Don’t follow these trends

Tuesday 24 September 2019
These business leaders share their most unconventional wisdom – want to lead like Michelle Obama? Learn how she adapted her communication style to fit her audience.
a book on a table with a leather chair behind it

From inviting someone to a meeting at random or refusing to attend networking events, we collect the unconventional wisdom of those leaders making waves in their businesses

Expressing passion

In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama details her life as First Lady. She admits she had to curtail her passionate facial expressions when campaigning for husband Barack’s political cause. Why? Photographic stills were often used of her televised appearances and on mute she looked “too severe” for her message to resonate.

Lunch hours

When Craig Girvin and Toby Parkins founded software company Headforwards, they ditched the idea of the conventional lunch hour, with the aim of preventing burnout. Instead employees are able to attend clubs that include Japanese lessons, laser tag and running. This encourages them to take time away from their desks. If club activities take more than an hour, that’s okay too – the time can be made up on other days.

Invite lists

Meetings usually involve relevant individuals. But not at computing firm Evernote. Former CEO Phil Libin always used to invite someone who didn’t belong. The concept was dubbed ‘officer training’ and was used to develop employees’ understanding of other areas of the business. “They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about. They’re not just spectators; they talk,” Libin said.

Business networking

Caspar Thykier, CEO of augmented-reality app Zappar, is blunt about networking events: “I really don’t like them.” In fact, he actively avoids them, instead seeking out the opinions of those outside his sector, believing their input to be more valuable. “I believe that there’s something interesting about anyone and everyone – you just have to figure out what that something is,” he revealed. “I’ve found that it’s more interesting to build relationships with people who are not in the business world because they almost always can offer unique perspectives and insights.”

Making an impact

When Angela Ahrendts joined Apple as senior vice president of retail and online stores, many were expecting big things from the former Burberry CEO. But, by her own admission, in the first six months she conducted herself quietly. “I didn’t dare say anything prior to six months,” Ahrendts says. “My dad used to tell me: ‘It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and relieve them of all doubt.’ So I kept remembering that and chose not to over-communicate.” In her role of listener, she visited more than 100 call centres and stores to hear complaints and observe activities.

Looking for more examples of excellent leadership? Read about the 19 leaders changing the way that we’re working.

Image: Unsplash