How do they do it: Leadership Lessons From The Pros


Great leaders are hard to come by, but easy to follow.

They can make all the difference to the culture of a workplace and the values of the company brand, and they usually have a few wise tips to follow to lead as well as they do.

Here are three prominent leaders, and how they do what they do.

Claire Watts

Role: CEO of retail and media company QVC

Even at the head of a company with sales exceeding US$8.8 billion annually, Claire Watts shows what it is to be a leader through listening. She is famous for her open-door policy, in which she sets aside times every week in which anyone in the company can come to her with questions, comments and discussions.

She is also said to keep her ears open to those more knowledgeable than herself, which is how she comes to learn about mobile strategy from the young interns with help from the tech team.

As a leader, one of her many strengths therefore lies in an openness to accept that everyone on the team has important information to share, and a willingness to listen to it.

Richard Branson

Role: Founder of Virgin Group

Entrepreneur Richard Branson knows a thing or two about leading people. His strategy seems to come down to hiring the right people, then believing in them enough to give them space to flourish.

“Nobody can be successful alone and you cannot be a great leader without great people to lead,” explained Branson in 2011.

Branson has said that he aims to find the best candidates for the role, then steps back to ensure others make their own calls and improve their own leadership skills and confidence. With those kinds of employees on board, it benefits the business as a whole.

In the same article in 2011, Branson said “a company should genuinely be a family, who achieve together, grow together and laugh together”. Just recently, he has proven how he believes in those values by granting new fathers in the management level of the company up to 12 months paternity leave to get to know their babies.

Gail Kelly

Role: Ex-CEO of Westpac Bank

In September 2014, Gail Kelly ranked as the fifth most well-paid CEO in Australia, according to Business Insider. Even though she had resigned by mid-November, her leadership lessons remain as sound as her legacy.

When Kelly spoke at a Ruby convention in late 2013, she outlined four requirements of good leaders in the wake of the GFC. The first was that they must have a clear vision for the company – one so clear, in fact, that any employee can share it at any moment, a skill she called ‘the elevator pitch’, as she would sometimes ask staff to pitch this vision to her on their 21-storey ride to the office.

Leaders must also be able to adapt and work with the unknown, and have a real generosity of spirit, because “life is difficult and challenging, it is demanding and you are going to get some things wrong.”

Finally, Kelly outlined her fourth lesson as once of resilience. She compared leaders to athletes, saying that even though the road is mentally and physically tough, you need to be able to get back up again, and again, and again.