Vikas Shah MBE is one of the UK’s highest profile entrepreneurs & philanthropists. He is Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan (The Lisbon MBA), Honorary Professor of Business at The Alliance Business School, University of Manchester and an Honorary Industry Fellow at the University of Salford Business School.
Vikas started his first technology business aged just 14, and is currently CEO of Swiscot Group (a diversified international trading business). He is a venture-investor in fast-growing technology businesses internationally and sits as a Non-Executive Director and advisor to numerous organisations. Vikas was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List.
What does it mean to be a leader?
I have always been fascinated by leadership, success, achievement and the link between the three. Why do some people and teams seem to do great things, others fall short and others do not even seem to get started? For me the difference maker is leadership. When I first started teaching I noticed the links between what a teacher does to gain the best from their pupils and how this is the same as leaders working with a team and so I started to look at what this thing called leadership actually is. I began reading widely on the subject and have been hooked ever since!
Are there any essential characteristics to leadership?
I believe that there are a number of things that make the best leaders the best at what they do. The first thing I’d mention is the notion of ‘Level 5 Leaders’, a concept that has been widely talked about and that has numerous definitions. My favourite, however, is from Jim Collins; he talks about the mirror and the window. He believes that ‘Level 4 Leaders’ look in the mirror during times of success and out of the window (at the people) when things don’t go right. A ‘Level 5 Leader’ does the opposite – the mirror for challenging times and the window when the successes arise. I like this distinction, as it highlights the need for leaders to be humble and serve the people that they have the privilege to lead. Other traits I look for are what we refer to as the ‘5 Cs’ which are; curiosity, confidence building, collaboration, charisma (which is seriously misunderstood) and the ability to change. More about this can be found in ‘The Leadership Factor.’ It is an absolutely fascinating subject and so varied, yet so important.