4 Oct 2019 01:25pm

As I see it: John Allan CBE

John Allan CBE, president of the Confederation of British Industry and chairman at Barratt Developments and Tesco, shares his thoughts on a life in business

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Caption: Photography by David Vintiner

I THOUGHT ABOUT becoming a doctor because of my father, who was involved in the medical world, but later decided (aged 10) I would like to be a professional chess player.

IF I HAD TO PICK ONE proudest moment in business it would be agreeing and announcing with my opposite number, Gerry Murphy [at the National Freight Company], the merger that created Exel. It was a genuine merger and it created the opportunity to become a global leader in logistics. Most important of all, it worked!

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED ABOUT GOOD LEADERSHIP? Listen and then be decisive. Communicate clearly and often. Treat people honestly and well. Don’t take too much credit.

THERE IS NO FIXED FORMULA for managing my different roles as chairman at Tesco and Barratt Developments, and president of the CBI. I try to give each the time they need, which varies from week to week. Weekends provide time to catch up.

THE SKILLS REQUIRED to run a business aren’t that different to 20 years ago, save two. Today’s managers need to have a much greater understanding of the current and future potential impacts of technology on their business and markets. And the pace of change has increased dramatically in most businesses – we need to be much more agile and fast on our feet.

I’VE LEARNED THE POWER of teams over individuals, however talented.

John Allan is opening ICAEW’s CFO Conference 2019: Empowering the Strategic Leader with a keynote address.