How to Lead


Tuesday 20 January 2009

Jo Owen

How to Lead: What you actually need to do to manage, lead and succeed

Lewis Media Centre, London

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There was a palpable buzz of energy as delegates took their seats for this London Business Forum event. We had all come to further our understanding of leadership at a time when we’re being put to the test like never before.

Jo began by arguing that there are three ways to recognise a leader: the Kissinger test of “taking people where they would not have gone themselves”; the memory test; and the legacy test.

What Makes a Good Leader?

  • After highlighting vast archives of leadership literature, Jo drew the conclusion that the perfect leader cannot exist – “it would collapse under the weight of its own contradictions”
  • Many CEO’s are not leaders but “stewards of a wonderful legacy”
  • The expectations of a good leader change according to their level in an organisation
  • Good leadership is a balance of different skills
  • There are cultural differences in the expectations of a good leader

How Do We Learn to Lead?

  • There has been a change in the skills necessitated by good leadership over time. He argued that, to begin with, IQ was regarded as the key determinant of being a good manager. These were the times of Sir Isaac Newton, Adam Smith and Henry Ford. Later, Psychotherapists such as Freud and Jung added Emotional Quotient to the mix. The most recent addition has been the Political Quotient. In modern business, Jo argued, managers have ‘”responsibilities in excess of authority” which makes it less viable to directly control people. Therefore, the ability to build trust is more important than ever before.


Leadership Quotient= IQ+ EQ+ PQ

  • People rate role models and experience as the most productive way to develop their leadership skills
  • Jo argues that books and courses are also a good way to learn as they provide a paradigm into which you can incorporate your personal experience

How Can We Put Theory Into Practice?

Effective Leaders = know what + know how + know where

  • Know What - this is explicit knowledge and can be learnt from books, courses and business school
  • Know How - this is tacit knowledge involving managing people and can be fostered through projects masterclasses and peer group learning
  • Know where - this is about the right context and can be helped by placements and personal development plans. Leaders need to be able to change if the context does
  • People are unwilling to train as training often assumes there is a problem. Likewise it is often not a priority for the person or company