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7 Questions on Leadership with Hitesh Patel

Name: Hitesh Patel

Title: Global Digital Director

Organisation: IHG

Experienced sales, commercial & delivery technology exec & non-exec director. At Accenture, innovating at the leading edge of technology shifts in data, analytics, AI, NLP. Advisory

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a leader, where you are constantly looking to evolve the role of systems, data, AI in organisations. The most difficult aspect that I have found is influencing change to new operating models, from my experience employees have differing propensities to change for all sorts of reasons.

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

I think there are some "born leader" traits with some of my qualities. However since sticking my hand up to manage a small team because it felt the right thing, I have continued to grow my leadership skills across roles with a view of broadening my experiences and level of influence and impact. Now, I focus on specific leadership skills that I wish to expose where I feel I can really add unique value by being a visionary figurehead as we embark in a world with more data & AI.

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

Personally, just after waking up is my time for innovation and creativity so I allow myself time before getting ready to explore ideas. I am not someone who has breakfast, so I quickly focus on new emails and the priority list. The priority list is a very important part of my daily agile way of working because it allows me to understand where the time and focus should be with me and my team on any given day. As the day progresses, new topics then become part of the list. Before I switch off, I try and get an understanding in my mind of how priorities have changed and get those locked for the refresh tomorrow. Occasionally, I like going for a short evening walk to get some oxygen with the aim to switch off but I also sometimes use the time to think through anything that didn't work well. I then tend to completely switch off with reading, podcasts, TV before going to sleep.

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

Recent leadership lesson for me is don't assume, sometimes you build trust and that is great but it is always good to check in to see if everything is as what you expected.

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?

Art of War. Sun Tzu. Great linkages can be interpreted from the book to leadership traits. Among other things, I have learnt from the book it is important to build the right virtues as a leader: be courageous, be human, be driven, act with humility, act with integrity...etc..all these form the inner self to act naturally in all situations you are presented at different times as a leader.

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

Tap into your natural self first, understanding your own leadership traits, allows you to build/ grow from within your core ability, this hopefully allows you to be in a self -awareness and self- reflection mode as you grow through early years of leadership.

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

When I was leading 30+ people in different types of roles with stretched product targets. I found it was very important to balance your leadership style between company aims and the people delivering them. Balance was key to drive the right message as a leader but also being present & people centric through the needs of the team. Ultimately to get the best out of all the teams I focussed on psychometric testing and used the data to ensure the right team constructs were in place to drive the best outcome. It was a huge success because despite the stretched targets, the team felt they were investing in themselves through self-awareness and self-reflection so they felt part of their own growth journey at the same time.

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