When Leaders Lose It


Tesco is a British multinational retailer that is said to be the world’s second largest in terms of profits and the third largest in terms of revenues.

The problem is it’s losing money. The current situation then got the ire of former chairman Ian MacLaurin, leading him to criticize Terry Leahy’s legacy at the same time asking investors to give Philip Clarke, Leahy’s successor, about three years to make a turnaround. Incidentally, Leahy is considered among UK’s more successful businessmen.

So why is Tesco losing money? A ton of writedowns and a handful of failed U.S. investments in Fresh and Easy.

Now ironically, it was MacLaurin who appointed Leahy, an insider, when he retired in 1997. Nonetheless, during Leahy’s term, Tesco was enjoying double-digit growth and not until it tried to penetrate the U.S. market in 2007 that Tesco started to lose poise. And just after Terry Leahy retired in 2011, followed by a price drop strategy failure, Tesco crumbled.

Well, frankly many leaders try to do that – they leave before getting burned. To save face. To protect their rep. But there are times when it’s just too obvious that the heat still reaches the real culprit. And so we hear MacLaurin.

Strategies. Strategies. This is what builds a leader’s rep. And this is why leaders are hired, fired, and why some quit. Does experience have anything to do with being a great strategist? No. Experience only says you failed many times, and that doesn’t necessarily translate to later success. What brings success is real understanding of the situation for better decision-making along with courage and timing.

And mind you, courage is a whole lot different from cockiness. The former thinks of his responsibilities to others, the latter just thinks of his personal glory.

What’s your take?