LIVED Leader: Helena Morrissey (CEO of Newton Investment Management)

Published March 11, 2015

“Everyone wants to be well managed: with clear goals, fair appraisals, and honest and constructive feedback.  More underrepresented groups will fulfil their potential if we get the basics right, and leaders can be enormously influential in emphasising how important that is – and ensuring this is understood throughout their line management, not something that is the preserve of specialist HR or diversity teams”.

How do these sentiments relate to your experiences in your organisation? The ‘basics’ of effective management, as described above, may come across as common knowledge and sense to most. What we are typically less aware of are the Values required to achieve these in a sustainable way, particularly when we are trying to generate a culture of innovative performance through greater diversity.

Helena Morrissey, the CEO of the London-based global investment management company Newton Investment Management Ltd, recognises this challenge more than most CEOs in the UK today. Her belief is that “diversity in thought” is driven by “diversity in perspective”, and this matches what we know from research about effective Intellect at a leadership level.

By this, we mean that being able to look at problems from a variety of creative perspectives simply leads to better business solutions. Helena has seemingly embedded this concept in to the culture at Newton Investment Management, which now manages over £50 billion in funds. Her belief that everyone’s input is valuable, and that the value of teamwork is enhanced by diverse perspectives, has driven her organisation to grow since she joined in 2001.

The value Helena assigns to fairness, equality and inclusion within her organisation is represented in activities beyond her own industry. Helena has been instrumental in founding and driving the 30% Club – an initiative backed by the UK government designed to increase the number of women at executive board level within the FTSE 100. When Helena formed the initiative, the number of women on boards was at 12%, whereas today in 2015 that figure is now 23%.

This is a significant achievement, albeit there is still some ground to be made before her target of 30% is realised. Having said this, Helena’s confident and principled nature serves as a significant LIVED leadership strength that drives her to make influential changes in the world of work around her. Research supports the fact that these changes are enhancing performance in organisations as well, eg Thomson Reuters (2013) found significant links between mixed-gender boards and increasing performance for shareholders (across 4,100 firms between 2008-2013).

The progress made in this area of Helena’s life hasn’t come about without resistance, nor the necessity for strengths in Learning from previous experience and applying it to further her work. For example, she explained to the Guardian that she had learned (from exposure to other businesses) it is not leaders at board level who need convincing that diversity is a “business issue… not a women’s issue”.

In fact, it is managers below board level who are typically resistant to the reality that organisations lose out commercially from a lack of gender and ethnic diversity. Learning is a critical dimension to the success of leaders in modern business, and Helena clearly demonstrates the reason why in this example. If she had not learned this, then her approach to improving diversity may well have continued to target the attitudes of board level employees rather than the whole organisation.

These characteristics make Helena an ideal role model for LIVED leaders of the future, who need to have an appreciation and orientation towards change if they are to thrive in the modern workplace. In particular, Helena argues that women in leadership positions need to role model the right kind of ambition and balance that can effectively deal with the stigmatic challenge of parenthood. To achieve this, she suggests appraisal processes and line management activities need to provide opportunities to discuss and alleviate blockers to this success by being open to flexible solutions. After all, Helena has clearly achieved this herself over the span of her career, being the mother of nine children of course!

Author: Jordon Jones

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