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Key Takeaways from the Institute of Directors Open House, 12-14 March 2018, London

Posted March 27, 2018| Ken Sawka

The Institute of Directors (IoD), founded in 1903 and awarded a Royal Charter in 1906 is an organization that supports and advocates for businesses and their leaders in the United Kingdom. The IoD serves its members by promoting free enterprise, actively lobbying to the government and helping set standards for corporate governance. Fuld + Company became a member of the IoD this year and were pleased to attend this year’s Open House, held from 12-14 March 2018 at the IoD’s stately headquarters just steps from Buckingham Palace.

Throughout the event, speakers drawn from the echelons of business and government leadership challenged attendees to re-think their businesses with an eye toward redefining success amid the rapidly changing business environment in the UK. The experience from our perspective can be defined by three paramount themes.

1. The Next Generation of Business Leaders Has Arrived, and they are Redefining Work and Career Success

Today’s emerging business leaders are approaching their escalation within the ranks of their businesses in ways very different than their predecessors. In a session featuring a panel of up-and-coming leaders from three global businesses – Deloitte, Good Brand, and L’Oréal– the message was clear: work today is as much about an individual’s personal purpose as it is about making meaningful contributions to a business. Millennials have a different mindset about work than their parents might and believe that it is through the workplace that they can drive change.

Within this new mindset, future business leaders are redefining the very concept of leadership. In the past, the “leader” of an organization was the person at the top of the organizational chart and the underlings did as they were told. The concept of leadership is evolving with today’s rising leaders. They are eschewing organizational hierarchy and see leadership as the opportunity to take responsibility for something – be it a project, a contribution to their organization’s social enterprise, or introducing new skill sets into the enterprise. Leadership is becoming more about tangible actions and results as well as collaboration and less about occupying a lofty box on a hierarchical wire diagram. Understanding, cultivating and maximizing emerging talent will better position organizations to compete in the inevitable market shifts.

2. Old Business and Industry Definitions are Breaking Down and Companies that Fail to Recognize These Changes are at Risk of Rapid Obsolescence

Several sessions illustrated how leading companies are actively redefining their brand identity and positioning to ensure continued relevance amid changing business conditions. A few standout examples were illuminated by leaders of McLaren Automotive, Nissan Energy and Leon Restaurants.

McLaren Automotive, introducing a lifestyle brand

  • CEO Mike Flewitt defines his exclusive, high-performance automotive company as an entertainment business, not a transportation or even a mobility company and certainly not an automotive company. Even though McLaren only produces 4,000 units a year in a global automotive market of 80 million units, the company takes an aggressive and innovative approach to satisfy its customers. They ensure that at least one new model is released every year and keep a critical eye on the relevance of emerging trends and how they influence the customer experience. Flewitt stated defiantly that McLaren will not produce an autonomous-driving vehicle. As an entertainment brand it is not about the movement from one place to another, it’s about the joy and experience of driving.

Nissan Energy, impacting environmental change

  • Managing Director Francisco Carranza firmly believes that Nissan has expanded to become a renewable energy company. According to Carranza, Nissan has fundamentally changed the roles of the automotive asset and the company positions its electric vehicles as part of city electric grids. With all Nissan electric vehicles being manufactured with bidirectional batteries, they are able to provide storage and power solutions to utility suppliers. The expectation for Nissan is not just to build a car, but to find solutions to fight climate change.

Leon Restaurants, redefining fast food

  • Co-Founder Henry Dimbleby, aims to redefine fast food. When launching Leon Restaurants, Dimbleby asked a simple question: why does fast food make you fall asleep and wake up fat? Leon Restaurants is out to prove that a fast food chain can serve food that tastes good and does the consumer good. In doing so, it is defining itself as a health and well-being company, from which you can get a grilled halloumi wrap on High Street for £4.60.

How an organization positions – and repositions – its brand can influence the perceived value of the product or service and directly affects

3.  You Can’t Succeed if you Don’t Fail: Why Persistence Has Never Been a More Important

Virtually every session addressed how business leaders learn from failure, and how persistence is the most valuable personal trait that business leaders can embody. The most impactful stories came from successful leaders who have overcome social adversity such as leaders of West Ham United Football Club, BBC and Binc.

Baroness Karren BradyCEO of West Ham United Football Club, spoke about the challenges and setbacks she encountered when in 1993, at the age of 23, she took over as Managing Director of the Birmingham City Football Club, when the sport had virtually no female leaders and was defined by a strong male-dominated culture and behavior. She eventually helped lead the sale of the business for £81.5 million, in 2009.

Carrie Gracie, BBC Presenter, spoke about the setbacks she encountered when she took up a protest within the BBC earlier this year on the matter of unequal pay for female employees. She provoked the public posting of salaries by the organization and helped illuminate a larger societal issue.

Dr. Caroline Casey, founder of Binc, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities, spoke about her years-long challenges to overcome a personal disability to create an organization on inclusive business to build an equal society for the 1 billion people in the world with a disability. To date, Binc has worked with over 450 companies and more than 500,000 business leaders to collect 1,200 case studies on the topic. Dr. Casey is leading a movement, taking a setback that affects billions worldwide and advocating change.

What was particularly inspiring about these presentations were the demonstrated leadership qualities and grit it takes to make a difference when faced with adversity. Businesses increasingly must find opportunities to learn from examples of setback, and should reward and embrace challenges and even failure.

The Open House was a terrific opportunity to learn from a diverse set of brilliant global leaders from across the UK and to better understand the drivers of successful British economic and social impact and how they translate globally. We look forward to engaging in IoD’s future events.

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