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Leadership is different and the same – what we’ve learned from 20 years of TPCL

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TPC Leadership has long had a global approach to leadership. Since starting in the UK in 2001 we’ve grown to have over 200 associates, consultants and facilitators working from offices – both physical and virtual – all over the world.

That means we can not only immerse ourselves in what’s needed on the ground, but also pull in specialist expertise from our colleagues around the world. And we are extending that blend of global practices and local solutions to the Middle East with our new Middle East office based in Abu Dhabi.

To mark this new venture, we spoke to our founder Charles Brook and Niamh Briody-Jordan, TPC Leadership’s Regional Partner in the Middle East, to discuss what leadership development means today and how to take it to new frontiers.

Where leadership is now, and where it’s going

A lot has changed since we founded TPCL in 2001, not least in the world of leadership itself. The fundamental requirements of a good leader are still largely the same – the need to be able to set direction and coach a team hasn’t gone anywhere, for example. But the way we define leaders and their relationships with their employees is forever changing.

“In some ways it’s more complicated to be a modern leader,” Charles says. “There’s been huge changes around the importance of ethical leadership, the democratisation of leadership, and in engaging people who want to have a say and be empowered.”

It’s not just the philosophy of leadership that’s evolving. Leaders today have to navigate a workplace that’s becoming increasingly global, virtual and AI-dependant (Artificial Intelligence). Meanwhile, in the fast-moving startup world it’s not uncommon for founders to go from managing a handful of people to hundreds in a short space of time.

Even tech-savvy leaders or young people who have grown up with these challenges still need some guidance. “It’s about managing change,” says Niamh. “Leaders need the mindset that what got them here might not get them where they’re going next.”

Part of that guidance will mean empowering leaders with the right skills to inspire and draw out the true potential of their teams. But there’s also a humane element too that can’t be overlooked. A lot of the focus is on what leaders can give to an organisation, but not much time is given to thinking what organisations can do for their leaders.

“It’s not easy to show appreciation for leaders, and I don’t think we do it enough,” Niamh says. “Especially since leaders who feel recognised and appreciated are more likely to motivate and inspire others.” 

Sustainable leadership takes time

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to leadership. What best fits the needs of one organisation won’t necessarily fit the needs of another, or even the same organisation in the future. To keep finding the right solutions, leadership coaches need to be lifelong learners themselves.

“It’s important not to come in and say we know everything because we won’t,” Niamh says. “We’re not there to tell you what to do. Sometimes it’s just about listening and being a sounding board.”

Coaches and consultants also need to be prepared for more than just a flying visit. In the past leadership coaches would often come in, run a programme for a few days and then leave again, but those days are gone. For leadership development to be truly sustainable it needs to be seen on a much bigger timeframe.

“A leadership coach might be brought in to help a company find a solution,” says Niamh. “But it’s often what comes next – the implementation, and learning from what worked and what didn’t – that needs the real support.”

It’s about creating partnerships, not supplying quick fixes, and to do that means immersing yourself in the organisation and staying with them, at least at first. 

“Co-creation and ownership is part of our DNA,” says Charles. “In some ways we want to make ourselves redundant because hopefully the client will own their development and the process going forward.”

Looking towards the Middle East

Although the way we go about delivering leadership development has changed over the years, the reason behind it has always been the same. It’s still about empowering people to unlock their full potential as leaders, whether they’re new in the role or have been leading for a long time already.

It’s hard to imagine anywhere that embodies this attitude more than the Middle East. From construction projects like Dubai’s Palm Islands, Saudi’s Qiddiya and Qatar’s Lusail, to the various 2030 visions across the region, and the hosting of 191 countries at Expo 2020, the region is actively diversifying and pushing to find a different way of doing things.

We believe there is a synergy between what the Middle East and TPCL are looking to accomplish. There’s an attitude of positivity and a sense that nothing can hold leaders and organisations back anymore, and we see that people don’t just have vision, they also execute it. It’s a state of mind that we at TPCL have been working to make global for years. So the Middle East is a natural fit for us, and the leaders we are meeting there are natural partners.

Looking to make an impact in your region? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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