are not inspired by what you are doing, then it’s very difficult for them to follow you. Regardless of the sector, size of the team you run, or anything else, a great leader is one who inspires their team and encourages them to be better than they are at present.

Richard Branson Virgin Money Manchester

As a huge Rugby Union fan, another great example of great leadership and management was my fellow Aussie, Eddie Jones, taking over the England Coaching role after the 2015 Rugby World Cup – where for the first time in history, the host nation, England, failed to even get out of the pool stages. Wind the clock forward nine months and England won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations for the first time since 2003 and then went to Australia and beat the Australian Wallabies 3-0 in the test series – a first ever. Of the 20 games that Jones has coached England, the team has lost just one, and had a 18-match winning streak before they were defeated by Ireland in March 2017.

Jones proved how good he is at assessing the problems of a current team. He came in, took charge and in such a short space of time, turned it around. 

Often in sport and business, leaders are appointed to come into a failing team or company to try and turn it around. Those that can do that are the best leaders in the world. They are coming into a failing team or organisation with disgruntled players or staff and rebuilding the team. They rebuild the plan, structure and motivate them back to their best. They get them winning again.

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This can be taught only through experience but leaders of today who achieve this are the ones who listen to their new team first. From the ground up, they listen to the real problems that are taking place in the group, they also – and very importantly – find out quickly what the individuals need to be motivated and how to approach and incentivise them. Some like tough love and targets, whilst some want nurturing and encouragement. When you know the honest motivations of each team member, a great leader is one who listens first then implements what the team have said.

So whilst all leaders must stay up to date on the rapid development of technology, especially because they change the way businesses operate and create new opportunities for growth, the core points of great leadership have not changed. Regardless of how much technology and innovation are making our lives simpler and better – I still believe people buy from people. I believe that will always be the case and therefore, the leadership qualities of the owners or managers over their team will be forever crucial. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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