Leaders are made not born. As we grow, learn and work we are shaped by those around us – our parents, teachers, peers and bosses. They can inspire self-belief.
For Ian Brewster, Contracts Director at Barnwood Shopfitting, his overriding leadership influence was his former boss. Ian joined the firm, which specialises in commercial interior fit-outs, as an apprentice at the age of just 16 and from then until 2015 he had the same boss. Unsurprisingly, Ian mirrored his style in terms of management and leadership.
“He became a second father,” commented Ian. “I spent huge amounts of time under his wing and so it was natural to follow in his footsteps. I never even considered that there was another approach, another way of managing people, another way of leading.”
It wasn’t until the former MD retired and the new MD appointed that Ian witnessed a different style of leadership and began to appreciate how different leaders lead. This was the game changer for him.
“I’d been very used to an autocratic way of leading, a kind of ‘my way or the highway’ approach,” continued Ian. “The new MD made me see that you didn’t have to do things this way and that you could still be successful.
“I wanted to change. I realised I wasn’t getting the best out of myself or my team - and so the opportunity to develop my own leadership and join the LEAD™ programme came at a great time for me. It supported my development around emotional intelligence and helped me to become more empathetic.”
LEAD™ is a 10-month long leadership development programme for owner-managers and directors which aims to help people to become the best leaders they can be. By bringing together peers from other companies to learn, share, reflect and support one another as they work on real life business issues they feel better equipped, and more confident, to deal with whatever is thrown at them.
Through his learning and peer support, Ian began to appreciate the benefits of giving his employees more ownership and responsibility. And, how this in turn would support the business’s succession plan - developing its next generation of senior management.
“One of the tangible changes I made was to move out of the open plan office and into my own room - I realised I was a bit of a bottle neck and needed to give the team space and not keep holding onto stuff,” he adds. “This has already had a huge positive impact.
“LEAD™ has enabled me to adapt my way of leading which in turn is helping the business to flourish. The important thing now is that I keep practising all that I’ve learnt, not revert to my old ways, helping to positively influence our next generation of leaders.”
This article was first published in Leading magazine by QuoLux™. Please contact us to receive a copy. It has also appeared in Stewart Barnes, MD of QuoLux™, Game Changer column in Gloucestershire Echo & Citizen & www.southwestbusiness.co.uk on 21 November, 2019.