Sheridan Resolutions was proud this month to be a Gold Sponsor at the City HR Association’s 2013 Conference. This is the only event for financial and professional service firms addressing critical City issues and the theme was entitled “Aligning People and Performance Management to Cultural Transformation.”

All the speakers and panels were provocative and insightful and the audience fed back with strong views of their own. The role of the leader as the catalyst for transformation quickly became a central theme, encapsulated by a brilliant presentation from Martin Clarkson, Chairman of “The Storytellers”. Martin reminded us that all leaders today must make an emotional connection with those that they seek to inspire, in order to get the results they need.

The greatest therapy for the seemingly endless stream of daily challenges facing employees, noted Clarkson, was for them to understand clearly a pride and purpose in what they do. Leaders therefore needed to set out with clarity, honesty and emotion why they advocate a particular business strategy, as well as the detail of what they intend to do. They need to spell out the opportunity that the business is seeking to seize and be frank about what the consequences for the business of not doing so. Finally, company values must be not only spoken about but also acted upon daily if they are to have any meaning. Without living its own stated values, said Clarkson, no business can prosper.

A straw poll of delegates’ views on the subject revealed remarkably consistent criticism of the under-use and abuse of values in leadership. Stated values tend to be overcomplicated, generic and bland. Neither were they widely talked about, let alone used in practice. Most worryingly, those in leadership positions were the worst culprits in this respect, while those in other senior positions who failed to challenge the inadequacy of their leaders were also given short shrift by the conference.

How can leaders be better in this respect? Leadership development should challenge talented people to be the best they can be. The pressures on a modern leader are intense and so businesses need to give their top people the time to think about how they can lead with emotional intelligence. What was clear was that Martin Clarkson led this debate with excellence – and made his own instant emotional connection with the audience.