Talent of the future: Berwick Partners launch 2020 Emerging Leaders Programme

Talent of the future: Berwick Partners launch 2020 Emerging Leaders Programme
Published: 10 February 2020

The Berwick Partners Emerging Leaders Programme 2020 was launched on 4th February at our offices in London following the success of the 2019 Programme. The second cohort of 40 high-potential leaders began their exciting year-long programme of insight-led learning and personal development. The afternoon focused on the importance of adaptive leadership and cultivating successful teams.

For the initial part of the session, we were delighted to be joined by guest speaker John Henderson, CEO of Staffordshire County Council and former Major General of the British Army who commanded British Forces in Germany. John held several international positions that required an understanding of different cultures and ways of working, all underpinned by emotional intelligence. John has faced a broad and diverse range of leadership scenarios, both in the army and at Staffordshire County Council, which have required him to adapt his leadership style.

The second session was led by Rob Fenwick, COO of Howdens Joinery Group Plc. Having honed his craft in a world-class manufacturing and Just-In-Time Supply Chain environment, Rob took his learnings into an executive leadership role at Howdens, where spectacular growth and shareholder value has been created by a tight-knit top team. Since October 2005, he has been responsible for transforming the Supply Division from a vertically-integrated operation to a commercial organisation.

Being accountable

John and Rob both discussed the importance of being accountable as a leader; there is no ’passenger ticket’ available to you to use when facing difficult decisions. Your teams expect you to take responsibility for making tough choices, even if it is to their detriment. How you handle difficult situations is critical. Operating with integrity and sharing the burden of responsibility for difficult decisions sets good leaders apart. John spoke highly of England Manager, Gareth Southgate’s leadership style, sharing the praise and accomplishments with his team, but bearing the sole brunt of any criticisms.

Trust – ‘Stop doing and start leading!’

Both John and Rob highlighted the importance of creating an environment of trust in the workplace. John had implemented ‘smart working’ at Staffordshire County Council, improving results as well as their ability to attract and retain talent. Similarly, Rob trusted his team to manage their work and personal lives, highlighting that to drive optimal performance people need balance. By encouraging time to reflect and recharge, you could build resilience in your teams - essential to driving sustained positive performance.

Trust also means recognising that many of the solutions to problems lay within the operations of the teams. As a leader, you must trust that your teams want to do a good job, and your role as a leader is to create an environment where those with the expertise can operate effectively. They may not do it exactly as you would have, but to create a high-performing team you need to trust in their expertise, and you might just get better results. Ironically, by taking a step back and empowering your teams you are able to operate with better control. Rob highlighted the importance of “being on the balcony” and surveying “the dancefloor” i.e. the broader environment and business, looking for problems to tackle.

Reward and recognition

Rob highlighted the importance of taking the time to step back and celebrate success in building resilience in teams. This is not just at the end of the year in bonuses but at opportune moments where you, the leader, can express gratitude and praise good performance. John echoed this and talked about celebrating departures positively, recognising that if someone has served an organisation, celebrating their service creates a positive culture. John highlighted that the military are particularly effective in celebrating people’s departures, which fosters a culture of respect and appreciation.

Rob agreed on the importance of companies supporting employees for their future endeavours. Leaders should look at celebrating departures of hard-working and loyal employees, rather than sweeping them under the carpet due to restructures. This reinforced the message that leaders need to take accountability.

In summary

Our emerging leaders were asked to take a look at themselves in the mirror and see if they led by example. Were they accountable for the tough decisions and the fall-out of those? Did they have the confidence to really trust their teams, and did they do everything they could to let their teams perform effectively? Did they share the successes and shoulder the responsibility for failures? Both John and Rob agreed that adhering to this would not always make you the most popular in the short term, but would take you a step in the right direction to being a great leader.


We also heard from Mentor, Gerry Walsh and Mentee, Ben Spinks. Ben completed the Emerging Leaders Programme 2019, with Gerry as his mentor, and they still meet up today. Ben and Gerry highlighted the importance of agreeing two or three areas to focus on and reviewing your progress against these areas. They also stressed that the onus is on the mentee to drive the relationship. Ben also noted that Gerry’s different industry perspective was extremely useful to him, which was something that he had not initially considered.  

Get involved in Emerging Leaders

The programme is designed to give direct interaction and active mentoring from exceptional business leaders, who bring proven experience in delivering market and business-defining change, as well as displaying the ability to consistently evolve and remain at the forefront of their chosen field.

There are several ways for you to get involved with the Emerging Leaders Programme, from speaker and mentor opportunities to becoming a participant yourself.

To find out more, please click here.

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