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7 Questions on Leadership with David Brown

Name: David Brown

Title: Managing Director

Organisation: DB16 Ltd (my own limited company)

David enjoyed a progressive 30-year corporate career in financial services, where he led diverse teams and business areas across the UK for 4 different businesses.

He started his own business in Spring 2022 where he is now focused on building a growth consulting business that supports UK independent insurance brokers and financial advisers, as well as working with career-minded professionals and leaders through his Executive Coaching practice. He also sits on the Board of boutique management consultancy Customer Attuned Ltd.

He's a driven, outcome-focused leader, with a passion for developing people and businesses.

Away from work David is a massive sports fan, a music lover, and counts running, scuba diving, and long-distance hillwalking amongst his active hobbies.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope David's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The thing I’ve found most challenging – or at least the thing that has required most energy from me – is getting the best out of my team, consistently, over a sustained period of time.

There are so many moving parts to it, both internal and external, that achieving high performance can be tough in itself. But repeating and maintaining that as things change around you (sometimes on a daily or weekly basis) takes a special kind of talent!

I’m not saying I have always achieved it, by any stretch, but I can guarantee you it’s the thing that is always uppermost in my mind.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I don’t exactly remember the moment I made the transition to ‘leader’. If we all drew a line where leadership starts, I’m not sure we’d all draw the line in the same place either. So that makes this a difficult question to answer.

But if I think about what was going on for me, and how I was showing up at work, I can definitely say I always had a natural desire to speak up, to bring energy into the room, and to take the lead when others might be hesitant or reluctant.

So I think my personality, certainly since adulthood (I was much less forthcoming at a younger age) naturally lends itself to leadership.

The other thing which helped my transformation was watching what other leaders did, taking the best bits and ignoring the bad bits of what they’d do. And then trying my best to replicate the good stuff in myself.

So I guess what I’m saying is that ‘how’ I became a leader was in part already programmed into my natural style, and in part was a kind of organic process of development over a long period of time.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Well it looks very different now to how it used to look!

Running a business mostly from home, coupled with onsite client visits some of the time, I try to keep this as flexible as I can to break up the day and help keep me productive.

There are a number of things I make sure I do every single day – searching for new clients, marketing the business, and so on. These are the things that will grow the business and make a difference to my results. Then there are some things I do only maybe once a week (more admin-related things like accounting & financial ‘stuff’). I like to mix up my activities as I get bored with too much routine.

In between my work I take frequent breaks – to exercise, eat, stop for a coffee, and do those jobs around the house that we all used to leave until we got home from work!

I try to keep a good balance of not working late into the evening, though that’s not always possible, but I do check in on things like LinkedIn and emails sporadically through the evening until bedtime.

I always make sure there's time to check in with loved ones and family.

If I’m travelling I tend to find my spare time and down time is more limited, however I still do my best to make sure I create some time at least to exercise or relax.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

This sounds like a really simple one, but it’s effective.

I was recently working with a client who spent around 2 hours tussling with a really complex and challenging leadership issue. We achieved great things in that session and the client came out with a clear plan of action that they were committed to making happen straight away.

They commented that normally they would have tried to solve this particular problem in a half hour “Teams” meeting, and that they now realised how much more effective our longer discussion had been in helping them deal with this.

The lesson is, devote the right amount of time to the things that matter most – the impact will be so much greater!

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

There’s a book called “The 90-Minute Manager” by David Bolchover & Chris Brady.

As ‘management textbooks’ go, it’s not a long book. And that’s part of its appeal to me. My natural learning preference isn’t reading (I’m more of an experiential learner), so this one was perfect for me. Likewise, as a big fan of sport, I found the content more relatable than most other books I’ve read.

One of the most helpful aspects for my development as a leader was that it enabled me to break down some of the important ‘technical’ aspects of being a leader – such as developing your strategy, and fostering high performance in the team – and give them each the right amount of focus.

Another part that had a huge impact on me was the fact that it simplified the concept of treating every one of your followers as an individual, and being able to flex & adapt your own style accordingly.

These are lessons I’ve long carried with me through my career as a leader.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Make sure you build your own support network.

Leadership can be a lonely place.

So, amongst the many things you will focus on developing as a leader, I’d strongly recommend putting time and effort into making sure you are surrounded by people who value you as a leader as much as you value them for being part of the team; and that external to your team you build strong, open relationships with a range of people who you can tap into for advice, guidance, practical tips, and most of all emotional support.

Being close to a few trusted individuals will mean you’ll always have someone to talk to when things get tough. Which they inevitably will at some point – that’s life.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Perhaps not a story in itself, more of a reflection from my leadership journey - that no matter how good you think you are as a leader, there is always room to get better.

Keep working, keep developing, keep learning – and you’ll reap the rewards.

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