What makes a great leader?


At last week’s judging event for the National Business Awards Leader of the Year, I listened as a panel of 40 senior executives reviewed and debated our five finalists.  Who did they feel offered a clear vision for change, brought people along with them and best represented the spirit of leadership in the UK?

Added on 07 November 2014 by Lucy Double

business leaders shortlisted for Leader of the Year

The Ashridge view of what makes a great leader is grounded in our research into the everyday challenges faced by the leaders and organisations we support and develop. As sponsors of the award, we wanted to see the 2014 Leader of the Year display the following traits:

  • Be transformational in their organisation and industry: with a keen understanding of the macro-environment in which they operate, with the ability to be open, honest and willing to show vulnerability, and at the same time, be able to deliver tough news
  • Have a major impact on the strategic direction, growth and culture of their organisation: by creating a trusting environment that empowers staff and by making decisions informed by a broad range of personal relationships from diverse backgrounds
  • Engage strongly with employees, stakeholders and wider society: by forming trusting relationships at all levels within and across organisations, and across the generations
  • Demonstrate awareness of socio-economic and political trends and how these might change: by being willing to collaborate beyond organisational boundaries, for example with competitors and government
  • Be an authentic corporate citizen: they should be more than just a ‘mouthpiece’, they need to live their personal values.

So, what did our finalists have to say about how they would bring our transformational leadership theme to life?  These are just a few of their comments:

“serve, preserve and look after every customers best interests”

“analyse the system….speak out when we think the ecosystem is in danger”

“it is people with wisdom, vision and a sense of what is the right thing to do that command confidence and respect”

The winner of the Ashridge Business School Leader of the Year will be announced on Wednesday 12th November.

Find out more about Ashridge research into leadership.

Find out more about the finalists in the Ashridge Business School Leader of the Year award.