Skip to content

Entrepreneurs Panel

Julie Meyer
Brian Hay
Charlie Mullins
Tony Caldeira
Steve Purdham
Jeremy Roberts
Michael Oliver
Debbie Pierce
Laura Tenison
David Pollock
Richard O'Sullivan
Jennie Johnson

Step forward in 2015

Dr Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey examine the six essential roles of engagement for leaders.

The New Year can often bring about plenty of opportunities for change in the workplace, offering a chance for new beginnings and fresh starts, with colleagues feeling revitalised and reinvigorated after the winter break.

This year, managers should use the transition into 2015 as an opportunity to introduce the notion of Host Leadership, and welcome with it the idea of using roles instead of rules. Rules are things you have to follow all the time. Roles, on the other hand, are about stepping forward in different ways and changing our awareness and focus from day to day, hour to hour, even moment to moment. The good news: by thinking as a Host Leader (and the other people as our guests), we already have a good idea of how to take on different roles at different times, and when to shift from one role to another.

The notion of six roles of a Host Leader enables us to rapidly build awareness of a wide range of possibilities for action. We can also tap into our inherent knowledge of the dance of the host - forward and back - in each role. Think about when you get act in each role as the New Year gets underway.


What do you want to get moving for 2015? There is usually a call to action of some kind. This may take the form of an interest, dissatisfaction, a passion, a rage or just wanting to see something done better or differently. It may be big, for example, ending child exploitation, or it may be smaller, for example, organising the team's documents so people can find what they need more quickly. Focus on it and take a first step - perhaps to invite others to join you.


Thinking invitationally and using soft power is at the heart of Host Leadership. When we invite, and people accept, they show up being involved, open, engaged, part of the process. Thinking invitationally is about reaching out and engaging with those around us in a way which invites - rather than insists - that they join us in working on some project, purpose or endeavour. It's about seeing the participation of others as a valuable gift, rather than the result of a contract of employment.

Space Creator

Having engaged people, the role of host involves creating a suitable space for the events to emerge and unfold. Much of the new literature on leadership speaks of the importance of the space and of allowing and nurturing emergence within the space. The host plays a vital role upfront in deciding on the space and how it is to be organised, laid out and used. The host's role is both to create an excellent space to support the activity and also to refresh and renew the space to keep it functioning well. This is another example of the flexibility of the host role: one minute making big decisions about what's next and the next clearing up a spilled drink.


A Host Leader knows the importance (and the creative possibilities) of defining boundaries. A boundary can serve the Host Leader well by making clear what expectations and norms apply. In the same way as a host can have a "leave your shoes in the hall" norm, the Host Leader will take care to choose boundaries that can help people understand where they are and what they are committing
to do in a certain place or role.

Once people have come over the threshold, they are aware of being in a new place, with new people and possibly new expectations. One of the key roles of a Host Leader is to welcome newcomers - this also gives an excellent chance to share something of the routines and rituals of the organisation.


Host Leaders build connections between people, link people and ideas AND know when to leave them to get on with it. The connector joins people together and creates the possibility of something emerging. If we've initiated something, invited people and created a space, we clearly want to create something that wouldn't happen without people getting together. As connectors, we understand that, having brought people together, at some point we need to get out of the way, let the magic work and allow possibilities to emerge.


Co-Participators initiate, provide and join in along with everyone else. It is no surprise; for example, when we are invited for dinner, we expect the host to not only serve us with food, but eat the same food with us. Not only that; hosting etiquette the world over demands that the host serve their guests first. In hosting terms, this is a clear expectation. In leadership terms, it's not so clear. When the news is full of stories about bank CEOs who appear to have eaten heartily in terms of massive bonuses, we might think that the ancient values of relationship and hospitality have well and truly been abandoned.

As 2015 approaches, leaders should begin to introduce the techniques of Host Leadership and take a leading position in a way that draws others in, in a natural way.

Dr Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey are authors of the book Host: The Six New Roles of Engagement for Teams, Organisations, Communities & Movements.

  • Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, started with little more than faith and determination, but four years later it’s grown into a global business. Ahead of her appearance at Accelerate 2015 in...

  • Author, writer and marketer Ryan Holiday on how entrepreneurs need to interpret failure.

  • Sue Vizard, business coach and author of Jump Start: The Start-up Book for Your Dream Business, looks at some of the questions solo entrepreneurs should ask themselves.

  • Ian Wright, founder and chief executive of, is bringing together SMEs and NEDs - without the hefty recruitment fees.

  • Former professional golfer turned entrepreneur Colin Stevens has had a busy 18 months. The Better Bathrooms founder has increased turnover at the firm, secured a multi-million pound investment and...

Five Minutes With

David Hughes sums up his entrepreneurial career to date thus: four spectacular successes and two failures. He founded the sports retailer Allsports and achieved turnover of £180 million before a vicious price war meant decline, administration in 2005 and a sell-off to rival JD Sports.

It took Richard Shonn, managing director of 151 Products, three years to find a warehouse big enough for his requirements.