“Authenticity” key to effective leadership style

Bridie Warner-Adsetts has won the Institute of Directors Award 2017 for Yorkshire mid market businesses. The Manufacturer took the opportunity to ask her, ‘What makes for a successful leader?’

“We are challenged, especially in these tricky economic and geopolitical times, particularly with the potential impact of BREXIT.- image courtesy of Naylor
“The IoD is a really special award for me because having been a member for quite some year. I feel very proud to have this award” – image courtesy of Naylor

The Institute of Directors Awards (IOD) celebrate every year the value of a special leadership style to businesses both small and large, public and private.

And this year Bridie Warner-Adsetts, chief operating office of Naylor Industries, was ahead of her competitors.

Warner-Adsetts studied engineering at Sheffield University and spent the first decade of her career in finance, where she was encouraged by one of her managers to attend leadership training.

On this occasion, she increased her desire to take on more responsibility within the company, but at the same time she never gave up her passion for manufacturing.

Years later, Warner-Adsetts succeeded to combine her two growing preferences and she became chief operating officer of Naylor Industries, a leading British manufacturer of building and construction products.

Warner-Adsetts became the first woman to sit on Naylor’s Board, and due to a progressive corporate culture, the board now boasts gender parity and the number of female managers has increased since Bridie joined five years ago.

How does it feel to have won an IoD Directors Award?

The IoD is a really special award for me because having been a member for quite some year, it has really been an important touchstone for me throughout my business life. They have been a great support and an invaluable knowledge base; I feel very proud to have this award.

I have been involved in several other awards before, where recognition comes for a business or a certain achievement of an organisation, but this one feels very personal and I think that is what makes it very special.

What is it about your leadership style that helps make you stand out?

I think I have always been extremely forthright, possibly to a fault at times. What I think, and what I hope those around me feel, is that everyone always knows where they stand.

Will winning the award change anything – either on an individual level or at Naylor Industries more generally?

I’m not sure whether it will change anything in terms of me or the company. I suppose recognition is always flattering, it helps you understand, because the feedback one gets, why what you are doing seems to be working and people think it has merit. It gives one confidence to carry on doing it.

What makes for an effective leader? 

You must believe in what you are doing. It’s not enough just to just say it, you must believe in it and live it. You should be prepared to set an example, and to also be very authentic in that. I think authenticity is truly the key to leadership.

I think also being prepared to do the “heavy lifting”, and show other people that you are putting the work in, that you’re taking responsibility and accountability for when things don’t work so well. If there are challenges, it is very important to be around. Don’t be visible only when things are going well.

What unique requirements does manufacturing demand of its leaders?

Manufacturing is so dynamic, it’s constantly in motion, and we are constantly trying to make it consistent, and yet it always seemed to be fighting against consistency. I think the ability to work in a very dynamic environment and constantly wrestle and be persistent in your wrestling to make it consistent, is what manufacturing leadership is about –  working against the odds, really.

I think that manufacturing requires people to be excellent generalist leaders because you work across the whole supply chain from raw material, innovation, sales, production through to service, and all the people who go with it – so it’s an area with enormous broad leadership demand.