Guest Presenter: Roderic Yapp, Quirk Solutions Associate and Leadership Trainer

Leadership isn’t an easy thing. It’s all about judgement and it’s all about character and that’s what makes it so difficult. However, there are 10 guiding principles that great leaders work within to ensure success for their team and their organisation.

This week we have a thought-provoking 9 minutes with Roderic Yapp as he discusses the 10 principles in detail and also outlines the 4 key behaviours that all good leaders do.

Listen to the podcast:

Full Podcast Transcript can be found here:

Hi folks, my name is Roderic Yapp. Today I’m going to talk to you for a little bit about a subject very close to my heart and that is leadership.

To give you just a little bit of context on my background, I spent seven years as an officer in the Royal Marines, had an absolutely fantastic career. My top three highlights would include leading troops on the front line in Afghanistan in 2007, getting civilians out of Libya in 2011 when the regime collapsed and then specialising in counter piracy towards the end of my career including the recovery of a 55,000 ton vessel.

I want to just have a quick conversation with you about leadership. I think the first problem when talking about leadership is that the word is completely undefined. It’s a bit like the word religion in that my mother is religious, she goes to church but so is a Jihadi working for Isis. And I think that because the two have effectively been described as religious, there is a complete lack of clarity in what the word is. So, I think that defining it for yourself is a helpful thing to do initially. And I think if you ask people: What does good leadership look like? Can you think of a great leader? What is it that they did? You rarely get answers that sort of relate to driving a business hard, or the type of person that’s really here to push the team and make sure they get results. They tend to be a much softer collection of skills. It tends to be more related to how people behave.

There are three or four things that I want to draw out that I think good leaders do consistently.

  1. I think they challenge and support, in equal measure. Too much support and things become a little bit too easy and a bit too soft. Too much challenge and it’s the other way, things are too difficult and people are given objectives that they don’t feel that they can commit.
  2. I think they develop and can delegate to their people. Delegate, I’m talking about stuff that stretches the individual and improves them not just administration, the kind of things they don’t want to do.
  3. And I think that one of the key things they also do is pass on their successes and hold the fears at their level. They are quick to say when something is right that it’s all about the team that delivered that and when things go wrong, actually the buck stops with me, that was my fault for whatever reason.
  4. And I think, ultimately, they have a really strong sense of leading by example. There is a couple of people that really demonstrate this for me. Not a great example, but Sir Philip Green when BHS was going down the pan, he had the money to be able to fix the pensions crisis and he deliberately chose not to. He steered clear of that. And I think what that showed is that he is really out for himself. That was his main focus on measuring and advancing himself. And if I contrast him with someone that a lot haven’t heard of, a chap called Lee Iacocca, who took over Chrysler when it was in a seriously bad position. One of the first things he did was committing to paying himself a salary of only a dollar a year because he knew that he needed to make cuts to the organisation, so he was going to put the organisation and the people first rather than himself. And I think that’s a significant part of what great leaders do. They put others before themselves.

Now my view is that if you can lead a military unit or a business unit or a great sports team then you’ve probably got the basic capability to lead. And what I prefer to think about with this, in relation to leadership is having a think about what principles you can take from each of those environments and how can you apply them to your one, to the context that you’re facing. And the way that I explain principles is that I can’t cook, no idea, rubbish at it. I can follow a recipe though but that doesn’t make me an expert. The difference between me and an expert, in this case a chef, is that a chef can go into any one of our cupboards, open the fridge, have a look through what we’ve got there and basically make something that tastes great, without a recipe book because they understand the principles of taste and they can apply that irrespective of context. And I think for me there are 10 principles that I think that great leaders apply to their organisations and their teams and I’m just going to rattle through them fairly quickly now.

10 Leadership Principles

I think the first one is a strong sense of purpose. And this isn’t related to money, how do you make the world a better place? How does your team contribute towards making something or someone’s life better and it’s got to move past that “we’re here to return good value to shareholders”. Because ultimately no one gets up and slog themselves to do that.

Do you lead by example? I think your behaviour sets the tone for the organisation. If you’ve got a culture problem, you have a leadership problem because your culture is a reflection of your leadership. Do people lead by the values they set in the organisation? What are your leadership values and how do they live and breathe? Within your teams, do you promote people based around those values or do you promote people based on the results they achieve?

I think strong leaders have a sense of humility, they are always looking to learn from their mistakes, they are willing to take feedback and they are keen to improve.

They have a strong sense of drive, they are never satisfied with the status quo, it’s never good enough to say yes, we’re doing well enough, I want to keep things going as they are. They are impatiently looking for a way to improve.

They have a sense of consistency which builds trust. The way I define consistency is when you say something is going to happen, it happens and when you don’t know, you say that. You don’t make promises that you can’t keep and you don’t set people’s expectations and then fail to meet them.

I think strong leaders are very clear in the way that they communicate, they break things down and make things simple. And I know that Chris has done a couple of podcasts on checking understanding, so you sort of explain something to someone and you get them to present it back to you and that is your opportunity to check whether they understand something. So often people don’t take enough time to really explain to people what they want them to do and that is where big issues happen or big mistakes get made.

I think that leaders know their people and I’m not just talking about what they do at work, I’m talking about where they want to go in the long terms of their career, where they spend their money on, what their family situation is like because that gives you an insight into how someone thinks. I think they develop their people because ultimately if you’re not helping people to get better at what they do, how is that a good deal for the person in your team?

And lastly, and certainly by no means least, I think that they set really, really clear standards. So, they make it clear what a good performance looks like and then they help their people to get there through a combination of coaching and development.

I only wanted to keep this fairly brief and to the point. Those are effectively the 10 principles I think that people should take, understand and apply based on the context in which they face. Leadership isn’t an easy thing, it’s all about judgement, it’s all about character and I think that’s what makes it so difficult. I wish you all the very best of luck and I hope that this has been valuable.  Thanks very much for listening.

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