Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Wilting Rose

The Windsor Leadership Trust's annual lecture was given this year by the Chairman and CEO of Marks and Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose.

I was really looking forward to the evening. WLT events are normally very strong. In previous years I had seen bravura performances from leaders such as Allan Leighton and Sir Ian Blair (just in the aftermath of 7/7 so totally fascinating).

Tonight however was different. Sir Stuart was, well, simply dull. He had very few insights to offer beyond the usual golf club cliches and tired military metaphores. He just didn't come across as a man running Britain's best-loved firm. Neither did you get a sense of how he had come to be the man he is. No sense of the inner drive or exceptional motivation which catapults people to high profile jobs.

In terms of the concept ofleadership itself, I sensed that he wasn't particularly interested. He is clearly no intellectual but, at the same time, obviously knows, on quite an instinctive, practical how to lead. Perhaps what was most frustrating was that he couldn't really articulate this in an engaging way, leaving his audience unfulfilled, as testified by the dearth of questions at the end.

I am probably being a little harsh. Rose is under a lot of pressure right now as the media paint his recovery as another M&S false dawn. I agree with Rose that M&S is a much better business now than it was when he took over but its clear, from the whole body-language, that he feels he is entering the last year or two of his reign.

I nearly asked a question about his reaction to the election of Obama and what he made of Obama as a leader. Then I didn't. Because I wasn't particularly interested in what he might say.

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