Lessons In Leadership: One On One With Grant Reid, CEO of Mars

I spoke to Grant Reid, the CEO of Mars, about his best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Grant: I was born and raised in a small village in Scotland, surrounded by coal mines. I held some pretty interesting jobs while at University, including painting bridges, mixing cement for brick laying and working in a glass bottle-making factory. The people I worked alongside took pride in a job well done and in working as a team. Everyone, regardless of level, can make a major contribution to the end outcome. Those early lessons have stayed with me throughout my career.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Grant: I worked hard to get to my current role, and I made plenty of mistakes along the way. But, I was supported by Mars’ commitment to developing its Associates, and a company culture oriented toward giving people a chance to learn from mistakes, versus being shown the exit. I think people who’ve never failed have failed to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. Challenging one’s self and taking risks is part of the fun of business, and overcoming setbacks or the occasional failure can teach us valuable lessons and make success that much sweeter. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake over and over again!!

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Grant: In my experience great leaders come in many guises. There is no one overwhelming model. Having said that, authenticity, communication skills (active listening and oration) combined with a thirst for decisive action and the ability to delegate are some recurring themes. It’s a delicate balance of IQ and EQ which seems to work. I think the best leaders demonstrate empathy and build personal relationships with people; they develop excellent listening skills to engage stakeholders and to really hear different perspectives. They’re also confident enough to admit that they don’t have all the answers – which opens the door to co-create with their teams and build something together that they’re all equally committed to.

Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have been around and what did you learn from them?

Grant: I’ve had the good fortune to work for many great leaders in Mars. One quote that I really identify with is widely used and came from our owners: “Your first concern should be your own performance. Improve your development by every means available. Then look to the future and to the growth of all Associates answering to you. When you measure your own progress by the growth of those around you, we are all certain to prosper.” Wise words. Being able to look in the mirror and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and be dedicated to changing sets great leaders apart.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Grant: Embrace self-development and demonstrate curiosity. Whether it’s within work or outside of it, take every opportunity you can to continue discovering and improving yourself. Learning agility is crucial over your career.

Work for a business that reflects your personal values. When you find meaning and purpose in your work, you’ll feel a greater sense of motivation and inspiration, which will help you lead others. It all starts with a sense of purpose – the big why. Believe in that and great things are possible.

Surround yourself with authentic people that challenge you to be better, that embrace you for who you are, and respect what you bring to the table. Together you will do much more than you can possibly do alone.

Adam: What is the best advice you have on building, managing and leading teams?

Grant: As a leader, it’s not enough to say “we’re all in this together.” You have to show through your actions that you’re part of the team, not above it. That’s not to say everyone chases the same ball – like pee wee soccer!! You need clear responsibilities, great individual contributors with a passion to improve themselves and the team. It is this combination of complementary people working on a common purpose that produces great output as a team.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they impacted your development as a leader?

Grant: I train in mixed martial arts and have a black belt in Judo and enjoy boxing as well. It’s a great way to clear your head, and build resilience and stamina. Equally, being on the receiving end of a good left hook teaches you humility – particularly if you have to address your team with a bruised chin the next day. It’s a great stress relief while keeping you active and focused. 

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