What is the most important attribute of a business leader?
Honesty and transparency. Today businesses operate in a very public forum where they can be challenged in any number of public communication channels. My experience of the retail sector, especially at John Lewis Partnership, taught me early on that leaders need to be able to stand behind their decisions, both morally and commercially, and be accountable.
What is your guiding principle?
We are all equals. Everyone has something to offer and should be treated with equal respect. You can’t have a policy that works for some and not all. If we feel valued at work and a part of something important, we will be more loyal and encouraged to participate.
What advice would you give your children in business?
Never stop learning and pursue education at every level. Having a strong academic background will help you in dealing with complex issues or situations. You must also have perseverance to be able to hold on to the bigger picture and ride through the bumps along the way.
What single action would you take to make business more responsible?
Have a balanced business scorecard that integrates your core values. Performance of individuals should be measured against their leadership and the relationships they have with colleagues, suppliers and customers and not just the financials. This will drive the behaviours that lead to a more collegiate environment and increased productivity.
What is the greatest lesson your life in business has taught you?
Never lose your sense of curiosity and thirst for learning. You have to be adaptable to be able to keep up with demands and fast moving changes. Social media has shown us that if you don’t recognise how your customers and employees are communicating, you will be left behind. There are now so many ways to spread your messages, it makes you dizzy!
Christine de Largy is Managing Director of Impact Executives and Chair UK Board Practice, Harvey Nash