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What makes a leader?  #SirAlexAward   -  written by: Peter Farrington MABI.Peter Farrington MABI.

Linkedin published version here


Whether anybody likes Sir Alex Ferguson or not ( I do by the way ), there is no denying he was a tremendous leader in his chosen field of professional football. Even as a supporter of Liverpool FC, I am quick to recognise great leadership when I see it. People with his skills and ability are in short supply.


The#SirAlexAward asks the question "What makes a leader?" and Linkedin members are asked to explain this and to make a nomination accordingly. I didn’t have to look very far.


My nomination is Tony Imossi, former President of The Association of British Investigators (


What makes a (great) leader?


There are clear features of leadership and these are very obvious in both Sir Alex Ferguson and my nomination, Tony Imossi.


Self Belief: It is impossible to lead other people unless you first have belief in your own capability. A lack of self belief will lead to hesitancy and doubt, neither of which are desirable. A leader with self belief will instil decisiveness and confidence.


Respect: An accomplished leader must have the respect of his followers. They must have confidence in him and trust him. Similarly, that respect must exist from the leader towards his followers. Respect is not an instant product though. It must be earned and it must be demonstrated. Great leaders know this.


Passion: A great leader has to have passion for his particular field. He must have an undoubting belief that what he is doing is very important and that they way he is doing it will improve the whole picture. Without that passion, the conclusion quickly becomes "There is no point". Unless the leader is certain he is making a difference then he cannot have the true appetite to lead successfully.


Risk Taking & Learning: To achieve results, there needs to be an element of risk taking. Calculated risk of course. There are always occasions when those risks don't pay off or they cause setbacks. A great leader will understand this and be prepared to learn from the process. He will never risk everything on one venture, he will have a contingency plan or a recovery process in place.


Knowledge: Great leaders know their chosen field inside out. They understand their subject. Knowledge is the raw material required to succeed as a leader. Let's face it, there are many people out there that are charismatic, highly confident, respected and passionate. None of this is any use without the appropriate knowledge and that knowledge does not come overnight.


Patience: They say it is a virtue. It is indeed. Every quality leader that I have observed is blessed with patience. They may exhibit frustration at times but that is not the same as impatience. Patience is a form of belief. A way of knowing what lies ahead and what is worth waiting for. A patient leader allows his followers sufficient time to develop to a standard from which to flourish either individually or within a team. Teaching is part of leadership and patience is part of teaching.


Vision with an adabtable approach: A leader of great quality will have a clear vision of the road ahead and what lies at the end of it. He will ensure that his followers don't turn off the road by providing guidance along the way, and reassurance that the course is correct. Changing objectives part way through a journey is sometimes necessary to meet unforeseen circumstances or to seize new opportunities and a great leader will adapt the course accordingly and redfine the vision where necessary. His team will understand the reasons for change and support the leader all the way.


Personality and Charisma: You've either got it or your haven't. It cannot be taught. It can be mimicked on a short term basis but usually, fakes are uncovered very quickly.Every great leader I can think of has oozed charisma and personality. A warmth perhaps, or even a coolness. A facial expression, a witty remark. It all adds up to grabbing the attention of followers and keeping it. There is nothing boring about a great leader.


My nominee for the #SirAlexAward is Mr Tony Imossi.


Tony Imossi is a professional investigator. He entered the profession well over thirty years ago having trained within a law firm. He had already developed his leadership qualities as a Captain in the Territorial Army's Parachute Regiment. To deviate off course slightly, I can mention that I have met several of the men that were led by Tony in his military career and I have been stunned by their loyalty and genuine love for a man they call "Boss".


In the 1980s, Tony became a member of The Association of British Investigators and quickly became part of its Governing Council. A voluntary position. Within that board, Tony set about gathering knowledge about the wider industry and The ABI in particular. Like all board members of ABI, Tony was handed tasks to complete and he quickly gained a reputation for his diligence, reliability and effective approach. This earned him the respect of his peers and provided the platform for his subsequent Presidency. Not unlike Sir Alex Ferguson himself, working his way upwards through the profession.


In 1999 Tony was presented with the ABI’s prestigous Investigator Of The Year Award, again demonstrating how he had impressed his peers and leading by example. A year later, Tony took the helm as President of ABI. Tony has since been presented twice with the ABI's "Frank Martin Award" which is bestowed upon ABI members that have served the profession outstandingly.


I will again  detour slightly to explain to those that are unfamilair with the profession of professional investigators ( or private eyes as they are sometimes known ) that the end of the 1990s and into 2000 was a very turbulent period in the sector. Legislation was in the pipeline to finally licence investigators alongside security guards, wheel clampers, bodyguards and nightclub doormen. A big clear up of the security and investigation sectors was underway. Tony Imossi created and led the Investigator Sector Group which was a consultative body bringing together industry specialists, interested parties and prospective regulators to find a way forward. Tony Imossi, as leader of the Association of British Investigators, nailed his flag to the mast and explained his vision of licensing. His followers duly subscribed to this view.


For four years, Tony Imossi maintained his voluntary unpaid post as President of ABI until he was succeeded by another of is respected peers, Richard Newman. Tony remained as part of the ABI Governing Council during a lull in the licensing process. The Security Industry Authority had become bogged down with unrolling licensing to priortity areas and the investigation industry trod water. Tony demonstrarted his patience and saw a vision for self regulation.


In 2008, Tony Imossi again took the helm as ABI President in what would be his finest hours in the hot seat right until April 2015. Then, a change of ABI structure saw him move sideways to become ABI Chairman dealing with the inward facing aspects of ABI business and allowing yet another greatly respected peer, Paul Champion, to tackle the role of President.


During Tony’s leadership, he steered the ABI to new heights. His vision was clear and he knew that the sometimes shabby image of private investigators needed to be erased. He sought proper recognition for the professionalism of the ABI members and even more importantly, their integrity. He led the ABI to a position in which it would, in effect, self regulate.


Tony introduced two particularly bold changes. The introduction of CRB checks for members and the mandatory requirement to hold professional indemnity insurance. This meant a level of expense and intrusion for ABI members. The implementation posed a risk of members leaving. Tony managed this perfectly and this bold move actually saw an upturn in membership applications as the ABI became the place to be for those that sought recognition as professionals.


Tony presided over further change for The ABI. He worked with trainers and examination bodies to create a new entrance examination for ABI members. Raising the competence bar even further. Tony, again leading by example, ensured he was the first person to take the examination and pass it.


Tony had overseen the finances of the ABI and through his prudence, it was finacially stable. This led him to make yet another bold step and to embark on a rebranding programme and marketing strategy. This turned the ABI from an inward facing members' organisation to a outward facing voice of the profession. There was an obvious risk involved through the expenditure that was required but, having built a stable foundation, Tony was able to proceed along the road to his vision and implement the appropriate changes and accompanying campaign.


The result was to raise the profile of The ABI significantly and to embark of engaging with the wider law enforcement family that were finally recognising the professional integrity of the ABI.


This was all underpinned by a code of conduct and disciplinary process, commissioned by Tony, that is unique to our profession and which is a fundamental feature of BS102000 which I will mention later in this piece.


In 2013, The ABI celebrated its centenary. An event was held over three days in London and this was overseen by Tony Imossi. It was his creation and brought together invesigators from all over the world. A showcase event that had never been seen before and never likely will be again.


I really can go on forever listing Tony’s achievements and how his leadership has transformed ABI from a members’ club to the vanguard of a whole industry but in the interests of brevity, I will shortly conclude with what, to me, are his three stand out achievements and testimony to his leadership abilities.


Before I reach that part though, I have to mention that Tony has not achieved all this single handedly. He has been the leader of an efficient team. For part of his presidency I was part of that very team  and still lend a hand behind the scenes sometimes.


Like Sir Alex Ferguson himself, Tony Imossi understands how to get the best out of players. He listened to his team when he needed to and avoided a dictatorial approach; knowing that always ends in rebellion. Tony understood the strengths and weaknesses of his team and their respective workrates. As a first hand observer, I can say that Tony got the personal best out of every member of his team. Nobody can ask for more that that.


To Tony's finest achievements then.....


The Law Society Endorsement.


Tony recognised that most ABI members drew their client base from the legal profession but at the same time, so did investigators that were not aligned to ABI. The big difference of course was that only ABI members had a credible level of compliance that could be immediatley trusted by lawyers. The Law Society had never before endorsed an organisation like The ABI and it was a massive step to take as reputational risk played a significant part in their thinking.


There was a lot of work to do to make the case. Tony was inspirational to all the team members at the time. His guidance was invaluable as ABI prepared to persuade the mighty Law Society to back it. They did. Tony led the ABI into a whole new territory of professional respect and paved the way for better business for its members. Similarly, membership applications increased again.


BS102000 - The British Standard For Provision Of Investigative Services


Presently, those outside the profession will not appreciate the importance of BS102000 ( ) but in time to come, this will be massivley significant to any end user of professional investigative services.


Tony Imossi represented the ABI and the investigation sector as a whole within a working party to develop and launch this standard. He led that party in the direction of the best practice that he had already instilled into the ABI. The working party contained people from outside the profession who's experience was primarily in auditing and inspectorate responsibilties. Tony was able to direct the group toward defining a standard for investigation firms and companies as opposed to individual investigators.  Having already led ABI to become, in effect, a self regulating body he was able to use that blueprint to direct the panel accordingly.


Tony clearly sees the value of the standard as a signpost to future regulators and the platform for two tier licensing when the time comes.


The Leveson Inquiry and Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Commitee Inquiry (Private Investigators).


This was Tony Imossi’s finest hour.


The British public was aghast as revelations concerning the unethical ‘hacking’ of telephones by journalists. The News of The World folded; arrests were made and outrage simmered. In among all that, it had come to light that persons calling themselves "private investigators" had been component parts in this illegal and disgusting practice.


Consequently, the two inquiries were convened and it was necessary for the bone fide, legitimate investigation industry to have its say while very much in the spotlight. Tony Imossi led from the front here. He ensured that he had a proper understanding of the concerns raised, that he had correct information to provide and that he represented the view of ABI as a whole. Tony was the face that was seen and his voice that was heard but he spoke for all ethical and law abiding investigators in the UK. He took that responsibility on and presented himself incredibly well.


There is no doubt that Tony was able to define the difference between professionals that he represented and the criminals that caused the problem to begin with. Until Tony had appeared, many people would have tarred investigators with the same brush and labelled them as 'dodgy'. He set the record straight and nobody can ask for better from a leader when under fire.


This, to me, was an extraordinary example of his leadership. He was under real pressure and with one foot out of place he could easily has set the whole sector back many years and undone the hard work that had gone before. He put his own head on the block.


I cannot stress hard enough what a difference one man has made to a whole industry. In may ways, the similarity between Sir Alex Ferguson's reign at Manchester United and the Presidency of ABI by Tony Imossi are mirror images.


The investigation sector is a small industry but an important one in terms of civil law enforcement. It isn’t glamourous and it isn’t a big money area. It’s leaders are all volunteers and that is what makes Tony Imossi even more special and deserving of the #SirAlexAward. He gets things done and gets people doing !



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