‘Be approachable and inclusive, yet overall be yourself’

Last Wednesday ahead of the 2022 Northern Leadership Awards, TheBusinessDesk.com alongside sponsors CMS, Grant Thornton and Quarterdeck hosted the first Northern Leadership Conference.

The event, which took place at The Queens Hotel in Leeds, highlighted the difference between leadership and management and discussed the challenges of leading through and for change.

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, shared his experiences of leadership over a career which has spanned both public and private sector roles.

Marsh said: “As we consider leadership versus management there are a few aspects which I think are very important. The first one is the ability to radiate authenticity, or as some journals talk about being an authentic chameleon and like a chameleon adjusting to the circumstances but being able to get the objective you’re looking to achieve. The next is to be skilful as a communicator, talk to not down and talk with rather than otherwise.

“You’ve also got to be approachable and inclusive, yet overall be yourself. Put a lot of what you are into the development of your people as others have inputted into you. And I think most importantly, embrace risk, think of the personal risks that people have taken throughout history.”

The themes of authenticity, communication, inclusivity and consistency were prevalent throughout the rest of the day, with attendees hearing from Simon Theakston DL, joint managing director of Yorkshire brewery, T&R Theakston, about the challenges of leading a family run business.

The brewer shared his experiences of leading the company and of its journey from private back to family ownership, as well as how he approaches leading alongside his joint managing director.

During the Leadership Surgery which saw Theakston joined by Mark Haywood, partner at CMS; Laura Bouttell, MD at Quarterdeck and Andy Wood, head of ethics and managing partner for Yorkshire and the North East at Grant Thornton, there was a unanimous view that being authentic and honest was key, with all of the panellists saying they can admit to not having all of the answers all of the time.

The day closed with discussion from two former Northern Leadership Award winners. Dr Natalie Kenny, founder and CEO of BioGrad, shared her story of embracing risk when she founded the company having relocated to the North West and finding there wasn’t a job for a scientist like herself. She simply entered Liverpool Science Park and rented a lab “to do what I do which is science.” Since then the business has grown considerably and she described the key to being a good leader as recruiting well, trusting people and then tackling the challenges she sees, which has involved her lookingo support employees onto the local housing ladder and embrace joint parental leave.

Harry Bliss, founder of Champion Health who recently completed a £10m deal with NASDAQ listed Physitrack plc, also joined the stage to share his experiences and the challenges he encountered being a young leader in business. Noting there were times at the start where prior to launching business people perhaps didn’t take him seriously, he said it was all about ensuring the people around you are right and he harked back to Sir Roger’s earlier remarks about being yourself.

Ben Ormsby, Yorkshire editor at TheBuinessDesk.com, said: “The Northern Leadership Awards are a fantastic event which provide an opportunity to recognise the amazing leaders we have across the region. But this year the Northern Leadership Conference took it a step further, as it both challenged current thoughts on leadership, shared best practice and encouraged the development of leadership skills.

“It was clear from all of our people that leadership has changed and will continue to evolve but if you keep authenticity, communication, inclusivity and a little bit of an appetite for risk, then you will likely be on the right track!”

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