Leadership Q+A: Leaders should have something to say, says Caroline Plumb

MT'S LEADERSHIP WEEK IN ASSOCIATION WITH UNILEVER: Caroline Plumb, CEO of FreshMinds Group, says leaders should do everything possible to create an agile, adaptive and curious organisation.

Last Updated: 01 Jun 2016

Q: How has leadership changed for you as FreshMinds has grown over the years?


Caroline Plumb: When you are a start up there are not very many of you, everyone knows everyone else and it is very easy to communicate. It almost happens by osmosis. And the fact that you are doing something new and exciting that you believe in binds you together.

When your business grows and you are not working in quite such close proximity with everyone else as you were, then you need work harder on communication. You can never communicate too much.

You do have to become more corporate in some ways, but that doesn’t mean that you have to lose the speed and agility of the start-up. It’s about creating an agile, adaptive and curious organisation – you need all of those things to keep pace and avoid being left behind.  

Q: Can everyone be a leader, even in smaller and medium sized companies?


A: There are different kinds of leadership. You have cultural leaders, the people who really embody the culture of your organisation, and task leaders, who head up projects and businesses functions. I think that provided you are clear about your vision and what you bring to the market, and that the ultimate line of decision making is clear, then having input from these different kinds of leaders is a good thing.

Q: Should leaders tweet?


A: Yes, if they have something to say. But they should do it themselves and be transparent. You can’t pretend to be someone you aren’t for long without being found out. And even if they don’t Tweet themselves they should certainly use social media because otherwise you miss out on what is going on. You don’t have to be in broadcast mode – Twitter is a great way of keeping up with the news and who’s saying what in your industry.

Q: Are there distinct male/female leadership styles?


A: I am not sure that gender is the main divider when it comes to leadership style, I think other things are at least as important. But the fact that there isn’t much gender diversity in British boardrooms is a challenge.

Every business needs to get the customer voice into the boardoom, and a diverse board has a greater chance of keeping in touch with that customer voice. Sometimes the way organisations are set up and the cues they give don’t encourage women – they way people are treated when they return from maternity leave for example, or having a culture of presenteeism.

I think that if more organisations moved from an input-based culture to an output based one which rewards on results, then that would help promote gender diversity.

- Caroline Plumb is the co-founder and CEO of FreshMinds Group.


- Read the full debate on leadership here.

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