Hamish Thomson – Why it’s not always right to be right 

One of the great things about the world of founders and entrepreneurs – and for anyone in that arena you’ll know there are many not so great things – is that you get to choose your landscape. 

No one is going to walk into your office at 2pm on a rainy Tuesday afternoon – and announce that you now work somewhere else, possibly in a different country, leading a whole new team, with a whole new batch of KPI’s, stakeholders and challenges.

Such is the world of the organisational leader. The corporate leader who, entrepreneurial and innovative as he or she may be – still needs to exist within a legacy and structure that is largely out of their hands.

Now don’t get me wrong – that journey also comes with definite advantages – mentors, resources, consistency, a carefully refined playbook – but as we all know, the bigger the ship, the more entrenched the culture and the more stakeholders – the harder it can be to turn around.

Honestly, I’ve never really spent much time on the art of corporate leadership within this podcast – I’ve always owned and run my own businesses so it’s not a world I’m deeply familiar with – plus I’ve tended to believe we can learn more about influence on the fringes – than the centre of business as usual.

But oh how wrong it seems I have been. Flashback to a few months ago, when a publisher colleague of mine handed me a new book about to hit the shelves called: ‘Why it’s not always right to be right: And other hard won leadership lessons’.

Written by Hamish Thomson, it’s a book that beautifully documents the learnings, stories and strategies he learnt during a 30-year journey from (his own words) a fresh-faced account executive in the London advertising scene – to the Regional President and Global Brand head for Mars – one of the most iconic and recognised brands on the planet.

In this conversation we dive hard into:

  • The namesake of the book – why as a leader it’s not always right to be right. And what metric successful leaders focus on instead.
  • Using the 30% rule to light a fire under any team or target  – anyone that’s looking to get serious traction will want to take some notes here.
  • Time on the ball – why those leaders that truly become iconic are those that learn how to stop translating pressure into stress.
  • The concept of drains and radiators – and how one conversation in a stairwell can pivot an entire organisation.
  • And finally – my personal favorite, so much so that it’s now written on a post-it note on my desk. I’m looking at it right now. How to stop confusing motion with impact.

Probably the piece I have been thinking most about since we recorded this interview, is the part around limiting beliefs. Or upper limit thinking.

You’ll hear Hamish talk a lot about the courage it takes to not only talk about the elephants in the room with his teams – those limiting beliefs about why this will never work, what’s been tried before and how the resources will never stretch that far.

But actually taking it one step further – by placing those beliefs on the table, documenting them, questioning them and agreeing to release them as a team.

Whether you’re a solo start up, an experienced leader or the CEO of a multinational enterprise – that’s a powerful (and visible) commitment to removing whatever blocks stand between where you are – and what’s possible.

On that note, sit back, drive on, stride out and I’ll leave you with the insights of a veteran of leadership – Hamish Thomson.

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