Manner of Working

As this year’s Techcellence Award ­winners demonstrate, there is
no one, ideal leadership style

Photo (from left): David Strucke, Brennon D’Souza and David Brebner

LET’S FACE IT, leadership is a subject that’s been discussed to death. Every guru and coach out there thinks they’ve discovered the secret formula—the singular recipe for success.

But what we’ve seen over the years at TechAlliance is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Successful leadership comes in all different shapes and sizes.

To help illustrate that diversity, we sat down and chatted with the winners of this year’s Techcellence Awards—Brennon D’Souza, founder of Dibbzz, David Strucke, CEO of Media Sonar and David Brebner, co-founder and CFO of Mobials—about their leadership philosophies and what sets their style apart from the pack.

D’Souza says he takes a pragmatic approach to a lot of the business decisions he encounters at start-up Dibbzz, a real-time seat upgrade solution for existing ticket holders at event venues.

“I believe that when you build a business that rewrites the rules in your industry, you become a practical and creative problem solver,” he says. “Because the daily issues at hand are unique, you can only lead by example. My style revolves around people knowing my clearly defined vision, and working with me to figure out the rest.”

David Strucke, CEO of data-tracking firm Media Sonar, has a regimented approach, but ultimately believes in enabling talent.

“I firstly define and then evangelize the purpose of our organization so that everyone is aligned and bought into what we are trying to accomplish,” explains Strucke. “Second is to work with our groups to define initiatives through which they can clearly see how their successful execution will lead to the accomplishment of our purpose. Then, lastly, I focus on building an environment that allows our talented people to be successful, and I get out of the way and let them do what they do best.”

David Brebner, co-founder and CFO of software development company Mobials, believes many firms, particularly in the tech industry, put people management well down the priority list, favouring product and profit above all. He says by looking after employees (and the customer), profits will follow.

“[That] makes our employees, by far, the most valuable aspect of our company,” says Brebner. “And by taking this approach, it leads us to a company that is collaborative, engaging and transparent.”

When asked about the leaders they take the most inspiration from, the answers are as varied as you might expect. “I look up to people like Richard Branson,” says D’Souza. “He is a self-made man that looks at the big picture and enjoys the journey. His leadership style is to endorse and empower his employees toward achieving his vision, and championing his clearly defined brand. And he has a lot of fun with it as well.”

Strucke, meanwhile, looks locally for inspiration. “I get the most inspiration from my peers in our own community,” he says. “I have always believed in the concept of having a good peer/mentor network. And we have so many excellent leaders driving very interesting companies right here in London.”

Brebner notes that different leaders have varying styles for different situations, and adaptability becomes a key skill trait. “As a company, we draw on our own experiences and experiences of those who we trust, including those around us, which leads us not to take inspiration from external leaders, but those leaders within our own organization.”

In the end, while their styles and approaches may differ, each of the Techcellence winners agrees that committed and engaged leadership is essential to the success of any organization.

“I think good leadership brings alignment to an organization,” sums up Strucke. “That certainly doesn’t mean it is always easy or there aren’t setbacks. But it is a wonderful feeling to stand on the line of scrimmage with your teammates, driving the ball down the field and celebrating every inch of ground achieved.”