Jason Saunders co-founded TS Grale, an executive search and consultancy firm, back in April 2016. Still at the business to date in the role of managing partner, it is fair to say that leadership is no alien notion to him. Discussing his views on leadership further with the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Saunders opens up on his idea of leadership being a journey to a destination which has various different routes, and outlines six key hallmarks of world-class leadership.
Sitting down with Leaders Council representative Matthew O’Neill, Saunders began by defining a leader in the business arena as somebody whose purpose is to “support a set of individuals within a business”.
Saunders said: “A leader is a person who inspires those around them and supports their development. I would describe my own leadership style as collaborative, supportive, and one of providing direction, while allowing freedom of the journey.”
Elaborating on his idea of leadership being a “journey”, Saunders explained: “One of the things leadership is there to do is set a vision. The reality of that vision is that you can view leadership in business as a journey.
“Everybody has a vision of where they want to get to, but there are a number of routes to get there, and lots of bumps in the road and changes in direction during that journey. In our business we do have to be adaptable to the world around us, so it is about understanding we are heading for a destination but also realising that you may change direction along the way, but you are still looking to get to the same place and there are many ways of getting there.”
Prior to his meeting with Matthew earlier in the year, Saunders had documented six key elements of world-class leadership in an online infographic first released in December, concerning what good and effective leadership looks like and the responsibilities that the next generation of leaders will have.
The first key hallmark of world-class leadership Saunders addressed was the need for leaders to be emotionally intelligent, which he described as the “single biggest indicator of a world-class leader.”
Saunders said: “Emotional intelligence affects how we manage social complexities to achieve positive outcomes. It involves being self-aware of your emotions and staying aware of how they affect you and those around you.
“People who are highly emotionally intelligent can regulate their emotions so that they control impulses and think before they act. Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to recognise other people’s emotional states and understand them, then apply this knowledge in order to build and lead stronger teams that focus on collaboration.”
Absorption and commercialisation of new ideas was another key element which Saunders highlighted, but one of the keys to enabling that to work is the ability to listen, which Saunders notes as the third key hallmark of world-class leadership.
Saunders said: “Listening is our most important communication skill. The ability to actively listen and understand others, from staff and stakeholders to clients and customers, is vital for any leader that wants to learn and improve business outcomes.
“When people feel listened to, they are more likely to trust us and share their insights.”
The fourth key element of leadership that Saunders referred to ties-in with his overall view of leadership as setting a vision, in that there must be clarity in the execution of that vision.
“World-class leadership involves strong intellectual agility to dissect and solve problems and provide simple solutions that positively affect the workplace. Promoting a market-orientated team ethos is important to encourage your team to work together on the same wavelength.
“Your vision must inspire others to invest in your business, your brand and your message to your audience. You can offer clear communication of your company’s vision by enabling market and customer engagement.”
The final two hallmarks of quality leadership involve valuing social responsibility as a leader and developing a corporate social responsibility in tandem, as well as being able to understand existing and future generations.
Saunders explained: “Consumers align themselves with companies that are socially responsible and demonstrate transparent and ethical behaviour. Openness, a broad mindset, and honesty are valued when it comes to operating a business.
“Furthermore, developing a Corporate Social Responsibility plan plan can help establish socially responsible working practices and demonstrate your values externally. Business leaders can demonstrate social responsibility by becoming actively involved in advocate creation through networking and engagement. A diverse workforce is also key to becoming a desirable employer.
“Finally, world-class leaders must create a positive environment to nurture talented employees and recognise their polarised needs, ambitions and values. They must possess the ability to create a sustainable organisational capacity, making efficient use of resources.”
Indeed, TS Grale as a company produced its own leadership report which identified the importance of senior leaders being open to listening to, and learning from, more junior personnel, particularly in the realm of new technologies.
Saunders concluded: “Early adoption of new technologies is becoming increasingly important to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive.
“Mentors are some of the most influential leaders out there. One example of a tactic to engage and develop younger members of staff is by encouraging two-way mentoring. Not only does this prepare junior recruits; it also introduces innovative ideas and processes to senior team members.”