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Tim McEwan

Managing Director

Developing leaders is critical to a company’s success, ensuring the right people are in the right place to deliver results. The leader of tomorrow will be generous, adaptable, passionate and tolerant

How did you get into leadership development? 

I’ve always enjoyed helping people be the best they can be. It was while I was a Leadership Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst that I found I really enjoyed, and was good at, sharing ideas and knowledge with people in a way that they could understand. 

What have been some of your professional highlights? 

Sandhurst has got to be one for me. Since then, in my commercial and civilian work, I am most proud of three things. Firstly, I was asked in 2015 to become a Fellow in Management Practice at the University of Cambridge Judge Business school. That was a terrific moment because they recognised what I do and how I do it and they value it. 

Secondly was changing the culture at Henderson Global Investors – it was a very subtle and long-term shift but everything we did contributed to slowly nudging the culture in the right direction. And finally, I was asked to develop and run a senior leadership development programme for The Royal Household based in Buckingham Palace.

What does the leader of tomorrow look like?

I think there will need to be four core qualities for the leaders of tomorrow beyond what you might consider to be the traditional attributes.

  • Generosity – there will be much more sharing of ideas and intellectual property, in fact IP will have a different meaning I suspect. 
  • Adaptability – the pandemic has required people to be highly adaptable, that is not going to change.
  • Passion – leaders will need to become clearer about the passion that drives their action because future generations will not just follow for the sake of it.
  • Tolerance – the world is polarising, becoming more extreme, we need leaders who show tolerance or we’re all doomed.

What is the importance of leadership development and talent advisory to an organisation? 

Some leaders have taught themselves and have had no outside help but there are very few, and I don’t know any of them. Developing home grown leaders is critical to ensure you have the right people with the right skills to lead your businesses into the future. Please, please, please, invest in the great potential lying within your talented people so they can be the best they can be for you!

How can organisations create the right environment to develop leaders?

I think there are three key elements here:

  • Empowerment – a well-worn word and often misunderstood. There are two sides to this: a leader’s ability to let go, trust and empower and an individual’s willingness to be empowered and take on responsibility. Both elements can be developed, coached or taught.
  • Safe to fail – we learnt to walk by falling over a great deal. We learnt to drive by stalling a few times. We learn to lead by getting it wrong a few times. The environment needs to be willing to see their people crash out occasionally and be there to pick them up.
  • Clear path – there needs to be a clear career path for potential leaders to follow. If you don’t provide one they’ll look for one somewhere else, and you’ll lose out on that great person. There is a market for good people, so be aware of that and work with them.

What do you think are the best skills that you bring to your role? 

Empathy and diplomacy – I am good at understanding people and framing messages in an appropriate way. Experience and an ability to translate that experience into something useful to learn from. Simplification, I like to think that I am able to take something complex and help people understand it.

Tim McEwan

Tim leads the SH Leadership team and specialises in organisational culture and leadership. He provides advisory support to individual executives and wider organisations through boards, executive committees and management teams. He is also a keynote speaker and author of ‘Leadership Balance’ published in 2020.​ Tim started his career in the British Army, commissioning from Sandhurst into the Scots Guards. His roles in the Army ranged from counter terrorism operations globally to being appointed Equerry to a member of the British Royal Family. Since leaving the Army, Tim has held numerous leadership positions including Global Head of Leadership and Learning at the global asset manager, Henderson. In 2015 Tim was appointed a Fellow in Management Practice at The University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School where he collaborates with the Executive Education department.