Business Technology

Why the responsibilities of business leadership have changed

9 min read

01 November 2018

Reporter, Real Business

Real Business has a coffee catchup with Turo founder Andre Haddad who believes that tech has fostered greater leadership opportunities for all CEOs.

Over the past ten years being a company leader has changed beyond all recognition.

And for SME owners who are burying their heads in the sand, and don’t believe this is the case, I advise them to look around at what’s been happening both politically and economically for the past decade.

We’ve had the global financial crisis, the digitisation of business, and the rise of the tech industry.

Added to all these changes, we will soon see the diplomatic situation in the UK and Europe change irrevocably.

Now, whilst some of these changes may be seen as simply part of life, markets rise and fall, new industries crop up, what’s the big deal?

– Well, if we look deeper, the repercussions of these economic changes have transformed the way people lead, and do, business.

Turo founder and CEO Andre Haddad is one business leader who’s been watching these changes with interest…

As the founder of an online car-sharing marketplace company, he’s been in the ‘driving seat’ witnessing these cultural and digital shifts.

– Let’s find out more about what these changes are and how they’ll affect the way CEOs lead their staff…

“The level for enthusiasm around technology and entrepreneurship is radically different than it was a decade ago. There’s been a radical change in terms of what represents an exciting career these days, its a lot more about technology and being part of disruptive new companies and ideas”.
– Andre Haddad

Haddad seems to suggest that the rise of the tech industry, something that was building up at the time of the banking crisis, was a ‘baptism of fire’ of sorts for the ‘new’ industry.

And whilst more traditional jobs became unavailable following the crisis, there were more disruptive businesses, such as those that were engaging in technology, that were filling the spaces left behind.

“A decade ago, following university, young people tended to be looking at FTSE 100 companies for employment, and at jobs in traditional sectors such as banking and consulting”.
– Andre Haddad

The tech revolution has created more business leaders

If anything, it seemed that the birth of tech, and the digital industries more broadly, was the medicine needed following the crisis, where all that was needed to set up a company, became, in theory, a usable laptop, and internet connection:

” It’s become a lot easier and less expensive to start up a company due to technology.” – Andre Haddad

When it came to Haddad’s own experience of starting a company (Turo in 2009), compared to the late 90s, it was an easy and empowering experience.

” When I started an internet-based business during the late 1990s it was expensive to do. We had to buy our own hardware. Fast forward to my experience with Turo, I was able to host Turo in five minutes. I went to Amazon Web Services (AWS)  and used the same Amazon card I used to buy books to get it going”. – Andre Haddad

A decade before, when banks were pulling out of investments, and quite simply, no-one had the capital to do anything entrepreneurial, budding business leaders could look to low-cost acceleration technology such as internet-connected computers, to bring their ideas to fruition with minimal cost.

You just have to look at history to see that some of the most successful entrepreneurs made their fortunes in times of great recession, a prime example being the father of JFK, Joseph Kennedy, who made his millions during the crash of 1929.

“It’s wonderful that this cultural change is happening, I think it’s going to continue”.

But bringing our graze back to the more recent recession it seemed that simple ‘kizmit’ was occurring when digital tech, and it’s enabling of self-starter culture, came about, rose up, and filled, to some extent, the employment gap the crash of more traditional employment sectors had caused.

“There are lots of great tech companies being built out of the UK, but that wasn’t the case ten years ago, they were more US companies branching out of Europe then. The eco-system is deeper and richer now.”

Rising tech: Better business leadership

The rise of self-starter culture following the recession didn’t just influence the kinds of companies that were started, it also impacted the culture of work more broadly, and the kind of professional experiences people wanted to have.

“People are realising that for their own personal pride and satisfaction with their own lives, that they’ll feel more in control if they’re part of a small team where they can make a bigger impact”.

So, looking to the way Haddad communicates with his own staff, what methods does he use? And are they exclusive to his sector?

“Everyone on the team in a tech company set up are much more open, communicative and transparent”.

No doubt this is enabled by the fact that as technocrats, Haddad and team would feel comfortable using the latest internal technologies to keep lines of communication open and easy for everyone.

– As their minds are always on how to accelerate elements of work, it makes sense that a culture of driving efficiency would extend to communications between Haddad and his team internally:

” The tech eco-system have adopted tools from the outset that allow for more communication for everyone. For example, we use Slack for all our communications at Turo, it provides great transparency for everything that’s going on in the company, and it allows the voices of staff to be heard.”

From what Haddad is saying, it seems that CEOs are finding themselves at a communicational junction, and regardless of their sector, taking advantage of related technology should keep their leadership roles relevant:

” Email was better than what preceded it in terms of democratising communication, but instant messaging is on an entirely different level.”

Having an open and honest platform for office communications can work for everyone, and can create a sense of team-based democracy that’s lacking in more traditional forms of communication, says Haddad.

” Non-traditional forms of office communication creates more engagement for the team. I’m from a tech background so I’m not shocked by these advancements, but other CEOs could feel destabilised, especially for a leader that’s grown up in a more closed leadership environment”.

Company CEOs can no longer ignore the technological changes taking place around them, and this includes the acceleration of communicational tools as well as tech-industry developments at large.

In short, taking up such tools can make you a better and more effective leader, says Haddad:

“Open communications tools can empower staff to be persuasive about things they might like to see happen differently within a company. It’s sort of an open idea playing field where as a leader, I get a lot of inspiration, yet I’m held accountable too. There’s no way of escaping that transparency.”

Economic changes over the past decade may have fostered the growth of new industries, such as the tech sector, but the ‘efficiency-first’ culture this sector champions also offers the chance for CEOs across the industries to become fairer, clearer –  and the leaders of more democratic institutions.