Andrew Marsh, Vistage chair, business owner, non executive board member and chair of a number of charitable boards has been influential in keeping positivity in the leadership ranks of the North East throughout 2020.
Here, he gives some hints and tips on choosing the right peers and what we can learn from world leaders interaction with their own peers throughout the pandemic:
“Cornovirus has been a huge test for the leaders of the world; leaders in business, in government and in any position of power or decision making. We can learn a lot about leadership by observing the behaviours of these people in times of pressure, who they lean on and the respect they give or get.
“The pandemic brought with it a huge test for every country, with crisis response, decision making and reactions all being critical to the survival of the economy and to the population’s health / death toll.
“What a huge weight of responsibility for these people…but how did they respond and are they all so different from each other?
“The Chinese government was watched with the entire world taking notes on what they did. The World Health Organisation praised them for their efforts as they closed down industry, halted manufacturing, brought in mass testing, quarantine and started sharing the knowledge that they were gaining. This was the peer action that helped the world start to understand the issues we would all soon face.
“The choice here was short term economic loss to preserve lives. They took control together and exercised leadership methods to ‘save’ the country and its people. As the pandemic spread, other countries around the world watched and then looked internally to protect themselves. The closure of borders, travel restrictions and focus on individual economic impact took over each country’s peer discussions.
“The world observed each other, and countries leaders surrounded themselves with experts to help them understand the situation, the impact and to look for solutions. This included continued dialogue with other countries, copying what was going well and taking the good, whilst dropping the not so successful.
“In March and April, during the early days of understanding, policy was being made on the move whilst still learning. Governments and leader decisions had to be agile, and proved to have lots of holes in them, so today we are still seeing adaptation and development, with more peers and experts joining the team as the need for knowledge grows. Some of the early support peers are now leaving or have left.
“To deal with this, country leaders have expanded their peer support and are now listening to local leaders, heads of education and schooling, and business leaders. Data from these expert peers is crucial, as it is in every leadership role.
“What is fascinating is how each country has had a different approach as to which data is important, and the results gained by that data.
“But what can we, those who are leaders in business, learn from all of this?
“Making decisions is THE key part of a leaders role. And one of the hardest. Looking at balances between economy, health, jobs, regions, age, schools and social activities is not something any one person can be an expert one. Peers can help get more of a situation right, although as we have seen it is impossible to satisfy 100% of any one population.
“Communication is critical. It is easy to criticise the leaders but day on day they are striving to improve. Daily briefs in the UK and warnings on timescales with tier systems and the latest lockdown is a long way from the original communication pattern.
“Without doubt, in every example, it shows us that peers are essential. Every leader has them. But, it isn’t just about having them – its about having the right ones, one you can trust who have the right knowledge and who in times of crisis can pull together under the test and be transparent.
“At Vistage, and in my personal peer to peer groups, the highest praises I receive is that I excel in mixing the right personalities, experience, and talents to bring together groups that actually work; groups that support, nurture and champion each other.
“Peer to peer support only works if the right people are in the room, so it is a finely honed skill to match those people and foster the right relationships. Time after time our peer groups demonstrate that we get it right, which can only be good for the North East.
“As someone who has guided large multi million pound businesses through growth, and sits on the board of a number of North East businesses destined for great things, one of my biggest pieces of advice is to continually learn. Learn from peers, share yourself and your experience with your peers – that in itself is the beginning of great leadership and when it’s done in a safe place like Vistage, then you can only thrive. ”