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Expert Talk – How To Be a Relevant Leader.

By July 4, 2017February 14th, 2019Articles, Leadership

microphoneCatherine Duncan is the Director and General Manager of Matthews Steer. She is a highly respected, courageous and relevant leader who walks her talk, but also has a genuine care and empathy for people, which hugely influence her success and the impact she has on others. I had the fortune of interviewing Catherine for Busy? and share some of her insights with you on how to be a relevant and influential leader in a multi-generational business.

How important is it to be a relevant leader?

If you don’t know what’s current and needed today or tomorrow, you’re already past your use by date.

There has never been a more crucial time to stay on top of your game. Movement and change can feel supersonic but you need to know what your trusted basics and fundamentals are to keep you on track in a sea of data and information.

How do you ensure you remain relevant?

I have a three-tiered approach:

  1. I test and talk to my clients to get a better understanding of their needs
  2. I do the same with my team to identify their needs
  3. I find out what problems both my clients and my team need me to solve and I explore how I am able to add value to their individual success.


I feed my mind every day with new insights, concepts or a different take on a well-worn theory. This constantly motivates and inspires me and gets me thinking in different ways.

How do you lead different generations in your team towards shared goals and outcomes?

What drives each generation or what his or her values and beliefs are may differ, but fundamentally everyone wants to be able to add value, make a difference and be noticed. No one wants to be invisible. People’s needs, despite perceived differences, are often the same.

Younger people in general are incredible in their sense of urgency and acceleration. Why not? They literally have the world at their fingertips. They can learn things 24/7 from the Internet. However, some are also teaching older generations about balance, living life on their terms and not compromising what is important. They want a voice, to be heard, they love a challenge, they love competition and thrive on autonomy (within an agreed framework or criteria).

Older generations in general want respect, they want to be included, they want to have mattered, be heard and they want to share their wisdom. I think each generation struggles with the other in terms of true respect, listening to what’s being said and exploring how to blend both of their strengths to create a brilliant and new result.

What’s the main message that you try to communicate as part of your brand and why?

‘Have the conversation’. These are the honest conversations – the difficult and the positive ones. It comes back to having a deep level of care and respect for people. I focus on doing the right thing by them for the right reasons. People know when you are fake, when you’ve switched off or when you have a ‘different’ agenda.

Once you truly care you are able to create an environment that is conducive to having honest conversations and it’s only when you have created that environment that you can have the difficult conversations (to agree/disagree and even respectfully argue in some cases). The tough balance is around caring while still holding someone accountable.

You can read more of Catherine’s interview together with 6 other expert interviews in Busy? How to take control, get relevant and become on influential leader.