by Fred Roed on 31/07/12 at 6:27 pm
I must confess that before I read this book I’d not heard of Terry Leahy, the erstwhile CEO of Tesco (1997 to 2011) who is credited with turning a struggling supermarket chain to the third largest retailer in the world. Now however, I’m quoting Leahy and the words in his book to all and sundry, annoying the hell out of the people around me.
Management In 10 Words is part autobiography, part management consulting book. The Daily Mail describes Leahy as the guy who turned Tesco into ‘a bank, a £1 billion-a-year clothing business, the UK’s biggest internet retailer and one of our top five retailers for books, toys, electrical equipment and home products’. And that’s not touching on its global empire — the shops in Asia, Australasia, Europe and America. The list is endless. With Terry at the helm, Tesco grew into a giant worth £35 billion.
Leahy attempts to explain the basic tenets that transformed Tesco into the world famous brand that it is today. He breaks down his philosophy of leadership into 10 words: Truth, Loyalty, Courage, Values, Act, Balance, Simple, Lean, Compete and Trust. These 10 words form the basis of his tenure at Tesco and how he managed the teams around him, leading a vast organisation to being the stellar success that it is today.
Leahy peppers his writing with anecdotes plucked from army leaders, and his style mirrors the combative approach advocated by feared wartime names such as Churchill, Montgomery and Field Marshall VIscount Slim (who clearly has had an impact on Leahy, being the most quoted individual in the book).
The wisdom espoused in the book is sound and inspirational, with easy to follow lessons for all of us, regardless of what industry we’re in.
Stories and anecdotes
As for myself, I was particularly interested in reading about Tesco’s approach to e-commerce. In the last ’90′s when the dot.com bubble was at it’s stretchiest, Tesco watched in awe and wonder at the scenes around them. Webvan.com was revolutionising retailing, allowing people to pick and choose products from the luxury of their home or office. Tesco was highly tempted to change its approach and modernise quickly to emulate the seeming success of Webvan and other e-commerce superstars. At the same time, Sainsbury’s made a move to be more like Webvan and Leahy describes the pressure to transform from shareholders as acutely intense. What did Tesco do? It played to its strengths. Under Leahy’s leadership they augmented their distribution system to grow and strengthen the lines of delivery required by e-commerce. All the while, Webvan (and Sainsbury) was losing market share and frustrating customers by not living up to the dot.com hype. Webvan closed its doors soon after the bubble burst, with hundreds of millions of dollar losses.
In my own role of leading a digital marketing agency, we’re currently overseeing several e-commerce builds and this type of learning is indispensible. There are loads of stories like this, and I thoroughly recommend buying Management In 10 Words. It’s not the best written book around (compared to a Gladwell for example), but its straightforward advice and no-nonsense approach is refreshing in a sea of over-hyped flashy business books around.
P.s. if you’re interested, Sir Terry Leahy will be in SA shortly to talk at the Discovery Leadership Summit – check it out here.
Fred Roed is the marketing guy in the Ideate crew. Fred is the CEO of web marketing company World Wide Creative and the co-founder of online learning portal Heavy Chef. Fred loves writing about people out there doing marketing right. Follow Fred on Twitter here. View more articles by Fred Roed.