Leading with passion

Passion and energy have become critical and complementary attributes for today’s winning business leaders, helping them to focus on developing excellent businesses that provide market leading products and services.

Ross Faragher-Thomas, Managing Director of Virgin Active SA, says today’s corporate leaders need a lot of energy and passion for what they, and the companies they manage, are doing.

“Any good CEO or managing director is expected to deliver growth and returns; it is a given.

“However, how you run a business, has changed. This is a world of transparency and companies have to be authentic, sincere and really believe in what they are doing.

“A great company cannot simply make claims about itself. It must have a real sense of belief and passion in its business,” Faragher-Thomas says.

He also makes the point that this passion must be evident to everyone in the enterprise and the positive energy that he or she brings to the business needs to trickle down to every level. “As the CEO or managing director you have to be genuine and share your passion with everyone in the organisation,” Faragher-Thomas says.

He points out that the power is in the hands of the customers and they are more prepared, insightful and knowledgeable than ever before.

“They are giving their hard earned money to companies that they feel they can believe in.

“Not only must the CEO be passionate about the company but his or her beliefs and values must reflect those of his customers,” Faragher-Thomas says.

He says to find and employ the talent needed to drive a successful organisation, you need to ensure that the people the organisation hires have values that are aligned with the company.

“Unless the enterprise, the leadership of the organisation and the employees share the same set of values, the business is going to have difficulty succeeding in the long term and on a consistent basis,” Faragher-Thomas says.

He says in a highly competitive and rapidly changing world, today’s company leaders cannot show up at the office at 9 am and head home at 4:30 pm.

Instead, to maintain a sustainable, competitive position, they need to be totally involved in their business and in addition to the time spent in the office, they also need to be out in the field feeling the pulse of the market. It demands considerable energy to maintain this gruelling pace.

“As a CEO or managing director, you have to be able to energise the organisation through the energy that you apply to the business.

 “You can be in any number of businesses and still make money. However, when you care about the role the business takes and you are passionate about its purpose, you will lift yourself and the business to the next level,” Faragher-Thomas says.

Virgin Active is a good example. The company’s reason for being, its purpose, is to help people lead better and healthier lives.

“Our members are able to have better lives and engage more with their families and communities.

“We centre the business on people interacting and being social with one another. This is a place people can come and exercise and meet other people.

“We believe we make a difference and we play an important role in helping our members achieve their goals and as a result, we have a highly sustainable business,” Faragher-Thomas says.

Faragher-Thomas will share his leadership insights with an MBA student as part of the Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa - 2015 CEO For A Day programme.