My Column

Leadership is still Key to success.

  • Date: Monday 1st October 2018
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It’s just two more days until The Apprentice kicks off again and as usual, it looks like there are some big personalities – and egos – in this year’s series.

 I consider the popular BBC show to be a fascinating microcosm of the business world, and it’s always entertaining to see how well those taking part utilise their unique skills to negotiate the challenges.



Some of the programme’s pre-publicity sparked interesting debate last week around the intelligence and business acumen of the candidates, causing Lord Sugar to leap to their defence.


Even stoney-faced Claude Littner, who is notorious for giving the contestants a hard time and putting them through their paces, insisted that those on the show are “not stupid”.


In many cases I agree.  Some enter the show with decent small businesses already up and running, or have brilliant business plans.


And we’ve seen others who are in top-end jobs earning really big bucks, but they’ve decided to take a gamble and try their hand at running their own businesses.


But on the flipside we’ve seen plenty of numpties too. People who make bold and boastful claims, who lie on their CVs, or who can’t seem to take on a simple task because they run a team like they’re herding cats.


So if Lord Sugar and Claude are right and they’re not stupid people, what’s their problem? Asked that very question, Steve Tappin, the boss of CEO coaching and leadership consultancy Xinfu, said it’s all about the candidates’ leadership abilities.


He told BBC News that many are focused on their personal brand rather than having the right entrepreneurial skills, and that they don’t have the right abilities to connect, unite and grow a business. Is he right? More than likely.


“Leadership” is the big business buzzword right now and for good reason. I don’t ever remember seeing such a strong emphasis on it.


Companies are waking up to the fact that they simply cannot grow unless they equip their people with the right skills to drive a business forward.


In fact, failing to have a decent strategy in place can be costly in the long term, not just in terms of profits but also when it comes to areas like job satisfaction and staff retention.


And this isn’t specific to one industry – it’s being taken very seriously across a variety of sectors, with education being just one example.


The Scottish Learning Festival (SLF) – an annual conference and exhibition for the teaching profession – took place recently at Glasgow’s SEC, attracting head teachers, senior managers, policy makers, librarians, community learning and development staff, educators and many more.


They got the chance to network, get inspiration and ideas to support development. And it also featured a fringe event on, you guessed it, leadership.


This in-depth, three-hour Inspirational Leadership Conference represented an interesting new addition to SLF.


It was delivered by Dunfermline-based company Tree of Knowledge which specialises in motivational workshops, keynote speakers, training and coaching across a range of sectors.


It saw world-class speakers from across the sector take take to the stage to impart their knowledge, and to teach and inspire the delegates.


Local authority education chiefs, a teacher and writer, and company directors formed the motivational line-up, and they were even joined by pupils from three schools in West Lothian who shared personal experiences.


It’s great to see the sector placing an emphasis on honing leadership skills. I’m the first to yawn at meaningless business buzzwords, but let me assure you, “leadership” isn’t one of them.


It’s a crucial area for any organisation that wants to thrive, grow and stand the test of time.






It’s not often that you get bestowed with the gift of free food for life – it’s a bit of an exclusive club.


For instance, apparently among the few holders of a mythical McDonald’s Gold Card are Bill Gates, Mitt Romney, and Warren Buffett, granting them a lifetime of free Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, and McFlurries.


The existence of such a card has been whispered about for years and never confirmed.


That is until the golden arches recently announced a Stateside contest to win just such a card, allowing the winner free meals for the next 50 years, or a cash alternative worth some £780 to spend at the chain.


Except the card wasn’t actually a card – it was a bespoke 24 carat golden phone case engraved with the winner’s name, ensuring only they could use it.


Luckily, there’s not quite as much security surrounding the cool-looking black card that I’m now able to use at one of Edinburgh’s three Bonnie Burrito locations, allowing me to order whatever I fancy –  be it a  Irn Bru infused burrito, or other great Mexican options with a uniquely tasty Scottish twist.


I’m also the first person to have received such a card from this thriving home-grown business that continues to expand, so I’m honoured indeed.


I’m now hopeful that Bonnie Burrito will continue to grow under the astute management of founder Nick Forrest, allowing me to pick up their amazing food wherever I go!


Better still, every time I get the chance to pop in, I’ll be using my card to donate a few items to the needy. Bonnie Burrito is all about sharing, and I can’t think of a better way to do that.






We take waving for granted but the Queen has had to do it in a certain way, every day, for the last 65 years.


There must have been millions of waves along the way, so it’s fair to assume that her arm probably gets a bit weary.


In a new book, Princess Anne revealed that the Queen was once gifted a waving machine as a joke by a group of Australian students – and that she loved the stuffed glove on a wooden lever so much that she took it home. 


This is the kind of innovation we need to see in business – perfectly-pitched newsjacking in the extreme. The students took a risk but it paid off and they’re now benefitting from positive PR years later.







None of us are sure what Brexit – if it happens – will bring and it seems that uncertainty is permeating Scottish businesses now.


The Business Barometer, published by the Bank of Scotland, has revealed that Scottish companies’ overall confidence in their business prospects fell in September.


There has also been a dramatic decline in confidence around the economy overall.


But the Scottish firms reviewed are clear that they’re still hiring, which shows that there’s still hope.


It’s not surprising to see a drop in confidence but it’s great to see Scottish businesses showing resilience and determination in the face of it.  


Approaching things in a methodical way, keeping calm, and building on what is working well, will be vital as the Brexit decision approaches.





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