Leadership Insights for the Age of Digital Acceleration

An Interglobix Q&A with Portman Partners’ New Chairman, Dave Pye, on his new role. Dave has more than 25 years of experience in the recruitment industry and we wanted to hear his thoughts on leadership and the challenges facing the digital infrastructure sector.

You’ve been working with Portman for a few years as a partner. How is your role as Chairman different?

As Chair, my role is to keep the business and its leadership accountable for performance goals, the firm’s relationship with both clients and candidates and the development and implementation of strategic growth plans for future expansion.

Why should digital infrastructure clients choose Portman over any of the larger, big name search firms?

Portman is a boutique firm uniquely focused on digital acceleration, not just within digital infrastructure but within the wider aspects of transforming businesses. We work hard to ensure we know everything one can about the data center ecosystem space and focus on finding and placing senior leaders in this sector by understanding their purpose, goals, and challenges of the industry. Plenty of people know “Search”. Very few if any, know Digital Infrastructure AND Search.

What are your goals for Portman and how do you plan to achieve them?

My goal is simple – to ensure Portman Partners is the leading, most influential executive search firm in the digital acceleration arena with a focus on providing exemplary, high touch, partnership services for both our clients and candidates. We rely on our strong core competencies and will continue to be agile as we stay abreast of the industry like no other firm can.

In your opinion, what are the most important attributes successful leaders must have today and what personal characteristics are you looking for that will make them successful in today’s DI boardroom?

Visibility, transparency, empathy and purpose. Strong leaders are present and remind people about the company’s mission, values and goals, communicating how and why the company serves its audiences and what role each employee plays in the company’s success. Leaders know how to invest in their employees. It’s also not just about a leader’s skills and experience but what’s behind them. Can they adapt to an ever-changing environment? If they have the skills, their mindset, agility and adaptability will set them apart.

Like many in the digital infrastructure industry, you’re a white male. Talk to us about the value of diversity to a company’s senior leadership team.

I’m not minimizing it or stepping around it but for the moment, putting aside all the political & social weight of the diversity & inclusion movement, I’m going to put it into context of business value.

One of the biggest challenges for any business is to drive growth. To be able to grow, organisations need to differentiate from their competition & to do that they need to innovate which requires diversity. Diversity of thoughts, ideas & backgrounds at the boardroom table & throughout the company, leads to innovation. Different ways of thinking bring about new solutions to challenges & different experiences bring awareness to different product or service issues & concerns. Diversity leads to innovation which leads to growth. Diversity makes good business & people sense.

What do you see as the greatest challenges the digital infrastructure industry faces?

In no specific order of importance, I’d say:

  • DI lacks impact in its approach with diversity and inclusion, which, as I said above, will hamper innovation and thus growth.
  • The management of the transition between on-premise data to colo and cloud providers and that must be addressed sooner than later as we are in the midst of it.
  • The impact of AI and automation. As the number of datacenters with less staff increases, the sector will require more senior people to be strong thought leaders & modern day executives
  • As datacenter campuses grow there will be a need for a wider variety of staff to support that growth including sustainability concerns
  • And to my last point, the need for green power and sustainability in the digital infrastructure sector will continue to accelerate – wind, solar, carbon and wave. Doing new things in new ways is a key challenge for DI.

Give me one do and one don’t for leaders.

DO – Read Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’, view Simon Sinek on ‘Why’ on YouTube and then write down your own purpose and share it.

DON’T – Be aloof and distant from your staff. This breeds distrust and lack of care. Without care and engagement there is lowered productivity, longevity and commitment.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous professional impact on you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Dennis Linscott who led Intertech helped with my professional development in the early days. He made me understand that success is not about me but about those who work alongside me.

What is your favourite quote about business and leadership?

“Don’t react. Then you can’t overreact

What is your favourite quote about anything else?

‘Tomorrow belongs to those who can see it coming.’ – David Bowie