By The HR Observer Team

The ability of CEOs to develop ‘superstar’ talent is the difference between success and failure in the business world, one of the UK’s leading sports executives has said in the build-up to an important new leadership summit in Dubai later this month.

Mike Forde, former Director of Football Operations at Chelsea Football Club, says the race for talent has never been so critical as it is at present, and talent management is a primary responsibility of the CEO or key leaders, and not a HR function.

“In modern leadership, it is impossible for organisations to succeed without leaders who know how to attract, retain, develop and manage talent,” said Forde, one of the key speakers at The Leadership and Talent Forum taking place from 27-28 November at The Address Hotel, Dubai Marina.

“The best talent wants to work with the best talent – whatever the industry or sector – and it is the leader’s responsibility to manage the evolution of its ‘superstar’ performers.  Ultimately, in talent-focused businesses, this will be the difference between success and failure.”

Presented by Al Khafji Joint Operations (KJO), a joint operation between the national oil and gas companies of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Aramco) and Kuwait (The Kuwait Oil Company), The Leadership and Talent Forum will host some of the world’s leading business and leadership thinkers as well as top-performing pioneers in developing leaders and fostering talent in the GCC.

Forde, currently a strategic advisor to the San Antonio Spurs and McLaren Formula 1’s Applied Technologies division, said: “This is a great opportunity to be on the same stage as some great thinkers in the world of leadership and talent at a time where the race for talent – across all sectors including sport – and the global nature of talent management, has never been so critical as now.”

In his role at Chelsea FC between August 2007 and June 2013, Forde dealt with all areas of performance and team operations, including player recruitment and performance analysis, for one of the most successful and famous clubs in world football.

“Any leading world business – including a leading sports team like Chelsea FC – has three core characteristics,” he says. “They are a burning passion to be the very best; an incredible curiosity about how to build, sustain and drive success and a willingness to take lessons from everywhere and anyone; and relentless drive to execute on what matters most to deliver the best results possible.”

Forde believes peak performance can be achieved “by virtually anyone at least once in their career”, and that the most effective leaders have the ability to create the ‘X Factor’ in business.  He says: “The difference between the organisations and teams that created sustained high performance rests in the ability of the leaders – or the ‘cultural architects’ – to drive and sustain a level of performance that inspires the group to constantly push for more

“A key facet of exceptional leadership is to find the balance between creative tension and a sense of ‘productive paranoia’, which drives the relentless need to succeed and attend to the last detail.  This is what characterises all great success with a sense of compassion and empathy – the ‘X factor’ in how effectively you can consistently encourage ‘discretional effort’ – or going the extra mile – from your top talent.”

Also addressing The Leadership and Talent Forum will be Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School and, best-selling author, who has been named one of the Top 20 Business Thinkers in the World by ‘The Times’ newspaper.  For more information or to request an invitation, please visit

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