Functional experience — this refers to the roles and responsibilities you have held in the past and your level of competency.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Graham Roadnight.

Graham leads The LCap Group, an insight led, leadership analytics and executive search group for high growth investor backed companies. He oversees strategy, corporate and business development, focusing on projects that enhance short-term and drive long-term shareholder value. As Chief Executive Officer of The LCap Group, Graham has 20 years experience in growing private founder-led businesses with a mixture of organic and inorganic development.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

We are in the midst of securing an investment partner to help us execute our strategy faster over the next 3 years. This will help us increase the footprint that we have, open new routes to market and expand the reach and impact of our ground-breaking tools.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

There are several quotes and ideas that I revisit time and time again. It’s less about the people who said them and more about the thought itself:

Sir Terry Leahy, previously the CEO of Tesco, “Nobody likes the idea of a competitor getting up every morning to steal your customers, but they’re actually good for you. They get the best out of you. The trick is to learn from them faster than they learn from you.” Although this borders on paranoia as a driver — something I wouldn’t recommend — it’s an interesting way to think about the competition and to ensure you are always focused on the customer so you don’t lose advantage.

I often refer back to the three chairs in Walt Disney’s office. He had the dreamer chair, the realist chair and the critic chair. I’d say I spend 10% of my time in the dreamer chair thinking about the vision, 20% of my time in the critic chair and 70% of my time in the realist chair thinking about operations. You have to really embrace operations if you want to build anything of merit that will withstand challenges.

And lastly, Bob Marley’s lyrics, “Get up, Stand up, Stand up for the fight”. You face a lot of challenges as a CEO, more so when you are bringing something new to market, so you need a level of resilience in the face of the challenges you encounter.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

It’s easy when you’re making decisions on behalf of yourself or others to focus on the biggest change but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution. For example, if you put a huge outboard motor on a boat because it’s the biggest and most powerful, you have as much potential of sinking the boat because you have too much power as you do making it to the other side of the lake. It would be a mistake to make the thing that appears to be the most valuable a marker of focus for your success. For example, simply hiring ‘the best person in the market’ doesn’t mean they will be the best for your particular team. Just because something is ‘the best’ doesn’t mean it is ‘the best’ for you and your business.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

For The LCap Group, the fundamental change is that we can prove there are certain table-entry stakes in terms of an individual’s ability to be a good leader. We’ve come to the realization that we are looking for an individual with existing leadership qualities. It may come from nurture, it may come from nature, but those leadership qualities have to be there in the first instance to be able to support and develop them. You can’t make an average person a good leader, but you can make a good leader into a great leader.

Also, leadership is not just about individual leaders, it’s about who these leaders are within a team. The interplay between leaders either enhances or reduces their individual abilities and behaviors because of the team dynamic.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

Reacting to everything is a behavior I’ve stopped. If you are in a leadership role you will get a lot of stimulus not just from what is being presented but from the unspoken behaviors of individuals in your team. While you may read into a situation on many levels, you need to hold on to your reactions to prevent impacting conversations and/ or the performance of team members in the future.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Before you ask a question or are involved in a decision, it is important you have context. You need information or insight around a situation before you lean into the challenge and start making decisions or taking action. It is something really important that I cultivate and continue to do so.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

Don’t read playbooks. You need to be authentic. You need to find relevance in the market, in your company and in the world. There isn’t a playbook in the world that will allow you to develop the connection and relevance needed to be authentic and successful. If you really understand your objective and how to achieve it, your leadership style will naturally reflect the needs of your business rather than someone else’s playbook.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

Be clear in the objective you are seeking to achieve and be open-minded in how you go about achieving it. If you can be really focused on the outcome rather than the method, your leadership approach will be flexible to the needs of the situation.

Leaders need to understand to the core what they are asking people in their businesses and teams to do. The leader will always be able to give direction because they know what they want to achieve. Following someone else’s playbook can take you off-piste and take you in a direction that removes you from who you are or away from the true objective. It’s a paradox that I’m offering advice and in the same breath I’m telling you to ignore it and find what is authentic to you, but that is the best advice I can give to any leader.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

Based on proprietary data of over 7,000 successful private equity transactions and leadership insights, our first-to-market leadership evaluation tool, Leadership Dynamics, has helped to identify traits that we can measure against and are shown to be key to the leadership in high-growth businesses (i.e. growing 20% year-on-year).

In fact, there are four dimensions that play a role in shaping a leader:

  1. Functional experience — this refers to the roles and responsibilities you have held in the past and your level of competency.
  2. Domain experience — this is your level of knowledge of the sector and marketplace you operate in.
  3. Situational experience — this is your experience with the current or future state of the business (e.g. scale-up, M&A, Internationalization).
  4. Behavior — the behavioral element is about HOW you apply yourself. Not just how you apply yourself individually but how your behaviors will show up when you interact with other leaders. How you interact is just as important as who you are in terms of your behavioral response and how that complements other leaders around you.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

Taking painting as a metaphor, if you attempt to create a masterpiece each day you are likely to overthink it. Just get some paint on the canvas. Don’t give yourself the pressure of making your painting a masterpiece with the first stroke of your paintbrush. In the wider picture, be alert to what you think has more merit or promise than the rest and don’t be afraid to pivot or start again to focus on that potential. Be aware of everything in front of you and the potential value it can bring.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I want to continue to lead a company that has impact and purpose for its employees and its customers, but also for the industry and market it sits within. It is important that the company has an influence beyond its employees and customers to the marketplace, putting pressure on others to make change in the way we have and to see the world in a new way.

To other leaders or aspiring leaders I’d say, enjoy the journey — the here and now. You have to get satisfaction from the process and the present day. It’s not just about the end result, as for a lot of leaders when you reach that end goal, a key part of your purpose is achieved and you have to rethink your goals. That’s as scary as it is satisfying, so as you work towards that end goal, don’t miss out on the enjoyment of the process.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Find me on LinkedIn or visit Leadership Dynamics to learn more about how you can grow your own confidence as a leader.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!