What will make a future leader

I feel very privileged to be writing this as the CEO of Vodafone UK. Leading a modern organisation isn’t always easy but it is highly rewarding and I can honestly say that there is nowhere else I would prefer to be right now. For me, the biggest reward comes from seeing those around me flourish and excel. Not long ago a CEO was viewed as a controlling authoritarian – someone who barked orders at trembling employees to deliver his strategy. Thankfully this is no longer the case! The world has moved on a lot in recent years and so too has leadership.

I believe my job – and the job of any CEO for that matter – is not to ‘control’ my team but to ‘empower’ them. Surrounded by thousands of hugely talented individuals from our Executive Leadership to our newest recruits, my objective is to create an environment which allows them to achieve their potential and drive our business forward. In doing so, my eyes continue to be opened to greater possibilities by conversations with the youngest members of our team, from those in our stores to our many graduates. To this generation, nourished by the wonders of technology from an early age, nothing is impossible. Where previously there were strict hierarchies and formal chains of command, today’s business structures are flatter than ever as we encourage all employees to work together and unlock the true potential of collaborative working.

At Vodafone, we are enabling this through our ‘Better Ways of Working’ approach. From the ‘hardware’ of open-plan offices, hot-desking for all employees and remote connection technology to the ‘software’ of open discussions, constructive challenging of the status quo and taking educated risks – ‘Better Ways of Working’ is all about harnessing the collective power of our people.

But what of becoming tomorrow’s CEO? As businesses continue to develop new
opportunities and ideas, the one piece of advice I would offer to any aspiring manager is to take advantage of new experiences whenever and wherever they present themselves. Like many of the other CEOs, becoming the head of a large organisation had not always been on my radar. Instead, my career has comprised of a string of exciting and evermore challenging experiences, of which being CEO is just the latest.

There are few clearly signposted routes to the top, but there are many interesting and inspiring routes – so switch departments, work abroad and volunteer for ‘that impossible assignment’! Yes, there will be risk involved and some experiences may turn out better than others: but ultimately you will gain credibility, learn through invaluable experiences and – most importantly – you will enjoy your career. This is a very exciting time for UK businesses and I look forward to the challenges the coming months and years will present to me.