Cain Ullah

Board Director and former CEO, Red Badger

Cain is an entrepreneur that is passionate about sustainability (People and Planet) and the role of business as a force for good in the world. He is passionate about purpose, conscious leadership, conscious capitalism, social value and diversity & inclusion.

He is the former CEO and current board director of Red Badger – a purpose-led digital product and innovation consultancy. Red Badger works with leading blue chip companies (FT, Tesco, HSBC, Sky, Fortnum & Mason, Santander, NHS, Nandos, ASOS, News UK, JP Morgan Chase, Lloyds Bank, Levis, Selfridges, British Council and others) to help them become next generation digital product organisations through data and product transformation.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

Self-orientation, which is part of the trust equation: trusting others, empowerment, and focusing on the growth of those who are working for you. Also, good feedback and active listening. I try as a leader to be as supportive of others as possible and to serve and provide as much to others as I can. For me, it’s not about being right, instead it’s about hiring good people and supporting their growth, as well as empowering them to make autonomous decisions.

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

There are so many categories of people that are inspirational to me: the first being authors who write around social values, such as Mariana Mazzucato, as well as economists who advise on public policy and how the government can work with the private sector to do good for the world. I am a proponent for conscious capitalism and business being a force for good, so I like to follow thought leaders on the topic such as: Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a pioneer in diversity and inclusion; and John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods), who wrote on conscious capitalism with Raj Sisodia.  

The second category is those who speak on personal development such as Tony Robbins, who looks at health and well-being.

The final category consists of mentors and former bosses: in particular Avivah Wittenberg-Cox (CEO of 20-first), a strong mentor of mine and a good friend. I also have 2 coaches and my family and friends from whom I take inspiration from many different angles.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

To focus on myself. Many people spend too much energy judging others and trying to change them, and a real tipping point in how I behave was when one of my coaches told me to focus on myself – be the best version of yourself every day and that is how you will most impact others, as they will notice you have changed and become inquisitive as to what has happened to you!

4. What would you tell your younger self?

Have more self-belief. Imposter syndrome was quite dominating when I was young but I believe if I had more self-belief when I was younger I could have become more successful quicker, as well as improving my well-being.

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

This ties in with my previous answer. You can’t and shouldn’t try to change others. You waste so much energy complaining about others and you can’t change them, especially through the perspective of judgement – instead you can support and give guidance and feedback. What motivates people most – autonomy mastery and purpose – is what I give people. If you can, create an environment for people to achieve self-direction, doing things that matter and feeling part of a bigger whole, it is so much better from a productivity and motivational point of view, as well as being better culturally as opposed to ‘carrot and stick’ motivation or rewards.