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What 'Responsible Leadership' means to me

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2018 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. This involves 20 free events, workshops and training sessions along with thought leadership blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Official Partner and Sponsors – The West Midlands Combined Authority, Aston University, South and City College Birmingham and Curium Solutions - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

I took over as CEO of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) in June 2015, having previously been CEO of Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

In football, the outcome of a game can mean your team off the pitch coming in on a Monday morning to calls from delighted fans, or fans telling you how much you have ‘disappointed’ them (to paraphrase!) Building resilience to such swings is important no matter what you do, but working in the football industry for many years taught me that I also had a responsibility as a leader to frame success below the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that is that game on the weekend.

As Chief Executive at the GBCC, I now lead 10 divisional Chambers in the Greater Birmingham area and around 100 staff within those, all of whom I genuinely care about. When my two boys aren’t keeping me awake at night, it’s our team. Responsible leadership involves getting to know your team and individuals well, and wanting to make sure that they’re enjoying what they do, that they’re feeling valued and motivated. Creating opportunities that challenge people in a way they can thrive on is one of the best, but possibly most stressful parts of responsible leadership.

Responsible leadership to me is about these people, and it’s about the Greater Birmingham region as a whole. The Chamber is a big stakeholder in the region. We have almost 3000 members invested in its success and in ensuring that all the cogs work together to facilitate that. This is a big reason why the Chamber is a delivery partner for the GBSLEP Growth Hub, and why I am very proud to also be Chairman of Sport Birmingham, Vice-Chairman of Town Hall Symphony Hall, and a Trustee of Cure Leukaemia and the Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust Charity amongst other things! 

There is a civic responsibility and nature to the Chamber’s role. We have been around for 205 years, and we like to think we have - and continue - to play an important role in the region. When this Chamber was founded, Napoleon was still running around the Iberian Peninsula causing trouble. That history and heritage of the Chamber carries a certain weight. Myself and all the team know that we are just passing through this august institution, and we feel a very real responsibility to pass the Chamber on to the next generation in good shape, and while we’re involved, to make a positive impact and a real difference.

The Chamber is a Disability Confident, living wage employer with bronze Investors in People award, and I’m proud to say that these go to the very core of our organisation. We’re a not for dividend organisation, and any surplus that we make we put back into improving ourselves and increasing value for our members.  

We’re a huge network, and I like to think that, when we can drive the success of our network, that will fuel businesses across the region as a whole. A big role of leading the Chamber is ensuring that we are supporting and facilitating this regeneration and renaissance that is going on around us right now.

If the economy here is growing, more jobs are being created, and more opportunities are being created for people of all ages throughout the region, then we have done our bit.

Uncertainty will inevitably just creep up on us all, and as a leader I don’t really distinguish between leading through uncertainty and the times that do feel a bit more certain. You’ve just got to know your business, your people, your strengths your vulnerabilities.

But as a Chief Exec, there is an onus to set a tone which continuously encourages people, and genuinely emboldens people to share ideas that will bring your organisation to the next level. Drawing out that sort of motivational culture, and building a true team that communicates and sense checks is, from my personal experience, one of the key responsibilities of a leader.

Genuine passion for what you do, and the people you do it with, is to me, the very core of responsible leadership.

Paul Faulkner
Chief Executive
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce