Chief who says in­tegrity and hu­man­ity are the top lead­er­ship qual­i­ties

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE -

ARE GREAT lead­ers born or made?

It’s a ques­tion that has taxed the finest minds for cen­turies. Juli­ette Al­ban-Met­calfe, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Real World Group, be­lieves lead­er­ship is all about how you be­have, and not what or who you know.

A char­tered oc­cu­pa­tional psy­chol­o­gist, she is at the helm of a business that helps bosses around the world to raise their game. It can also help to save tax­pay­ers’ money by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of lead­er­ship at or­gan­i­sa­tions that are re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing the law and keep­ing our road net­work flow­ing.

Her par­ents – Pro­fes­sor Bev­erly Alimo-Met­calfe and Dr John Al­ban-Met­calfe – were en­cour­aged to start Real World Group in 2001 by the Univer­sity of Leeds, at a time when man­age­ment tools were not as so­phis­ti­cated as they are to­day.

The com­pany was ini­tially built around the suc­cess of a study the cou­ple con­ducted into “en­gag­ing lead­er­ship”, which in­volved thou­sands of peo­ple from the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

“Both my par­ents were psy­chol­o­gists,’’ said Ms Al­ban-Met­calfe. “They were very in­ter­ested in how peo­ple worked; my dad from an ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­ogy per­spec­tive and my mum from an oc­cu­pa­tional psy­chol­ogy per­spec­tive.

“Their pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm for how peo­ple tick cer­tainly came through. Al­though I did end up fol­low­ing in their pro­fes­sional foot­steps, and even work­ing with them, I like to think I’ve man­aged to forge my own path as an or­gan­i­sa­tional psy­chol­o­gist, and I have en­abled our com­pany to ex­pand its reach and rep­u­ta­tion, build­ing on my par­ents’ ini­tial work.”

Ms Al­ban-Met­calfe, who is a vis­it­ing as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of South­ern Queens­land, has played a sig­nif­i­cant role in shift­ing the com­pany’s fo­cus.

“Around nine years ago we took a strate­gic de­ci­sion to re­ally fo­cus on what we are bril­liant at as a com­pany,’’ she said.

She pre­sented a pa­per to the board which ar­gued that the com­pany should fo­cus on cre­at­ing di­ag­nos­tic tools for lead­ers and teams based on re­search, “which has a highly prac­ti­cal and suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion world­wide”.

She re­called: “The strat­egy was that we would re­duce our con­sul­tancy, which was about 90 per cent of our rev­enue in the early days .

“It was all fo­cused on the pub­lic sec­tor and mostly within a 100-mile ra­dius. We were fairly pro­tec­tive of who could be li­cenced to use our di­ag­nos­tic tools as they could be­come a com­peti­tor to our con­sult­ing ac­tiv­ity.

“We were – and still are – great at con­sul­tancy, but then many other peo­ple are too. How­ever, we are out­stand­ing at cre­at­ing as­sess­ment tools.

“Later when I be­came MD and then CEO, we made a ma­jor change in strat­egy and be­came pri­mar­ily a di­ag­nos­tics provider. We’ve opened our dis­tri­bu­tion paths to the world and now dis­trib­ute our lead­er­ship, board and team tools in 17 coun­tries and mul­ti­ple lan­guages in­clud­ing Rus­sian and Man­darin.”

Closer to home, Ms Al­ban-Met­calfe is proud of the work the com­pany has done in sup­port­ing a range of pub­lic sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions over the past 16 years, in­clud­ing “cul­ture change pro­grammes” with Blackpool and Southend-on-Sea coun­cils.

She said: “What is sat­is­fy­ing is that most of our clients, in­clud­ing these or­gan­i­sa­tions, eval­u­ate their pro­grammes and talk about their suc­cess more widely, so we get to hear what the real im­pacts have been.

“I would hope that the peo­ple we have worked with, and the new ways that they ap­proach lead­ing, has en­abled them and their col­leagues to re-en­gage with their pas­sion for what they do.”

The com­pany’s di­ag­nos­tic tools are used around the world in ev­ery sec­tor.

She added: “For ex­am­ple, we’ve worked with the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Com­pany Direc­tors be­cause they wanted to en­hance and im­prove the gov­er­nance di­ag­nos­tic tool they use with Aus­tralia’s listed com­pa­nies.

“We can also demon­strate that we are con­tribut­ing to mil­lions of pounds in cost sav­ings through work we’ve done en­hanc­ing lead­er­ship and team work­ing with, for ex­am­ple, the po­lice, and with ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture com­pa­nies work­ing on the M1 mo­tor­way.”

Prob­lems can arise when or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­mote peo­ple on the ba­sis of their tech­ni­cal skills alone.

Ms Al­ban-Met­calfe said: “They for­get, or un­der­es­ti­mate, how im­por­tant be­hav­iours are. One of our lat­est in­no­va­tions has been a se­lec­tion tool that en­ables se­nior peo­ple to be as­sessed based on the be­hav­iours that are proven to re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.

“It would be fan­tas­tic, if in 10 years’ time, peo­ple are still talk­ing about en­gag­ing lead­er­ship and peo­ple have a real un­der­stand­ing that lead­er­ship is about how you be­have, not what you know.”

Last year, the York­shire busi­ness­woman Rachel Han­nan in­vested an undis­closed six­fig­ure sum in Real World Group, af­ter be­ing im­pressed with the “pas­sion and com­mit­ment “of the com­pany’s founders.

Ms Al­ban-Met­calfe be­lieves Ms Han­nan’s ex­per­tise and drive will be the key to un­lock­ing the com­pany’s next growth phase as she pro­motes en­light­ened lead­er­ship strate­gies around the world.

She added: “It’s all about the dif­fer­ence you make to other peo­ple’s lives – their mo­ti­va­tion and their well­be­ing at work.

“From a business case per­spec­tive, the most ef­fec­tive lead­ers with the most pro­duc­tive teams, are those who be­have with hu­man­ity and in­tegrity and ac­tu­ally mo­ti­vate peo­ple to go the ex­tra mile, through the way that they be­have.”

It would be fan­tas­tic, if in 10 years, peo­ple are still talk­ing about en­gag­ing lead­er­ship and peo­ple have a real un­der­stand­ing lead­er­ship is about how you be­have, not what you know. Juli­ette Al­ban-Met­calfe, chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Real World Group

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