Leaders March 2017

Leading factors

Key aspects of teams and leadership

According to Sir Peter Wall, the British Army’s former chief of the general staff and founder of a specialist business consultancy, the best teams depend on three ingredients: values, talent (the right people with the right skills) and leadership (the ability to organise and energise). Although interdependent, leadership is arguably the most important element, as it can disproportionately influence the ingredients.

In particular, leaders are responsible for setting the tone of an organisation and demonstrating its values by example. They must also nurture talent by finding people with growth potential and developing them.

The individual members of any team will inevitably display a range of abilities, and we are reminded by Sir Peter that the goal of a leader should be to raise average performance levels across the team, rather than striving for a collection of superstars. This development process is hugely important to reinforcing the strength of a team, as anyone who has ever been ranked as an underdog will understand. To pull together with colleagues or teammates and, in defiance of the odds, deliver a collective performance that exceeds the sum of individual capabilities is a distinctly satisfying experience.

If talent, values and leadership are the key ingredients in the recipe for team success, it is the experience component that helps make success sustainable. Experience sharpens individual capabilities, matures team spirit and allows successful techniques to be identified, which can then coalesce into repeatable best practice.

The subject of team building and leadership hold particular interest for me, as they are central themes in many of the events that the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) organises. As a chamber, we seek to provide members with access to people in the field of UK–Japan business who matter. For me, that means people from whom we can learn and find inspiration.

Sir Peter describes strong leaders as people who take responsibility, inspire, get the job done and are resilient under pressure. Following the BCCJ’s recent panel discussion on developing global leaders with representatives of Unilever Japan, the IMD business school and Astellas Pharma Inc., I have learned to add “mindfulness” and “self-awareness” to this list.

Appreciation of these qualities reflects an understanding that even the best leaders do not have the answers to all problems and they should recognise their limitations. This is precisely why it is so important for leaders to invest time in building strong teams.

While the UK has long enjoyed strong, stable and mutually beneficial collaboration with Japan across all aspects of the bilateral relationship, the importance of these relations is set to increase. This is particularly the case in the field of business, and the BCCJ will continue to promote interaction between members and stakeholders to further strengthen these mutually beneficial ties.

If you believe strongly in the importance of this relationship to both countries and wish to contribute your talent, leadership and hard work in pursuit of BCCJ goals, then our team looks forward to receiving your nomination to join the executive committee in next month’s election. Until then, I look forward to welcoming you at a chamber event as an active and committed member of the BCCJ.