Learning the language of leadership


Kogan Page

I’VE been working in business communications for almost 40 years,” says Kevin Murray, the chairman of the Bell Pottinger Group. “I’ve worked with a lot of organisations and a lot of leaders. None were stupid, but some were much more convincing than others.” This got Murray thinking. In fact, it got him interviewing lots of them; 54 chief executives and chairmen of some of the world’s biggest companies to be precise.
The result is a revealing glimpse into the minds of men and women who fill the papers and are responsible for over 2m jobs. In an overcrowded field, this is a book about leadership that offers rare insight. Not only thanks to the wealth of interview material, but also thanks to the intimate nature of their answers. This is likely to be the result of Murray’s view that we follow leaders because of how they make us feel.

Companies have a greater and a wider responsibility than just to their shareholders. It is very clear that if you want to have long term success, you need to do first what is right for your consumers and for your employees and for society at large. If you do all that well, the shareholders will be rewarded.
Paul Polman, global chief executive, Unilever

Businesses are much more like open democracies. People expect to be communicated to much more and see themselves as part of a democracy where they consent to being led. As well as the need to communicate more with employees, there is increased regulatory scrutiny, the rise of global NGOs and 24/7 media. You have to represent yourself and explain your company and your actions all the time.
Graham Mackay, chief executive of SAB Miller

It isn't that trust and reputation are more important today than they were before – it is that they are more vulnerable in today's world. I say to my colleagues in Wates that my number one concern is that, through their actions and behaviours, a brand and reputation that took 140 years to build up could be destroyed in an instant.

Paul Drechsler, chairman and chief executive, The Wates Group

Organisations that aspire to long-term success have got to have trust as an important part of their agenda. You never trust somebody you don’t know, whose motives you don’t understand. So, as a leader, you have to give people inside and outside the company a sense of who you are, and what you stand for. That’s what will help people decide whether they are willing to trust you.
Jeremy Darroch, chief executive, BSkyB