Simon Hayward from Cirrus comments in The Sunday Times
If you want to lead a company, do you need to be an expert in what it does? For nearly a decade Amanda Goodall has focused on the premise that “successful leaders are those who have a deep understanding of the core business of their organisation”. The senior lecturer at Cass Business School argues that technical experts will more easily establish credibility with employees, and they will have a better understanding of the culture of the organisation and its sector.
However, for Simon Hayward, chief executive at Cirrus, a leadership consultancy, being able to demonstrate technical ability is just one part of the jigsaw. “A certain amount of expertise is important to understand the dynamics of an organisation. Whether it’s a hospital, a large digital company or a fashion brand, knowing the nuances of the operating model is important if you are leading the organisation and technical experience can help with that. But we would put much more emphasis on leadership attributes.”
There are several examples of leaders who have moved seamlessly between sectors, bringing to each a fresh pair of eyes, said Hayward. Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry chief, will soon join Apple to head its retail division. “She will bring a different perspective from that of people who have been with Apple for a long time. That can be hugely beneficial. You see the organisation from a different perspective. It’s easier to see it objectively and to understand its strengths and weaknesses,” Hayward said.
The credentials of the board as a whole may need to come under scrutiny, as opposed to solely those of the chief executive, said Hayward. “Does a chief executive or a leader need to come from a technical background to be a good leader of an organisation? No, clearly not, because the majority of leaders don’t come from a technical background. But they do need to surround themselves with people who understand the nuts and bolts of each part of the business.”
Click here to read this article in full on The Sunday Times website.