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The search for excellence

Musing, as I was this week, on the ingredients of great leadership on a global and local scale, I would challenge anyone not to have experienced the feel-good factor that Barack Obama’s election victory has had on the world.

Whatever your politics, you have to admire the way that Mr Obama has not only engaged America, but also the wider world. It reminded me of how it felt to watch Nelson Mandela take the helm in my own country, South Africa. When it comes to role models for leadership, he is a personal icon of mine.

As regular readers of this blog will already suspect, I have to confess that Jamie Oliver, albeit on a far more local scale and in a different way, is as inspiring a leader when it comes to business. This week, at a fundraising dinner I attended, he managed to raise a substantial sum for his Fifteen Foundation – no small feat in the current economic climate. The next day he was giving evidence to a Commons enquiry into the UK’s obesity crisis.

It seems to me that business leaders who have a mission beyond everyday commercial goals have the ability to inspire and influence. Local examples of this are to be found in the most surprising places…

Take, for example, Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, the tea and coffee producer and emporium, that one of my colleagues visited this week. For the people of Yorkshire, this business has become a cornerstone of the wider community and a business that epitomises strong employee engagement and family values.

The company is led by a management team with the capacity to think big, but act small, understanding that its culture is, in their words, “made up of the 101 little things that cannot be written down”. They instigated a socially responsible marketing programme, Trees For Life, years before it became the norm, and all new employees have lunch with the CEO in their first year in the business.

I would love to hear from you if you have any inspiring stories of great leadership from your back yard – whether on an epic or everyday scale. I hope sharing these stories will be a way to banish the gloom as we head further into winter!

Readers' comments (1)

  • alistair leslie

    Good examples .
    If you want to survive the crunch pay attention to the people who survived wars ,depressions and recessions not the people who went bust.
    One thing they all have is a connection with the people .ie a degree of humanity.
    They are able to reach out and touch there customers
    You can too by innovation and some quiet reflection on what is behind your label/offer.
    Who are you? what do you stand for ?Are you genuine ?
    Train your staff .

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