Mark Gallagher on Leadership Innovation and Improvement in Formula One

Picture: Mark Gallagher

Leadership in Formula One often manifests itself in the constant search for innovation and continuous improvement. “In the Formula One business, we believe that leadership comes from all levels within the organization”, Global Topspeaker and Formula One expert Mark Gallagher states. “You have the Chief Executive of the team, and you have the Team Principal. There is a Crew Chief or a Chief Mechanic. But in a team of 600 people we want everyone to display leadership qualities in their own area, so that becomes an important part of our culture.“

But how is continuous improvement driven? Every top Formula One team Global Topspeaker Mark Gallagher has worked with has a mandatory town hall meeting on a Tuesday morning after each race, at which the leader is present. That becomes a dialogue about how everyone is performing, and that can include the leader's own performance as much as what's going on in the team. Some of those sessions can be pretty tense, because we don't win all the time. We lose more times than we win, so there's a constant dialogue.

Gallagher has worked in Formula One for almost 30 years and has spent the last 15 working as senior executive within the management of Jordan Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing and Cosworth. In addition, Mark Gallagher is a distinguished keynote speaker. In his outstanding keynotes, he compares his know-how in the Formula One with other businesses. The main subjects in his speeches are teamwork and leadership.

But what that means is that everyone, including the leader, has no fear of saying, "Hey, we're not where we need to be. What are we all doing to move things forward?" And the leaders in a Formula One organization, at whatever level, will have very clear responsibilities for which they will be measured against. That could be the overall direction of the team. It could be a leader of a Formula One team who clearly is trying to achieve ambitious goals for the organization.

There's also an interesting point in Formula One about leadership amongst the drivers. One of the common attributes of world championship-winning Formula One drivers, is that they are, of course, very fast racing car drivers. But frankly, all Formula One drivers are very fast racing car drivers. The top guys are also great leaders. They build great teams of people around them, and they really embrace continuous improvement and innovation.

Take a seven-times Formula One world champion like Michael Schumacher. He spent 19 years racing in Formula One, 19 years trying to continuously improve himself, not just the team. And to work with a guy like that, you really see the attention to detail and how he's scrutinizing what he's doing as much as the team in terms of their delivery for him. And this becomes just a conversation. "How are you doing to improve our performance? How am I doing to improve our performance?"

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