Leading Academics: Dr Adair Richards

Dr Adair Richards

After a brief introduction to this Leading Academics session, Dr Richards challenged the delegates to produce a one-sentence definition of leadership; he described a good leader as ‘people-focused’, decisive, and influential. Dr Richards then talked the delegates through several different leadership theories, including the five-tiered pyramid espoused by Jim Collins in Good to Great. The leaders at the top of this pyramid are ambitious for the organisation, rather than for themselves, and are fanatically driven. Dr Richards also described the Leadership Continuum (which stretches from subordinate-centred leadership to boss-centred leadership), the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership theory, and House’s Path-Goal theory of leadership. The latter theory states that there are four types of leaders: directive, supportive, participative, and finally achievement oriented leaders, who set goals that will stretch their team. The delegates were asked to apply these different theories, in addition to nine leadership tactics, to hypothetical situations, creating a better understanding of what makes an effective leader.

Dr Richards then talked the delegates through ‘ten leadership lessons’ that he has picked up throughout his very successful (and varied) career. He stated that a positive attitude is vital, being potentially more important than experience; employers want people who are willing to learn and who can work with others. Moreover, the delegates were advised to focus on how they personally define success, whether it is reaching the top of the career ladder or having a happy personal life, and were warned to not stay in an unrewarding job and thereby cost themselves potential opportunities. Dr Richards additionally encouraged the delegates to ‘fail often and fail fast’; rejection is a sign that you are being ambitious and taking risks, but, equally, you should know when to quit. Finally, luckiness was defined as an attitude and behaviour; people who have been ‘lucky’ in their careers have created large social networks and sought out opportunities.

The talk concluded with Dr Richards’ own leadership theory, which consists of ‘five building blocks of leadership’: purpose, priorities, passion, people, and perseverance. The overall message conveyed in this engaging and entertaining talk was one of optimism; the delegates were encouraged to seek out opportunities, letting their passion carry them through any failures, focusing on the long-term goals and continually learning.

Jennifer Palmer

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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