Beca's business scholar wants more clarity in leadership

Good business is about clear leadership, says a prime minister's business scholar who has just returned from Paris.

Good business is about clear leadership, a prime minister's business scholar says.

Beca general manager of transportation Matthew Ensor, who spent a month at INSEAD business school in Paris, says it is a new model of leadership which involves engaging people at the middle and bottom of the company with ideas.

"So when you announce your ideas, they’re already on board with the approach the company wants to take,” he says.

Before his trip, Mr Ensor, who has been general manager of the department for eight years, told NBR ONLINE he was excited about the chance to better understand his own role and strengths.

He said world-class business leadership skills are essential when competing internationally “especially in a global downturn”.

He has returned "bursting with knowledge". He says he chose that particular school in France because the focus was on global perspectives and global leadership.

“We had people from all different kinds of organisations, from banking to pharmaceuticals to engineering to the publishing industry," he says.

"It was very diverse, and there were people from about two dozen different nationalities on the course, which is good because it means the course isn’t dominated by one particular perspective.” 

He says there is so much information to digest it will take between 12 months and three years to implement everything. One of the benefits he took from INSEAD was understanding the need to think like a leader and make good decisions – not simply the tools to copy.

He says the challenge facing all businesses, big and small, is how to engage employees who increasingly appear to be interested in autonomy and want an understanding of how the business works and what is important to the company.

“The leaders now can’t focus on leading from the top – you’ve got to engage folk. The challenge I have is that it is okay to give people autonomy in a small business but when you’ve got 2000 or 10,000 people, how does it work? 

"That was the mystery I had before going on the course and then coming away from the course, I can now understand how people are achieving this.”

Most course participants were in their 40s and were at a similar level in management to Mr Ensor.

He says those who got the most out of it were those who were at the beginning of their roles as a senior executive or leader in the business, because they have more time to develop leadership skills once the course finishes.

Mr Ensor believes clarity in leadership is one of the most essential skills he learned. He believes companies need to think about how they can better lead their employees in the face of continuing economic hardship.

From what he learnt, clarity in leadership appears to be the difference between European companies which are succeeding and those which are not, amidst the eurozone debt crisis.

“Organisations are getting really complex and I think there’s a tendency for employees to get confused about exactly where an organisation is heading.”

Mr Ensor says initially there was very little knowledge amongst the group’s participants about business conditions in New Zealand, but he made sure they knew all about our economy by the time the 28-day course had finished.