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head of learning UK at AbbVie

viewp intPractitioner’s

they feel safe enough to work together openly and collaboratively. Followers need to trust their leaders and have a deep emotional connection with them. I also drew on my experience of


t the start of each episode of Star Trek (the original series) we hear

Captain James T Kirk say: “Space, the fi nal frontier. T ese are the

voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s fi ve- year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” T at for me is the essence of becoming a really great leader; a long voyage of exploration and discovery; exciting and frequently scary (par- ticularly when the Klingons attack). On my voyage I was in the

rather interesting position of being responsible for developing other leaders. I set out to learn all that I could about leadership so I could do this. To my surprise I have also unwittingly been on a personal journey too and changed who I am as a leader. I did a great deal of reading on leadership and two particular concepts really resonated with me. One is from the Rob Goff ee and Gareth Jones book, Why should anyone be led by you? and relates to followers wanting to follow a person not a position; an authentic, fl awed, unique, human being. T e second is Simon Sinek’s Circle of Safety, here he talks about a leader providing “cover from above” for their people so

8 | july 2016 |

following great leaders, one in particular standing out for me. She was an HR professional but shortly after joining the fi nancial services fi rm where I worked she moved into a challenging operational role, let’s call her Tracey. Tracey had no technical experience and other senior staff were sceptical about this move to say the least. However, what Tracey did have was vision, combined with endless energy and enthusiasm. She had an un- shakable confi dence; in herself and in her vision for the department and with that she inspired her people to follow her. When I refl ected upon my observa- tions of a wide range of people in senior positions in many diff erent organisations and the impact they had on their teams and the organisation – I was inspired, intrigued and even sometimes angered by their attitudes and approaches. T e best leaders that I saw; the one’s whose teams would do anything for them, are humble, caring and supportive. T ey put the needs of others above their own. So, what conclusions did I draw

from all of this? One key thing I took

Space, the 

Beverley Aylott   

away is that being in a leadership position in a hierarchy does not make you a great leader. I discovered that great leaders create an emotional con- nection, have confi dence, a clear vision, and really care about their followers. T is is what now underpins all of my leadership development programmes. But what about me? What did I learn on this voyage? I began leading

Being in a leadership position in a hierarchy does not make you a great leader. I discovered that great leaders create an emotional connection

teams 20 years ago believing that I should be heroic, strong and always have the answers. Now I take a back seat, support and grow my team, keep them safe and inspire them with a vision of what we can accomplish together. When I left my last role, in the leaving card it said: “great leaders leave a legacy, I am proud to have been a part of yours”. Returning fi nally to Star Trek, later on in the series the fi ve-year mission became a continuing mission.1 Obviously they worked out that it might take a bit longer than fi ve years to explore the whole universe. And so it is with leadership, it’s my continuing mission to explore, to discover, to listen and to learn.

Beverley Aylott is head of learning UK at global pharma- ceutical company AbbVie

References 1 p.s. Star Trek did also replace no man with no one if you’re wondering about that


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