Mark Bilton, former global Group MD of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, is on a mission to humanise the workplace and reframe what it means to be a leader.
As MD of Thought Patrol, a leadership advisory business, Mark’s advice is highly sought after by current and aspiring leaders alike. Mark visited Deloitte to host an Innovating with Impact session, during which explained how to unlock our potential as leaders of the future – by adopting ways of working fit for a new age. Following the session, we caught up with Mark to ask him a few questions, read on for our Q&A.
Anna Lindberg: Why is it important for leaders to be authentic and transparent?
Mark Bilton: Authenticity is at the core of what it is to be effective as a leader. We are at our best when we are truly being who we are built to be. When this is coupled with transparency we build trust. Leaders who are trusted create a more engaging environment which delivers higher productivity.
AL: Has the predominant leadership style changed over time?
MB: The Industrial Revolution was built on the back of effective management through the division of labour and a command and control leadership style. Whilst there have always been leaders that have endeavoured to ‘humanise the workplace’, they have been in a minority. You may have noticed a rise in leadership rhetoric about culture and engagement and personal leadership through EQ and mindfulness etc. These are the indicators that the prevailing leadership paradigm is shifting.
I believe that the Digital Revolution is here and that a new leadership style is now developing. It’s one that is more effective at creating agile, innovative organisations that can flex and adapt in a fast-paced world.
AL: How might leaders promote innovation?
MB: Create a ‘meritocracy’ where ideas are welcome from all corners, anchored in a culture of honour where all people are respected, regardless of their role. Leaders must recognise that they will probably not invent the ‘new thing’, but have to rely on people in their organisation. Recognise innovation when you see it, regardless of where it comes from. And create an action-learning cycle where experimentation is not only accepted but encouraged.
AL: How should leaders seek feedback to help them grow and improve?
MB: Authenticity and transparency often elicit a natural feedback mechanism for the team. Learning should be a lifetime lifestyle, not an event. We should consistently challenge the frontiers of our understanding if we are to continue to grow and stay relevant. Have people in your proximity who are willing to challenge and stretch you, both inside and outside of the organisation.
AL: Is it possible for leaders to change a culture? What challenges might they face?
MB: It’s impossible for culture to change without the involvement of leaders. The old saying that ‘culture comes from the top’ is a cliché, yet none the less it’s true. A team will echo the culture a leader demonstrates – it’s often caught and not taught. There are definitely ways leaders can change a culture, and from my experience, it can happen quickly. But unless it is anchored in how the leadership team behaves, it won’t be sustainable.
Anna Lindberg is a manager within Deloitte’s innovation team. She is passionate about finding new and interesting ways to deliver value to Deloitte’s clients through innovative solutions. Anna is resp