To Vinopolis for a sit down and a chat with the former CEO of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy.
The event is “Under the Spotlight,” a regular, intimate occasion produced by Gemma Greaves and her team at the Marketing Society. At 630pm, over 120 members drawn from leading brands and agencies are milling around over cheese and wine, meanwhile I go to meet Sir Terry with his publicity person from Random House, Najma Finaly.
I have been warned that Sir Terry is a man of few words and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, so I resolve to give him a firm handshake and say a few, well chosen words of introduction. However, as this may well result in us all sitting in silence for ten minutes, I immediately bottle it and start blabbing on about a golf course near where he lives (he doesn’t play golf) and Everton football club (which he supports).
He is kind enough to let me do a polite conversational bungee jump, which ends up with me dangling over a surreal moment; discussing the need to have polite conversation, before we take the stage together to discuss his book, Management in 10 Words.
He is as self-deprecating as you can be when you have added £30 billion to the value of your employer’s business in one decade, and he makes no apology for being well paid during his tenure. Admittedly the culture of retailing and supermarkets is different to that of banking, but both (should) involve leadership and integrity. “No business exists in a moral vacuum” says Sir Terry.
A refreshing, direct and simple philosophy which the bosses at Barclays and indeed the resident of No.11 Downing Street would do well to follow on our behalf.