Sir Terry Leahy

Business Leader

Former CEO of Tesco, Terry Leahy is one of the most respected business leaders in the UK and is well known for his success in turning around Tesco to become the largest chain in Britain, transforming the country’s supermarket industry.

Terry worked his way up through Tesco and shares some of his real-life management lessons focusing on the importance of an effective leadership approach, customer experience and how to utilise big data in business growth and customer relationships. As one of the most admired business leaders in the UK he was knighted in 2002 for his services to food retailing.

Terry’s career with Tesco began in 1979 as a marketing trainee. He worked through the business and became Marketing Director in 1984 and when Tesco formed a board level position in marketing in 1992 they promoted Terry. In 1995 he became deputy Managing Director in preparation for promotion to CEO which happened in 1997 and is when he made his greatest impact on Tesco. Terry oversaw huge change and growth, from adopting new store formats; Tesco Metro, Express & Hypermarket, to implementing customer centric changes such as the Tesco loyalty programme for frequent customers – a first in grocery retailing – and diversifying into banking and financial services, expanding internationally and introducing catalogue and online shopping.

In his first book, “Management in Ten Words” (Random House, 2012), Terry shares 10 essential management lessons that emerged from his intensive turnaround of the company. The book will help managers across the world understand what makes a company great and inspire them to move theirs forward.

A sought after speaker Terry’s countless speeches on management have garnered standing ovations and critical acclaim. He stresses that effective leadership does matter in the success of an organization and believes a truly effective leader is defined by what they influence others to achieve. He explains – and exemplifies – that a good leader takes individuals further than they would go on their own, and he directs managers to pass this idea along to their own employees, encouraging them to become leaders too.

In 2008, Terry was nominated by Retail Week as Retail Leader of the Year. From 2005 to 2010, he was voted Britain’s Most Admired Leader by Management Today and in 2004 he was named European Businessman of the year by FORTUNE magazine. In 2010, he received the Daily Telegraph’s Award for a Decade of Excellence in Business, a Lifetime Achievement award from Director Magazine and was voted Business Person of the Year by the Sunday Times. In 2011, Terry received two awards from Retail Week: the Lifetime Achievement Award and Retail Leader of the Year.

Leadership Lessons from the Trenches

There are management models aplenty from prominent researchers and thinkers available to today’s business leaders. But often, real-life advice is worth more than anything you will learn in a classroom. Terry – credited with turning the small-scale supermarket into U.K.’s largest retailer through such strategies as implementing a loyalty program, monitoring shopping habits of the program’s members and acting on that data, and visiting one store each week – shares some of his most important management lessons. He also stresses that customer experience is core to nearly every business, and offers recommendations to help transform it. In a nutshell, data alone doesn’t cut it.

Turnarounds Are Tough: Don’t Be Afraid

Being a chief executive is hard. It’s even harder when corporate survival is at stake. Terry, lauded for his leadership of Tesco supermarket’s remarkable turnaround, offers one overarching message: don’t be afraid. Drawing from his personal experiences, he provides deep insights into the hard – and soft – skills needed to overcome difficult odds. He explores several key leadership and strategy “secrets” including, start with an audacious goal, know trust and confidence often trump all else, learn your competitors, and defy industry logic.                                               

The Intersection of Big Data and Leadership

Big Data is not a buzzword or a fad; it’s a movement and a business growth strategy – and it’s not going away. Big Data, and particularly its role in bolstering customer relationships, will continue to be one of the most impactful business drivers over the next decade, predicts Terry. But, as the former Tesco CEO warns, organizations must transform both their structures and their leadership approach to reap the rewards. He says it requires radically different thinking, new organizational structures and processes, and new leadership skill sets to interpret and connect data in more creative and meaningful ways. Terry discusses how to find the right combination of data and technology to change customer relationships and the business trajectory, and emphasizes that Big Data on its own is not enough; values, culture and purpose matter just as much, if not more

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