Tim Richardson: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris


RichardsonFormerly, Tim Richardson headed Leadership and Talent at PWC (2000-2009), where he was the driving force behind the creation of an integrated talent strategy and leadership development. He started his career in financial services. He now focuses on talent and leadership consultancy bringing insights to senior people, Boards and all levels in organisations to encourage a more responsible approach and response to leadership challenges. Over the last 20 years he has worked with corporate clients such as: HSBC, BBC, Lloyds TSB, Thames Water, Barclays, Unilever, and Tear Fund as well as extensively within the voluntary sector. He has considerable international experience, including the Far East, Central Asia, mainland Europe, North and South America, and Africa.

Tim has worked with senior partners and leaders around the world in a coaching and facilitation capacity often bringing insights to strategic forums. He has designed and facilitated large conferences of up to 300 people and has himself spoken at a number of conferences around the world on the subject of talent and leadership. His first book about leadership – Monday’s Times – a modern day allegory of the search for leadership soul in business, was published in 2009.

Tim has a bachelor’s degree in business studies from Greenwich University and is a fellow of both the Chartered Bankers Institute and the Royal Society of Arts.

His book, The Responsible Leader: Developing a Culture of Responsibility in an Uncertain World, was published by KoganPage (February 2015).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Tim,

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write The Responsible Leader?

Richardson: I was invited to write it a couple of years back and it has been an opportunity for me to take stock of my personal leadership journey and reflect on what I believe to be important. I wanted to encourage leaders to pause and think about their leadership and their worlds, to own their choices and personal agency. I guess I believed that I had something to say and contribute, and that this was another way of saying it in addition to my work with individuals and groups.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Richardson: I guess that as I knew where I wanted to take it, as it emerged and took shape I was reminded how inspiring it is to be around truly responsible leaders and that most of these people are unsung heroes who don’t seek fame or status but are responding to a ‘louder call’ as it were. I think my next book could be about ‘reluctant or accidental leadership’ as it seems to me that it is often people that are humble and not led by their own egocentric forces that will be the people to whom we will look for guidance in the future.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Richardson: Not a great deal to be honest. I would have liked to have included even more stories of real people and scenarios but space did not allow for this. I did not set out to write an academic text and I think I have struck a good balance between theoretical and pragmatic.

Morris: Did you learn anything especially significant about yourself during the process of completing the manuscript for KoganPage? Please explain.

Richardson: That I am great at planning but rubbish at sticking to the plan! I know that I often feel most inspired when up against deadlines. On a deeper level, the value of an editorial eye encouraged me to really focus and crystallise my thinking. I found myself appreciating the fact that responsible leaders do accept levels of personal risk and this challenged me about my own levels of comfort and risk. So watch this space!

Morris: Of all the great leaders throughout history, which – in your opinion – most fully exemplifies the nature and extent of responsibility that you so eloquently affirm?

Richardson: Wow, this is question I both love and dislike from clients I work with. Everyone wants to know who are the greatest leaders and whom they should mirror. If only it was that easy. However, we all need people to look up to and around whom we form our mental models so here is a stab. Mother Teresa who followed her heart and responded selflessly to reach out to the poor of Kolkata. She didn’t force her approach on others but through her daily actions, she impacted the lives of so many of us who never came into contact with her. She also changed the way people think about poverty and those less fortunate.

She was someone who did not seek fame. Someone who did – Abraham Lincoln – tried his best to stay connected to people and regularly met with folk to tell jokes and stories and to gauge what it was like literally on the front line. He also realised that it was he who would have to stand for something he believed in for the greater good even though it cost him a lot personally. His story inspires me.

Morris: What specifically can supervisors do to develop a full sense of responsibility in those for whom they are directly responsible?

Richardson: I am going to use an example from the book here. I think that when people put themselves into their wider system (physically standing in it) and playing the roles from all perspectives, people begin to feel what it is like to be a positive agent in the system. So supervisors would be well coached to involve their people in creating their own ‘responsible narrative’. A good question is often, ‘imagine this is your business and your skin in the game. What do you want clients and wider stakeholders to be saying about you and it?’ Generally most people do not come up with ‘we make loads of money and don’t care about people!’.

Morris: As I indicate in my review of the book for various Amazon websites, there are dozens of passages throughout your narrative that caught my eye. For those who have not as yet read the book, please suggest what you view as the most important point or key take-away in each of these passages.

First, Internal assuredness and attractiveness (28-33)

Richardson: We know that as humans we have a ‘move towards or move away from’ neuro response. What also know is that as followers we are drawn towards people who attract us either with their narrative and/or their natural presence. Effective leaders know that it is not their force of personality that draws people to work with them but their natural authority that comes from an inner assuredness of who they are and what they stand for. They are genuinely trustworthy. Spending time and energy to cultivate this is important as we develop responsible leaders.

Morris: Adaptability and learning orientation (34-38)

Richardson: Being open minded and curious about people and scenarios requires humility and a real willingness to listen and learn. The pace of change in the modern world requires us to embrace a state of mind in which we simply cannot know all the answers and in which we will only thrive (note this is more than survive) if we can embrace the tensions inherent in ambiguity.

Morris: Thinking and operating relationally (39-44)

Richardson: There is so much in this, but in a nutshell, the future will be shaped by and belong to those who collaborate and build healthy interdependence as it is most likely that from these relationships innovations will emerge. Innovations in thinking, product design, scientific development etc. Leaders who think that only they or their company have the answers will be short lived and will not be able to cultivate the environment in which people are generous with their ideas and in which co-creation is possible. Competition will be less attractive than co-creation. “Self” will be less important than “other”.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

Here is a direct link to Part 1.

Tim cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

The RSA link

Abundant Community link

Bright Future link

Eden Project link

Waverley Learning link

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