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Self-awareness, people and language are key priorities for leaders

2 November 2017

A select group of some of Europe’s top business leaders joined the latest Vital Few programme, delivered by School for CEOs’ expert team of practitioners.

Representing a variety of business sectors including technology, financial services, nutrition, education and research, participants discussed their personal and business challenges and learned from a diverse Faculty  of guest speakers under Chatham House Rule.

One participant commented: ‘I really appreciated the candour of all speakers. It has been invaluable to hear real-world experience.’

Several themes emerged over the two-day, residential programme. The first was awareness, particularly self-awareness. As a Chief Executive in today’s fast-paced and volatile environment, it is crucial to reflect and be aware of the impact you have as the leader of your business. One speaker recommended having a small group of trusted advisers at all levels of the organisation who you can count on to give you honest feedback. Are you aware of the impact you have on others around you, and how do you manage that?

Another speaker added: ‘as a CEO, you are not allowed to have a bad day.’ So how do you control your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, particularly when dealing with difficult situations either in your business or personal life.

The importance of people and language were also stressed throughout the programme. Even though automation and robotics are threatening to replace hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, people remain at the heart of an organisation’s success. One speaker stressed that ‘leadership is about people, not results’. This was reiterated by another who added: ‘It’s about the people who do the work. Not the CEO. Not the Exec.’

If you can develop an open and honest relationship with your people, you will help them to understand and genuinely engage with your organisation’s purpose. Language is fundamental in this. ‘Do this well and you will keep your capability ahead of the opportunity,’ was the mantra of one speaker.

Faculty speakers included:

  • Shaun Kingsbury – Former CEO, Green Investment Bank
  • David Nish – Non-Executive Director, HSBC, Vodafone, Zurich Insurance, London Stock Exchange
  • Danuta Gray – Senior Independent Director and Interim Chair, Aldermore Bank, Non-Executive Director, PageGroup, Old Mutual, Direct Line Insurance and Non-Executive Member, Defence Board for the UK Ministry of Defence
  • Dame Louise Makin – CEO, BTG
  • Rob Woodward – CEO, STV
  • Anita Scott – Partner, Brunswick Group
  • Simon Hamer – Former Editor, Today programme and Head of Digital, BBC
  • Ewan Pearson – Managing Director, Grant Pearson Brown, Communications specialists
  • Mary Spillane - Executive Coach, Personal Brand Expert, Author

The next available Vital Few programme takes place on 18th & 19th April 2018 in London. For more details, email

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