Back to Win the talent battle

Forget Wimbledon, have you lined up your business coach?

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 | Posted by: Grant Thornton

Andy Murray at WimbledonCoaching, developing creativity and trusting your gut instinct are all tactics of a modernist leadership style that is on the rise in emerging markets and could hold the key to driving better results in the UK.

Our International Business Report (IBR) research into leadership styles around the world  revealed two distinct approaches ­– the modernists and the traditionalists.

Modernist leadership styles value coaching, creativity and gut instinct, and is on the rise in countries such as Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. In countries such as France, Germany, Spain and the UK, these tactics seem less prevalent as leaders follow tradition.

But could you be missing a trick?

Dynamic business leaders uses external coaches

Of the 3,500 business leaders across 45 economies surveyed, those that were identified as bosses of high growth dynamic businesses stood out in their approaches to leadership.

Scott Barnes, CEO, Grant Thornton UK, says: “In the UK the vast majority of dynamic businesses are in the mid-market; these organisations are really driving growth in the economy.

“The IBR research actually identified some recurring themes among leaders of these businesses. For example, a third of leaders of dynamic organisations [34%] use a coach currently compared to the global average of 24%.

“You’ve only got to think about the world of sport where people like Andy Murray, for example, using Ivan Lendl, increased his performance by that 1% that was necessary to get him over the line in terms of winning Wimbledon. 

"What we also found is that leaders of dynamic organisations are more likely to use a range of techniques to help them grow their own leadership capabilities, such as monitoring their performance, being assessed by their broader teams, receiving mentoring [read more in How mentoring can help you and your business] from more experienced executives and developing their own peer networks, which may help them to learn from their peers about what helped them to develop their own leadership styles."

Trusting your gut

To be a success in business often requires keen instincts, as we highlighted in our post on 10 business leaders who reaped the rewards of following their gut instinct.

Scott Barnes says: “At Grant Thornton we find that the best decisions are often a blend of reason and instinct, and indeed in the very highest performing companies, the leader is often taking decisions of the back of gut instinct and experience.

“From my own experience over the past 20 years in various leadership positions, I’ve found that often my best decisions are based on intuition, certainly in terms of hiring people and also hanging on to the best people.”

The importance of creativity

“Nine in 10 southeast Asian leaders think creativity is important, compared to just 57% in Europe,” says Francesca Lagerberg, global leader for tax services at Grant Thornton. “I’ve often found businesses here in the UK operate differently from those in Brazil, for example, so it’s fascinating to see that the approach of leaders in those countries, and the traits they value, differ too. Why, though?

“There are many factors but I’d argue that leaders in the emerging markets have had the advantage of being able to look at the West and see how management techniques have evolved, before adding their own twist to the best examples to suit their local markets.”

“The insight that stood out for me in our recent study of Chinese leadership, ‘The Thoughts of Chairmen Now’, was this idea that leaders are looking to blend management techniques and approaches coming out of the West into the ‘Chinese Way’, rather than copying and replacing.

“So when you look at Latin American and the Far East, you can see that they value intuition and creativity within that business environment and yet when you come to Europe you don’t see the same pattern emerging, so you get two different types of leadership. You get the modernists and the traditionalists.”

Which are you?

Modernists v traditionalists chart

Image of Andy Murray: (CC) Su-May/Flickr