Wednesday, June 18, 2008

About the obsession with detail by great leaders.

From the book: "Allan Leighton on Leadership".
See further for more posts about this book.

Following testimony from Allan Leighton explains about his first meeting with Rupert Murdoch and the obsession with detail to be found in truly great leaders.

Allan Leighton: "The voice on the other end of the mobile phone is friendly, but immediately comes to the point. "Allan, it’s Rupert. l’d like to meet with you tomorrow to discuss your joining the board of BSkyB."
"Id love to see you," I replied, doing my best to hide my amazement at the call from this business icon who, until then, I’d never met. "But I’m going to be in Hull visiting an ASDA store."
"Fine, I’ll see you there," came the reply. Then he added, "Is it OK if I get there at lunch time?"

Rupert Murdoch, the most powerful media baron in the world, immediately put a line through his obviously frantic schedule to walk the aisles of a supermarket in northern Britain. He had made a decision about the BSkyB board and wanted to act on it immediately. His action that day encapsulates everything I admire about good leadership -seizing the opportunity, focusing and getting the job done.

But when Rupert walked into the ASDA supermarket that day, much to the shock of all the store staff who recognised him, the first thing he did was not to bend my ear. Instead he strode over to the newspaper display. Seeing that the Sun, the flagship title of his publishing empire, had sold out he picked up his mobile and phoned the then editor, David Yelland.

"I’m in an ASDA in Hull, it’s lunchtime and there are no copies of the Sun," he barked. "Find Out why."

You can only imagine the head-scratching at News Corporation’s HQ in London’s Wapping. What could Rupert Murdoch, presumed to be safely ensconced in his London base, possibly be doing at a supermarket in Hull counting, or more to the point not counting, copies of tabloid newspapers? But it isn’thard to guess the effect.

You could call this an obsession with detail! And it certainly is. Whenever I visit a store or a depot, I never fail to pick up the phone to the office with a question for the man or woman who is responsible for something that isn’t quite right. Not only does it get the problem sorted — and fast — but it also lets everyone know I don’t miss a thing. It’s also part and parcel of getting things right for the customer.