Michael Burwell’s Leadership Style: Want a successful business? Focus on your knowledge workers.

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Every business has its most important individuals that drive key decisions. These individuals are knowledge workers, and their minds impact business outcomes most profoundly. So, in order for these individuals to their jobs effectively, they must possess effective cognitive skills. These skills are attributable to the functions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, where the deep thinking comes from that drive productive knowledge work. If workers are burnt out, the frontal cortex stops to work properly, which in turn affects overall performance. Burnout happens from working long hours without letting the brain take a break or simply multitasking. But the brain is a muscle, and just like all other muscles in the body, it needs a break to recover in order to function effectively.

Along those lines, the best leaders of any company understand that taking good care of their knowledge workers is crucial for their business to succeed. Michael Burwell is one such leader who understands that taking care of his knowledge workers is of utmost importance not just for his success but that of the company as well as his workers. Burwell’s leadership style combines “fair ruthlessness and compassionate execution,” as he puts it, together with a love for teamwork and people. He possesses a unique ability to truly listen and get to know people, which makes him of the most successful businessmen within the finance and accounting sector. He is a leader who believes in human potential and upholding that potential as he relentlessly focuses on advancing business operations overall.

In fact, knowledge workers are just like athletes, only using different muscle groups during their performance. In order to understand how to develop and maintain good people within an organization, one may look at what elite athletes do in order to maintain their continued successful performance. There are three main examples. For one, leaders must create a growth mindset by looking at challenges and setback from a different perspective. Instead of considering difficulties and failures as solely negative, leaders urge their team members to view them as learning experiences. Along those lines, the second example is to learn how to be resilient or ways in which to bounce back from the aforementioned setbacks. Leaders should make sure their team understands the nature of true success and that it is rarely easily obtainable. Their teams must know that the road to success is lined with failures. Rather than holding on to the negative believes that these failures may have triggered, leaders ought to teach their teams to power through potential negative self-talk and encourage persistence. Lastly, leaders ought to understand the fact that knowledge workers’ successes are function of their cognitive performances. And while this concept is well understood by neuroscientists, businesses are rarely cognizant of it. As such, working habits that are practiced in the twenty-first century are anything but beneficial to knowledge workers. This includes working long hours and doing several things at the same time. This may lead to overworking, which in turn may lead to a decline in performance. Effective leaders should be aware of the aforementioned and make sure they create an environment for their teams that is conducive to optimal cognitive performance.

Burwell’s leadership style is reflected in much of the aforementioned. Setting him apart from the rest of his colleagues in the finance industry are several additional qualities. For one, Burwell’s leadership style revolves around nurturing talents and really focusing on building upon his team’s strengths rather than upholding strict rules. This is evident in his persistent efforts to inspire his teams to always strive to become more innovative. This he achieves by persistently urging his teams to always think outside the box and beyond the instructions as they seek more effective and durable solutions to complicated problems. This builds upon all three examples of how to maintain great teams – maintain a growth mindset, practicing resilience and fostering a nurturing environment that is conducive to knowledge thinkers’ successes. Along those lines, in a recent IdeaMensch interview, Burwell points out that his efforts to bring ideas to life are hugely dependent on the people within his organization. After giving credit to his teams, he continues by pointing out that individuals within his organization have great ideas that he makes sure get the proper light of day.

Burwell’s skills and expertise were built throughout more than three decades of experience, and he is a respected authority in the field of finance and accounting. Furthermore, he is considered to be among the top as well as most influential authority within the finance sector primarily because of his professionalism, expertise and outstanding performance. Burwell has also consulted about projects for both large and small private national companies, he has consulted on business models and projections of various private equity funds and lead teams analyzing individual product profitability and product/process enhancements across several industries.

Given his background and expertise, it comes as no surprise that Burwell is a leader who understands that his road to success is lined with team members whom he has mentored and helped succeed.

To find out more about Michael Burwell and/or to connect, please visit his LinkedIn.


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