When Allsport, the world’s first sports photo agency, was acquired by the US visual media giant Getty Images in 1998, Lee Martin thought that leadership would be the same in a global corporation as it was in a medium-sized agency.
Having joined Allsport at age 16, he’d had helped to grow the business from a team of six to 180 as one of four co-owners. Following the acquisition, in his new role as senior vice president of sales, EMEA & Asia Pacific at Getty Images, he found himself responsible for a team of over 500.
He soon learned that he would need a different approach to leadership.
"I was keen to get my new team onside quickly. As I’ve always been a deal maker, I thought that if I could do the deals it would inspire the team to follow. I found it hard to delegate to my team - in a small business, you’re involved in everything strategic and operational so I was used to doing everything myself.
"This can’t work in a global organisation with a matrix structure, which requires a totally different way of working. Looking back it certainly had an impact on my wellbeing – although whilst you are in the moment, you really do feel you are the bionic man, and that nothing is insurmountable.
"The realisation finally came when I was sitting in a meeting with our country managers. It became clear that there needed to be a more positive mindset within the team. People really needed to take ownership of their role and be open minded, something that up to that point I hadn’t really been enabling.
"They were doing a great job, but I realised that if I had invested more of my time in making them the best they could possibly be, they would be able to scale and lead their teams more effectively – meaning we would hit our goals.
"The business was fine, but ultimately, could have been even better had I learned to delegate sooner. You can’t do it all on your own. You have to learn to delegate, train and surround yourself with good people.
"You have to allow them to make decisions. Some of those won’t always be the right or best decision, but if you don’t give that trust and take your people with you, then you are bound for failure."
Image credit: AndriiYalanskyi/GettyImages