Charles Towers-Clark

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Founder & Chair, Pod Group; Author of The WEIRD CEO

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Synopsis

After working in consulting, finance and technology, Charles started the tech and telecoms company Pod. As well as leading in the IoT field, he built the company around his WEIRD (Wisdom, Emotional Intelligence, Initiative, Responsibility, Development) philosophy of leadership. It takes a human view of work and workplace structure that is both challenging and supportive, embraces empathy and wellbeing, and encourages decision-making and continual learning and adaption.

Biography

Charles Towers-Clark is the founder and Chair of Pod Group, a technology and telecoms company working in IoT (the internet of things) and enterprise systems. The company was founded to disrupt a sector dominated by global players, and organised along Charles’s own ideas of transparency, diversity, self-management and concentrating on the human aspects of the business.

After working around the world in consulting, finance and technology, Charles started Pod. The creator of the WEIRD philosophy of leadership, and the author of the accompanying book The WEIRD CEO, he started the business with a focus on people and values. WEIRD outlines his five elements to a healthy and futureproof leadership style and culture. Each aspect (Wisdom, Emotional Intelligence, Initiative, Responsibility, Development) combine to take a human view of work, both challenging and supportive, covering empathy and wellbeing, decision-making and continual learning and adaption. Charles’s belief is that long-standing concepts of hierarchy, rule-setting and decision-making not only limit organisations generally, but also impede their ability to prepare for the AI and automation-driven future.

In time AI will inevitably take over most process-driven tasks, and the best way to not just keep people employed, but to grow and improve, is to ensure they are focused on human tasks, working alongside technology instead of against it. Allowing people to self-manage, freeing them from process and bureaucracy, engages them, drives new ideas, and has a positive effect on wellbeing and work-life balance.

Charles takes that view that it is not helpful to present the future of AI as some apocalyptic scenario of mass unemployment or technological dominance. The adoption of AI within an organisation will only go as far as the culture will allow, so planning for it may be limited. There will, however, invariably be rival organisations whose cultures are more adaptive, taking the decision out of the hands of leaders.  At the same time, in all aspects of governance, a top-down dictatorship-style of leadership will invariably fail in the longer-term, whilst a decentralised system of empowered individuals is healthier, more agile and more productive. By empowering people to manage their own work, it will ensure the long term health and progress of an organisation. As well as the way the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a degree of self-management into many organisations, Charles looks at businesses, including his own Pod Group, that have successfully structured this way for many years, proving it is possible if the will is present.

As well as building and leading Pod, Charles is a contributor to Forbes where he writes about digitalisation and self-management, and he also offers his thoughts and insights into business, technology and management for a range of media.

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