10 pieces of inspiring leadership advice

Simon Walker and Richard Branson Leadership Advice

The IoD Annual Convention attracts the UK’s most influential business speakers, thinkers and doers and it returns this autumn with a stellar line-up. Here, we share leadership advice from 10 of the most inspiring leaders to have spoken at the event

Britain’s leading enterprise event, the IoD Annual Convention 2015, taking place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 6 October, gathers some of the world’s most influential business leaders and politicians to share their success stories – and offer advice and guidance about the way forward.

Last year’s event saw more than 2,000 delegates from around the globe gathering in London to listen to game-changing entrepreneurs and learn how businesses of all sizes can be disruptive.

Since the inaugural event in 1950, the convention has seen some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs take to the stage to address IoD members. Here, we take a look at some of the most inspiring pieces of advice to have been shared by the crème de la crème of business, politics and beyond.

1 Sir Richard Branson
Virgin Group
“You have to stand back and think: ‘What is a business?’ A business is simply making other people’s lives better and if you have an idea where you think you can make other people’s lives better, you have a business. If you have that idea then you should just get on and try to get it going. You may fall flat on your face and, if you do, pick yourself up and try again until you succeed. An entrepreneur is somebody who is great at coming up with wonderful ideas, who may be great at getting companies going, [and] is not necessarily great at running a company on a day-to-day basis.”

Boris Johnson leadership advice2 Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
“We need to give our young people hope and opportunity, and we need many more firms to take on apprenticeships, and I know that there is great potential to do that.”



Geldof3 Sir Bob Geldof
Musician and campaigner
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”



4 Joanna Joanna Shields leadership adviceShields
Chair, Tech City UK
“You need to think of your company as an open platform for enabling your employees, your customers, your suppliers, and perhaps even your competitors, the ability to create new products and services that customers want before they know they want them.”


Michael JohnsonMichael Johnson
Four-time Olympic gold medallist
“The ultimate competitor, I believe, is someone who hates to lose but isn’t afraid to lose. I missed the world record by seven hundredths of a second, and it was an incredible lesson for me. From that moment on, I have always taken that approach: understanding the environment that I am in, understanding the opportunity but also the risk, while understanding myself – how I need to motivate myself and how I achieve success.”


Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones6 Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
Founder, The Black Farmer
“At the age of 11, I made myself a promise that one day I would own my own farm. Everything I subsequently did was to get into a position to own that farm. And what I say to young people is the most important thing in setting up a business is to have the courage to dream and to have a vision – it’s fundamental.”


7 Kevin Spacey
Actor and outgoing artistic director of The Old Vic
“I believe strongly in increasing partnerships between businesses and the cultural communities. Those who enjoy cinemas, theatres, dance companies, museums and galleries know well the value these places bring. I’m talking about their economic as well as social value. We [the theatre] can teach young people to communicate, to express themselves. All of this is beneficial to business because it contributes to interpersonal skills, it translates into customer care, it provides a path to confidence. That’s why business supporting the arts is beneficial to both sides – it’s an investment in the future.”

Kathryn Parsons
Co-founder, Decoded
“There is talent within all of us to be technologists. It is not about being a passive observer in the digital world, it is about being an active participant, no matter who you are, what age, what you do or [at] what stage of your career. It is about creativity, it is about problem-solving, it is about having persistence. And women must claim their digital vote… so please don’t opt out.”


Tutu9 Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“You [business leaders] are the ones who make a country either prosperous or poor. Unless you are deeply involved, your country will go to the dogs, or you will have policies being imposed that work against the wellbeing of everyone. You are the people who most of all can make a country great or not so great. You can make a country a caring country or a brash, uncaring country.”


Dame Kelly Holmes
10 Dame Kelly Holmes
Double Olympic champion
“When you stand on the line against the best in the world or you compete in any field against the best, you have to believe you have something special. [High-achieving athletes] are dedicated, focused, we want to do well, and we always work very well with teams, and so if you want credibility and you want people who are going to give you that support, find the retired sports person, because, believe me, they can give a lot to your organisation.”


IoD Annual Convention 2015
This year, the greats are coming together under the banner Business Beyond Boundaries – offering innovative thinking and practical ideas to help your company lead on the global stage. With the world changing fast, companies need to be disruptive and businesses of all sizes can boost growth by taking advantage of international opportunities. Directors from some of the world’s most revered brands and organisations, including Google, the NHS and the Premier League, will share their wisdom at the Royal Albert Hall on 6 October and offer their advice.

Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, and Matt Brittin, Google’s president of EMEA, will be discussing how their organisations have boosted growth by embracing change. Google and the Premier League have both adapted to rapid changes in technology in recent years, becoming two of the most epoch-defining enterprises of the early 21st century, while the NHS is the world’s largest publicly funded health service.

For more information, visit iod.com/annualconvention

@The_IoD #IoDAC

To watch video highlights, visit the IoD YouTube channel: youtube.com/iodchannel

About author

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker is deputy editor at Think Publishing. Previously she worked as a features writer and sub-editor for Director magazine

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