London Tech Week: What good leadership looks like

Being communicative, clear and facilitating flexibility are all the markers of a great leader, according to a panel held at London Tech Week on 12 June.

‘How is technology shaping leadership?’ brought together Ann Hiatt, Founder of Hipergiant as moderator, and panelists Karima-Catherine Goundiam, Founder and CEO of B2BeeMatch and Ann Francke, Managing Director of the Chartered Institute of Management (CMI). 

In a sign of what a good leader looks like, Francke shared an anecdote from earlier on in her career: “When I was a middle manager my general manager and I met at nine o’clock every day but when I asked him I needed to take my kid to school, he said ‘You know what, just do it. It’s fine. Come late.’,” she said. “He was letting me work flexibly. And believe me, this was a long time ago, before that was the norm.”

This was something she “paid forward,” she explained, as a manager. Allowing her team to flexibly work around their lives made her a good line manager and is important for leadership today. “I recognise just how important line management is, it is the most important relationship you will have with your line manager and if you are a line manager you know it’s a huge relationship,” added Francke.

Francke was keen to challenge this notion that managers don’t like flexible working, after Hiatt cited research that showed the “new normal” is welcomed by the individual contributor and disliked by management. 

“We do a lot of studies at CMI about what managers want and I can tell you overwhelmingly, it doesn’t matter if they’re young, old, male, female, flexible working tops the list,” she said.

Sharing top productivity tips particularly with regards to managing teams in different locations Francke said: “I would focus on the outcomes. Not the face time, but make sure everybody in your team knows their objectives and really understands them. That’s how you manage people; they need to know what they’re supposed to be doing.” 

Harnessing technology to check in on teams globally can also be a useful tool, Francke said. During a call, for instance, encouraging people to turn their cameras on during the pandemic encouraged the human element.

“I would agree with everything you said,” added Goundiam. “But not everybody in the newer generation wants to work remotely. For some people their social circle is at work, so they prefer to go into the workplace. Line management is absolutely crucial because at that point, you need to have people who are going to be reflecting the culture of the company.”

The last piece of advice shared by Francke and Goundiam was that building diverse teams benefits the workplace. “Diversity was not a question for us,” Goundiam stressed. 

“There’s no point hiring a diverse team for tokenism and then not listening to them,” added Francke. “There are plenty of stories of, for example, the chairman who complains about the two women on his board that never speak. But he never asked the women for their opinion. It’s not alright. So I think that diverse teams will make better decisions and you need to be intentional.”