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Drive for Real Leadership spurred by 40th anniversary

06 December 2017

With a career in industry stretching back over 40 years, Geoff Prudence is committed to improving leadership standards.

Possibly one of the most relevant maxims for the business community is ‘There is no substitute for experience’, which can also be said to have further relevance in describing Geoff Prudence and his long career.

Beginning with an apprenticeship with British Rail over 40 years ago, he has continued to develop his career to gain the status of chartered engineer before increasing his involvement in the FM sector, from its beginnings as premises management in its formative years.

This has also coincided with his increasing activities within industry bodies, including being a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building Services (CIBSE).

Having led the CIBSE Facilities Management Group for many years, Mr Prudence was the recipient of the institute’s Silver Medal in 2009 for his long and exemplary level of service to industry.

He is also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) and a valued member of the PFM Editorial Advisory Board.

His involvement with the latter has led to a number of conversations over his drive for the recognition of what he refers to as the Real Leadership principles, which he believes has significant potential value for individuals, companies and business in general.

With the majority of managers and directors promoted to their roles after performing well in their previous positions, he feels the task of successfully managing people is deserving of much more attention.

“The reason I’m on this journey trying to promote good leadership is because through various areas of my career, and involvement with supporting people and teams, more than now ever Real Leadership is what’s required,” he said, speaking exclusively to PFM.

While there will always be a need for strong leadership in the traditional sense, in order to ensure that all team members know what is required of them, Mr Prudence says these skills can be significantly enhanced by using the Real Leadership principles.

Emotional environment

He further explains that this also complements other industry initiatives including the Leesman Index and the Stoddart Review.

“We’ve seen more attention placed on improving performance culture in the workplace, linked to the performance of the core business which are all very good, but as leaders I believe we’re also responsible for the emotional environment, as well,” he continues.

While autocratic leadership will achieve a certain level of success, recognising the benefits of Real Leadership will see results reach a higher and more sustainable level.

In addition to personal development and performance, there should be awareness of work/life balance and issues such as good mental health when implementing training for managers in all areas.

“You see instances of poor leadership all the time and furthermore, evidence where people have not had training or support in their career for elementary skills such as writing structured reports or chairing meetings,” he says.

Collaboration is another important element that is deserving of more consideration in a number of areas, says Mr Prudence, not just within FM, but throughout all sectors of the business community:

“What I’m trying to do is push the message outside of just buildings to include infrastructure, cities, production areas – anywhere that’s not regarded as core business. We have to collaborate more, as organisations, and also within institutions to break down some barriers.

“Also within our own teams there are sometimes barriers that stop us from doing the right things, so there’s lots of opportunities for collaboration to make things much better,” he says.

With growing attention devoted to technology and the increasing awareness of the potential benefits from the Internet of Things (IoT), this has further connotations for the Real Leadership principles.

“All these things are right and there’s more emerging every day, but we have to remind ourselves that as leaders, technology is the driver.

"As leaders, we need to decide what will help us do things better and be more efficient and achieve results more quickly and that, to me, is what brings Real Leadership to the fore,” says Mr Prudence, further explaining that within this subject, AI actually means authenticity and integrity.

He further explains how management principles have gone through cycles and has reached the point where the benefits of Real Leadership can now be better understood.

This will lead to improved levels of engagement with all stakeholders and team members, resulting in higher performance achievements and creation of a more positive environment for the business and individuals alike.

Teaching leadership skills

“With all the concerns being raised about lack of knowledge about basic subjects such as maths, etc, my concern is that there’s also a lack of focus on teaching leadership skills,” says Mr Prudence.

“All these things need to be considered and there’s a lot to understand, but it’s essential if we’re going to make the right sort of progress.”

Another essential element for improving leadership skills is the presence of good role models and the opportunity to take advantage of mentoring.

He cites the efforts of Sir John Harvey-Jones in the Troubleshooter TV programme from the 1990s as one of his career inspirations, providing an excellent example of a mentor who is able to speak to people working in all areas and levels of a company.

The white paper written by Mr Prudence is an ideal starting point to gain more understanding about Real Leadership and he will also be speaking at a number of events in the New Year in his determined drive to raise awareness.

Four key enablers of Real Leadership Customer focus:

Having identified the essential purpose of any given function, it is essential to design, implement and maintain this while continuing to learn, review and improve.

IT: Continuing consideration should be given to topics such as IoT, artificial intelligence and the use of big data to understand how to apply these effectively to deliver the best results.

Skills: With concern voiced over the lack of sufficient numbers of skilled personnel in all areas, there is an urgent need to encourage the teaching of effective leadership skills.

Collaboration: There is considerable potential to increase levels of collaboration in all areas, including within teams, companies and institutions to widen the focus to include as many areas as possible.

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