• Mike Donoghue

The Golden Rules of Leadership.



In the first of five interviews with our Managing Partner, we discuss what it takes to build a high performing team.


Q: What do you think are the most important aspects of building high performing teams?


Over my career I have worked for some amazing people, each one has taught me a lesson or shown me an attribute of the leadership style that has resonated and helped me grow as a leader.


There are plenty of personality traits that can be assigned to great leaders, such as empathy, respect, authenticity etc. However I believe that there are key attributes in terms of leading people that can be applied to any of the areas of running a company or team. I've captured these in five phrases:

  • Culture takes time to build and can be lost in seconds

  • Clarity of purpose and accountability

  • What interests my boss fascinates me

  • The standard I walk by is the standard I accept

  • Every shortcut has a price

Each of the phrases require various personality traits to be developed and demonstrated to deliver.


Q: Let’s first talk about “Culture takes time to build and can be lost in seconds”, what makes you think that culture can be so fragile?


Every day you see leaders, managers and C-Suite executives wrestling as they try to create a team that separates their company or team from the pack. Looking for the edge that will differentiate them in the marketplace both as a company you want to do business with or one that you want to work for. There are libraries full of ideas on how to set up a culture and for the most part many companies do achieve some measure of success for some amount of time, although to quote Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently”.


I think the reason why it takes time to build that culture, is that you have to find the right people with values that match with or support your own. At Helios Consulting we discussed at length what it would take to start our company and sustain it. We agreed on the following values:

  • Honesty - We will state the truth even if the truth is not what you want to hear.

  • Courage - We will never avoid an issue that needs to be resolved. We will challenge the status quo through informed and intelligent debate​.

  • Commitment - We will commit to supporting you on your intended path and advise of obstacles that may prevent or derail your vision.​

  • Awareness - We will put client’s best interests at the forefront of our engagements and anticipate their needs.

Each day we now have to live up to these values and hold each other accountable, and this is the tricky part because while it is easy to state the values proudly and pronounce, we have a great culture, whilst the business is thriving, when challenges come up it is easy to choose the path that doesn’t reinforce your stated values and at this point you have a decision to make. Do we have the courage and integrity to hold to the values (both mine and the companies) that we have openly committed to, or is the easier more expedient path worth losing our credibility and culture for. I think Warren Buffet sums it up very well in this comment he made,


We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.‘ Warren Buffet



The team doesn’t stop watching the leadership looking for direction and confirmation that you hold to the stated values and whenever a decision made, action taken, or behaviour shown doesn’t match with the values you proudly state, there is a dissonance in the team which starts to erode the culture. Each time this occurs it weakens the culture but isn’t seen immediately. When the culture is lost, it is quite easy to see when it died and it was the moment the leadership did not hold the entire company to the values it espoused.


As the managing partner at Helios Consulting, it is something not only that I hold myself to each day but each of my Partners and my team. It shows in how we do business and the way our client partners respect us for holding to our values. We have helped them face similar challenges and change culture putting respect and empathy at the forefront of decisions, which also fits into our values.


All of this said, I think the comments above are only a fraction of what it takes and I look forward to sharing more on the other four phrases in the future. If you would like to discuss any of the above comments in further details please contact me or one of the Partners, I look forward to the conversation and remember a phone call costs nothing.

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