Friday, June 13, 2008

Leadership Lessons from an Allan Leighton book

I am immensely enjoying a paperback I bought in an ASDA store in the UK a few weeks ago: "Allan Leighton on Leadership".

I hadn't heard of Mr. Leighton before, but I understand he is a popular turnaround CEO in the UK, having worked for Mars, The Royal Mail and ...ASDA.

He interviewed a series of CEO colleagues and asked them about all sorts of leadership issues, which he compiled in a book. What made me buy the book was the fact that also Rupert Murdoch was among the CEO's who were interviewed by Leighton.

Here are a few leadership ideas from Mr. Murdoch taken from the book from Allan Leighton:

Leighton: "Incidentally, one very useful trick I've learned from Rupert Murdoch is to use meetings as a way to keep people on their toes. He (Mr. Murdoch) reckons that he is given so many papers and board minutes to wade through that he may not always have time to read them all. Instead, he will simply flick to, say, page 56 and focus on a detail that no one has really considered. Quite nonchalantly, he will then refer to the item and ask a detailed question. Of course, unless the rest of the executives have taken care to be exceptio0nally well briefed, they are left open-mouthed and floundering. It's a very clever, effective way to ensure that everyone consistently stays on the ball."

Rupert Murdoch about communication:
"Build a reputation for openness, honesty and good ethics in a company. You must have that and do everything you can to stamp out any politics that might be going on behind you."

Rupert Murdoch Leadership Lessons:
- Keep in touch with details
- Get involved
- Capitalise quickly on changing opportunities

James Murdoch (son of) Leadership Lessons:
- Be inclusive, but at the same time decisive.
- Constantly change and show a willingness to change.
- When everybody says we're crazy, that's when we feel best about our direction.

Leighton: "Rupert Murdoch clearly loves new technology and anything that enables him to open up entirely new markets. His approach shows a passionate engagement with the newspapers that created his empire, and a clear-sighted acceptance of the necessity and inevitability of change. When I spoke to him, he talked generally about technological innovation, and then specifically about how it is affecting, among other things, politics and the reporting of politics."

Rupert Murdoch: "The internet will have a huge role in the political process in future. At the last election, people set up websites, usually to oppose something and News Corporation's MySpace could play a terrific part in the next one. The whole thing about sites like MySpace is that people contribute every word. It can be hugely powerful at spreading stories that otherwise might go unnoticed. For all that, newspapers are still going to be around, very strong and very influential for a long time. In Britain we consider ourselves to have the best quality daily and we certainly have got the most successful Sunday newspapers. At the very least we will be the last ones left standing."