Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will also make you a better business leader, thinks Michael Khouri-Bent of Metropolitan Care Solutions.
“A leader’s curiosity and willingness to try new things will trickle down and precipitate a ‘let’s try’, ‘can do’ company culture,” says the managing director. “The best leaders encourage their team members to be ever-inquiring and inventive.”
Khouri-Bent is a finalist for this year’s Black British Business Awards, for which The Daily Telegraph is a media partner. The event, now in its eight year, celebrates the achievements of some of the UK’s top corporate bosses and entrepreneurs.
The director and some of his fellow finalists have been sharing their hard-earned lessons in business leadership, in the hope it might inspire the next generation.
Here’s what they had to say:
‘Good leaders are not born’
Gareth Dauley, executive vice president, Pacific Green Technologies
What makes a great business leader? Hunger. It’s about being able to strive forward, always having the bigger picture in mind and never losing sight of the goals set at the beginning. On the bad days, it’s about focusing on working toward the solution, rather than dwelling on problems.
Communication is also key. I’m passionate about my work and this rubs off on my employees to have a positive culture. I practice what I preach. I try to exemplify the values I want to instil in my employees.
Good leaders are not born; they’re made through years of learning their craft and their experiences of dealing with different circumstances, people and situations.
My advice to all future leaders out there is: be focused and curious. Be passionate and ready for any challenges that come your way – and face them with confidence.
‘Identify your weaknesses and improve them’
Michael Khouri-Bent, managing director, Metropolitan Care Solutions
Whether you’re the co-founder of a giant, successful business or are simply trying to get your own company off the ground, a good business leader possesses a number of key characteristics that enables them to succeed in a leadership role.
The first is curiosity. Be curious, seek out new ideas and innovations to continuously improve your business and people. A leader’s curiosity and willingness to try new things will trickle down and precipitate a ‘let’s try’, ‘can do’ company culture. The best leaders encourage their team members to be ever-inquiring and inventive.
Self-assessment is also important. Assess your strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses. A good leader examines his or her vulnerabilities and shortcomings. This makes their team stronger and allows them to delegate tasks to team members with the abilities he or she may lack. Any good leader will identify their weaknesses and seek to improve them.
Finally, there’s risk-taking. The contemporary business world is full of increasingly complex challenges. A good leader knows when to take risks to solve problems and precipitate progress. They will try unconventional strategies to boost performance or achieve goals.
Risk-taking is not recklessness. A good leader will examine data and run scenarios to inform their risk appetite and risk-related decision-making, especially when the stakes are high.
‘Seek out and listen to other opinions’
Gnilane Gueye-Turpin, executive director at JP Morgan
Leaders are not superheroes and we all need to be adaptive and continuously look to better ourselves. As a technology leader, there are some fundamental traits that are important to me.
The first is trust. Relationship building is crucial and, for me, one of the biggest factors of a strong relationship is trust. We need to spend time together to ensure trust exists across all levels of our organisation. Trust fosters strong camaraderie and collaboration.
Second, keep an open mind. Seek out and listen to other opinions. You may think you have the best solution already, but there are always people out there with innovative ideas.
It’s also important to listen and understand. We never know the extent of stress and challenges every individual has to deal with in his or her daily life. Taking the time to listen to your team and making them feel safe is critical.
Finally, maintain work-life balance. We work in a fast-paced and constantly evolving environment, so it’s very important that my team and I get our work-life balance right. A good social life can be a boost to someone’s workplace performance.
‘Be what you want staff to buy into’
Kyle Williams, managing director and senior counsel, legal department, Goldman Sachs International
How can one be a great business leader today? Less words and more actions. Leaders first need to be what they want others to buy into, so making your vision into your action is the best way to demonstrate strategic direction to those in your organisation.
Want to promote more efficient communication amongst teams? Introduce a new technology or way to save time communicating – and use it personally. Want diverse teams? Personally hire or promote deserving diverse people to do important things. Want more innovation? Openly push an idea and when it’s clear it’s a failure, celebrate it and talk about what you learned from the failure.