Posted on Wednesday 23 March 2011 by Ulster Business

Sir Christopher Bland

The future of Northern Ireland's economy will be decided by those leading small and medium sized businesses, according to global business leader Sir Christopher Bland.

Speaking to Ulster Business on the sidelines of the Management & Leadership Annual Conference, organised by MLN and co-sponsored by Ulster Business School and Invest NI, Sir Christopher said local businesses and managers need to sharpen their focus on the importance of leadership. "The future of Northern Ireland will be decided by small and medium sized businesses. It is not the global businesses that should be relied on," he said. "I don't think there's a magic bullet. Leaders come in a variety of shapes and sizes both physically and mentally and there's no one model fits all. But I think there are some common characteristics without which you are unlikely to be a good leader: communication ability; understanding the numbers; and understanding the market and the changes in it." The former chairman of BT and the BBC Board of governors and current chairman of telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent UK was brought up in Co Down and returns regularly to Northern Ireland. He believes Northern Ireland has adapted rapidly to the changing economic situation and that innovation and advances in technology will help the province overcome traditional weaknesses. "We have nothing to be shy about, we have a good workforce, good work ethic, excellent universities and technical training, and a nice place to live. Geography doesn't help us in terms of the supply of raw materials, but Northern Ireland has a lot going for it," he said. "High speed broadband is absolutely essential for markets like Northern Ireland, which in a physical sense is remote to other parts of the world. But with a high speed broadband connection, if you are in an information sharing industry, in Northern Ireland you can download to your customer or end user as quickly as anywhere else," he added. The conference marked the highlight of the Management Month initiative, which featured some 12 free management masterclasses during the month of February. Management Month was coordinated by the Management & Leadership Network.

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