You can now also download this report in PDF format. Download now!
Weight training your eyes, wearing tight shirts and indulging in rock and roll, was amongst the leadership advice given by modern business ‘heroes’ at the Institute of Directors (IoD) convention in London. The leadership styles on show ranged from the inspiring to the dubious, but strong themes in winning, and losing business in a global economy emerged from the men and women who set the business trends – including Clive Woodward and Terry Leahy.
The 2005 IoD convention tackled the issue of ‘leadership in a competitive world’. Speakers giving their own recipes for success included:
- Sir Clive Woodward, who took the English rugby team from 6th place in the world to number 1.
- Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco now the third largest supermarket in the world.
- Arun Sarin, CEO of Vodafone, the biggest company in wireless communication,
- Simon Woodroffe, founder of the restaurant phenomenon YO! Sushi and pretender to Richard Branson’s crown of entrepreneur extraordinaire.
- Lord Rogers of Riverside, responsible for the Centre Pompidou, Millennium Dome and European Court of Human Rights – the building not the institution.
Also making a feisty comeback and reminding us how not to do it was Gerald Ratner; returning to the scene of his ‘silver tray and glasses for £4.99’ debacle 14 years on. A remark from Terry Leahy that, customers buy on more than price and don’t leave their values at the shop doorway, must have had particular resonance for him. (See Ratner Hopes to Sparkle Again – BBC News 2002)
The advice on offer had common themes, but it was the individual quirks in leadership style that was most striking. Arun Sarin and Terry Leahy both gave copybook ‘corporate’ performances. In fact, that of Vodafone’s CEO contained the type of clichéd, jargon ridden advice to be found in many a white paper – it probably had been written by Vodafone’s PR. Given the contrast between his message and hearsay from Vodafone employees and suppliers you wondered if he really does know what is happening on the shop floor (See Winning friends and influencing people
The leaders who really touched hearts and minds, whose thoughts became ‘word of mouth’ in the corridors afterwards, were Simon and Clive. Relegating the speaker’s podium to the back of the stage, they came to the front to entertain the audience with ‘stories’ of their experiences; obviously used to rolling up their sleeves and getting down and dirty with delivery. Together with Gerald Ratner, their messages rang with sincerity, failure figuring as much as success. (See Creating sustained performance improvements – Peter Hunter)
The importance of taking risks and ‘asset stripping’ failure was a theme, in all but Vodafone’s advice. Simon Woodroffe, his accolades growing monthly, told the audience how he used to measure daily output in failure. When he hit the 6th telephone rejection he could ‘feel good’ about achieving his daily target – it kept spirits up. Gerald Ratner told of his enormous difficulty in raising capital when his brand hit negative equity. He circumvented the barriers thrown in his path by building and selling a health club to raise funds. Clive Woodward thanked defeat for leading him to the view that only innovative thinking and risk would make the sea change he wanted in English rugby – ‘don’t compromise your dreams’ he told the audience. (See If I had to live my life over – various authors)
All speakers made the point that success did not come from following ‘best practice’ but from listening to ‘stakeholders’, researching, developing and innovating. Clive Woodward put his team in tight rugby shirts for the World Cup when he noticed on video replays how even the fastest wing was brought down by pulling the traditional baggy shirts. (He first thought of tight all in one jump suits, avec hood, but that was too much for the RFU!!) His advice to businesses- throw out all notions that ‘this is how things get done’ and start again; only bring back the things you KNOW work. Terry Leahy told of the research that had led to suppliers delivering ready stocked shelves to stores, obliterating the need to unpack and shelf stack. Vodafone talked about innovation through finding the value of new technology and the use of R &D. (See Competing in World Markets – Terry Leahy and Developing Competitive Advantage Through Leadership – Arun Sarin)
Feedback and Community
Feedback, and its gown up sibling ‘community’, was another strong theme. Vodafone increasingly thinks in terms of communities of customers as well as employees – 100% of Vodafone employees are shareholders. Tesco, famous for listening to customers, has extended the idea to suppliers; conscience of the criticism that the supermarket giants live on the backs of small producers – a point to note by those still running command and control outsourcing contracts.
Clive Woodward creates community by eradicating ‘energy sappers’, people whose attitude and actions sap the energy of those around them. (Everyone knows a few who fit this profile!) Whilst, Simon Woodroffe told the story of the technology company receptionist who had asked for the title First Impression Technologist, to demonstrate the importance of her role in the ‘community’- she got it as well. Richard Rogers demonstrated how environment helped and hindered community building. Think about the infrastructure for small group formation and create a ‘spirit of place’ for staff and customers. Take a trip to the developing Thames Gateway to see thought put into action. (see 2005 - The year of the customer community
Corporate Social Responsibility
The rising undercurrent of corporate social responsibility was very evident. Senior members of the Trade Union Congress and Confederation of British Industry reached an unprecedented agreement that social responsibility and wealth creation were not necessarily diametrically opposed political views. Blending European social policies with US productivity would give a competitive edge to those who could do it. (European shenanigans were only touched on!) Profit had primacy; but through profit social wealth could, should and must be created. Profit at the expense of social assets is no longer acceptable - especially when intangibles become the way companies are value.
Down on the ground floor, Tesco talked of the way customers valued the environment and fair trade; Vodaphone of ‘enriching customer’s lives’. Spirituality was a word used much more frequently than would have been the case even 2 years ago– pink and fluffy is beginning to consort with hard and grey. (see The next hot topic in CRM
Enjoyment was the big take away from the event – a facet of corporate life that both Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Richard Branson of Virgin also wax lyrically about. Clive Woodward began his bid for success by researching what enjoyment really meant to the England squad – so skip the staff satisfaction survey this year and ask about enjoyment instead. Simon Woodroffe lived and breathed his view that bringing entertainment into the customer value proposition created positive ‘word of mouth’. He gave the example of the robotic dog in his restaurants that delivers drinks to the table, quipping to customers at odd moments as it glides across the floor – they said it wouldn’t work, he grinned.
There is plenty of demand in the world – 2 billion people have never made a telephone call – but over supply is a growing factor of modern business. Fierce competition can be expected; it is those who understand and embrace it knowing what sets them apart who will win. Take risks and profit from failure. Increase spirituality and enjoyment – the old ways of business are not enough anymore. Innovation will replace best practice, community supersede command and control whilst cost reduction must be done with a view to social responsibility. We must teach our children how to win at conkers rather than ban ‘risky’ games from the playground, and make entrepreneurship the new rock and roll.
Strategy & Business Analyst, CMC
Ratner Hopes to Sparkle Again – BBC News 2002
Winning friends and influencing people - Jennifer Kirkby
Creating sustained performance improvements – Peter Hunter
Competing in World Markets – Terry Leahy and Developing Competitive Advantage Through Leadership – Arun Sarin
2005 - The year of the customer community - Jennifer Kirkby
The next hot topic in CRM - Jennifer Kirkby
As always please add your comments to this story by clicking on the 'Add your own comment' link below.