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Let’s face it, times are tough and being a leader during the Coronavirus crisis has proved challenging for most.

If I had to sum up in one word what leadership means to me, it would probably be ‘inspiration’. A leader has many different facets to their role, but if you start to dig deeper, the focal point is usually that the person inspires others. They make decisions, but can also really foster a collaborative working environment that gets the best out of their team.

All change!

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that we have all changed the way we work. At Haines Watts, we quickly enhanced our day-to-day advisory and reporting service to include one that very much helped clients at the coal face with the immediate, and fast changing, challenges they faced. This has meant listening more which is all part of being a good leader in times of crisis / adversity. Our conversations with clients focus on how they are dealing with change, issues with their own staff, and in some cases, a lack of demand coming through for their services. These changes were also quite wide-ranging for Haines Watts as we have had to manage our teams from a multitude of physical locations. Thankfully we already had a cloud-based accounting system which helped tremendously with this.

Collaboration is key

To succeed, leadership needs to be collaborative. I’d hope my approach to leadership is just that, but I’m also someone who very much leads from the front. With Covid-19, it has been more important than ever as a leader to get involved in what’s going on. Having regular team catch-ups have also been vital in getting to know people on a very personal basis during the crisis and getting to understand their concerns. I would also hope that my team see a very strong work ethic in me and that as a leader, I’m always striving to achieve greater things for the business than what we have so far.

How can you develop your leadership style?

You develop any leadership style over time learning lessons along the way. For me, I’d have to go back to the beginning to when I was a very young girl. I would always cite my father who always encouraged myself and my sister to be the best we can, to be independent thinkers and to make our own decisions. I have built on that as I have got older and more experienced. I’m very lucky to have worked with people over the years who have given me the opportunity to enhance my own skills.

When I joined from Haines Watts around 10 years ago, I was very lucky to be involved in some of the leadership programmes that we run in-house. The programmes aim to develop us as individuals rather than just concentrating on the technical aspects.

The Coronavirus experience turned a lot on its head. Business owners had to think fast about how to work differently. Processes, communications, resource allocation, cash flow management – all had to be adapted. How we chose to show up as leaders also changed. I found I had to be a rock for our people and clients during a time fraught with uncertainty while also being human and empathetic. Being able to adapt and learn from the lessons of recent months is part of my ongoing development as a leader. 

Who do you look up to as a leader?

Leadership takes many different forms and there are a number of people in business and in the public eye that are good examples for young people to look up to. For me, one woman that immediately springs to mind is Michelle Obama. I think she’s an absolute remarkable woman who shows an awful lot of poise and class in everything that she does. She has excelled in her own career and she still has a strong voice in support of a lot of causes that she believes in.

In the world of business, I’d say those I work with on a day-to-day basis are the ones who inspire me the most. I work with some truly dedicated and passionate people who are always striving to achieve more themselves. They are always looking to enhance their own skills and give a better service. So that in itself, I find inspirational.

How does a leader resolve conflict in the workplace?

Leaders have a lot to contend with, particularly when it comes to conflict. I’m a big believer in honesty in the workplace. I think if there are genuine issues, especially around conflict, you shouldn’t ignore them. The more you ignore something or try to brush it under the carpet, it will come back as a bigger problem later. I’m also a huge believer in sticking to the facts and trying to establish what has actually gone on, rather than rely on emotional hearsay. Then it’s important to have honest conversations with people to get both sides of the story, because sometimes a situation is not always as it seems. Once you have come to some middle ground, you can usually all move on from there.

How do we pass our leadership on to the next generation?

Leadership is only as good as how we pass it on to the next generation. It’s something we take incredibly seriously at Haines Watts. Every member of our team has their own personal development plan which we really encourage through day-to-day mentoring and ongoing appraisal processes. As you move through your career with the firm, we have some manager skills programmes to really enhance existing skillsets. We also run a leadership development programme for individuals who have been picked out as potential future leaders within the business – whether that be at partner or director level, or service lead level. The leadership development programme concentrates more on personal development to enhance leadership skills.

What do the next 12 to 24 months look like from a leader’s point of view?

I think for a lot of business owners, there is a great degree of uncertainty out there. We don’t really know how the economy is going to react, although all the indicators show that we are in for a pretty rough ride over the next few months. From my perspective, we are concentrating on the services lines that we offer to our clients. We are very much there to support the owner-managers that we primarily work with. We’re also looking for that continual growth as we always do. We find there is great demand for having that personal relationships with our clients and getting to know them and their businesses.

Are you unclear on any COVID-19 related issues that your business is facing? Get in touch and we will be happy to assist you

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About the author

Karen McLellan

Karen specialises in providing business consultancy, tax mitigation and accountancy services to owner-managed businesses. As a business owner herself, Karen understands the challenges of building and running a business.

She provides strategic advice to clients which has a positive impact on the growth and value of their business, and which helps the individual achieve their personal goals. Whether its advice on restructuring, tax mitigation, succession planning or preparing for sale, Karen can help the client get to where they want to be.

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