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10 effective leadership lessons from business

This article 10 effective leadership lessons from business, as described by TV presenter, Sir Gerry Robinson.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

There are thousands of analyses of leadership best practices if you wish to search them out, but Sir Gerry Robinson’s seems particularly accurate to the reality of a headteacher.

Robinson is a business executive, TV presenter and former chief executive of media conglomerate Granada. One of the many appealing things about him is his scepticism about the value of leadership theories and leadership books. He is happy to talk about his experiences, though, and when he does, he stresses the virtues of simplicity, human decency and domain knowledge.

From his lectures and books, ten imperatives emerge (Robinson, 2004). Headteachers who embrace all ten factors in their day-to-day work won’t go far wrong in their mission to be seen as effective leaders or someone leading an effective school.

1. Just one leader

You must be seen as the leader and you must behave like one. Show common sense, fairness, positivity, purpose and clarity in your dealings with your subordinates and always keep things simple (but understand and meet the needs of your employer, too).

2. Frame a clear, compelling strategic vision

This is a big responsibility. You must take charge of the future of your business. Draw up a simple, realistic action plan and follow it up relentlessly.

3. Know your stuff

A high level of domain knowledge is vital. Know your people, your product, its quality, what’s going on in your patch and your business, and keep a close eye on your competitors, too.

4. Know the financial picture

But do not be intimidated by this. It is not hard, you employ people to make it crystal-clear for you – ensure they do.

5. Manage your time well

Don’t get bogged down in detail, don’t spend too much time in meetings, writing, or dancing to other people’s tunes. Do not work long hours; you’re paid to think clearly and act decisively. Speak to people, find out what’s going on. See and be seen.

6. Communicate effectively

Stop writing – talk (and listen) incessantly about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Get the message across.

7. Delegate

If you’ve got someone good, let them get on with it. Just support them and hold them to account. Give people the chance to develop and to succeed. Specify required results, not methods. Have regular meetings with those who report to you, and minute the agreed actions. Start the next meeting by reviewing the results of those actions. Don’t be petty; do be appreciative.

8. Avoid bossiness

Be kind, approachable, fair, and consistent.

9. At times you have to be tough

If it comes to having to do undesirable tasks – redundancies, sackings – be straight with people about things, and actually overdo any cuts you need to make (so that you only have to do it once), but then be generous to those affected.

10. Look after your people

They want to feel part of something and they want to feel proud of it. Good people skills are vital.


Robinson, G., (2014). I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss! The Six Secrets of Highly Successful Management. BBC Active.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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