Our Giants Academy theme this month was Authentic Leadership. We interviewed Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK and asked him – is it a good thing to really be yourself at work?
Phil is the MD of Brother UK Ltd, a position he worked his way up to through a twenty year career starting as a fax salesman. He’s a big believer in emotionally intelligent leadership, connectivity, networks and building performance frameworks which allow people to be their best and do their best work. Brother were named as one of Sunday Times Top 100 places to work in 2014. Phil is also a former winner of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Manchester Director of the Year and IoD North West Director of the Year 2010/11.
Our theme this month was Authentic Leadership and the main question we were exploring was: Is it a good thing to really be yourself at work?
Phil shared with us how he has personally developed over his 20 or so years at Brother. He reflected on how much he came to realise he didn’t know when managing his first team of sales people. After taking on the role, he found himself relying on doing what he’d done before, but having to do much more of it. This made him realise he needed new strategies and skills to get to grips with the challenge of management and it was then – by chance – he met a sports psychologist (via QVC of all places!). Phil brought him in to do some work with his team and he now regards that as a watershed moment as it was then that he realised how much he didn’t know and how much he wanted to learn. This started him off on his journey of self-awareness – an essential quality he sees for Authentic Leadership.
Phil explained what Authentic Leadership means to him. He believes it’s when a leader is personally congruent which their personal vision and mission. This is the cornerstone to him as when a strong wind is trying to blow him off course, he can revisit them which then brings him back to centre. He sees there being four levels to his personal vision and mission: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
It’s clear that Phil sees Authentic Leadership as being good for business. He strongly believes that the trust and confidence it creates helps people to be more innovative. He also finds that it helps him to attract the best talent as both himself and Brother are seen as purpose driven which is seen as a major motivator to Gen Y recruits (those born in 1980/90’s).
A critical point that Phil made was that he doesn’t expect everyone to buy into his brand of Authentic Leadership. But, he’s comfortable with that. In fact, it’s quite intentional as he’s seen it tease out those who don’t buy into his shared vision which then promotes discussion and debate. He’s also comfortable that it has sometimes lead to people opting to leave the business.
An interesting practice Phil shared was his “see me” programme. When one of his people has a 30th, 40th or 50th birthday, he makes the time to have a chat with them to understand where they are at. He regards these milestones as great opportunities for reflection and he finds these conversations beneficial for both them and himself.
If others perceive the three qualities/traits which are above the line as being stronger than your degree of self-interest, then it is likely you’ll be regarded as acting with authenticity.
Apply this in an organisational context and a leader with high authenticity will be:
- Self-aware and genuine
- Mission driven and focussed on results, ahead of their own self-interest
- Leading with their heart, not just their mind
- Focussed on the long-term.
Discussion continued as we begun the learning exercise which got people paired up and took them through an exploration of their own authenticity. This promoted some fantastic reflection at the end of the evening and it was an effort to bring proceedings to a close given the energy present in the discussions.
Our next Giants Academy will be in February and will be looking at the benefits of having a clear vision for your business and will feature Adrian Lomas, MD of Blueleaf – a highly successful digital commerce agency in Cheshire. Please click here for registration or see the link in the sidebar.