Following the leader

Adrian Trenholm retells this story at 173drurylane.

The Sainsbury’s CEO employs an executive coach. The coach tells the CEO that his every move is closely watched by colleagues and that they take their lead from CEO whether the CEO realises it or not.

To prove it the coach proposes an experiment. He hands a copy of The Grocer to the CEO. The rules of the experiment are that the CEO is simply to keep the magazine visible whenever he is in the company of a Sainsbury’s employee, but he is not to talk about it and he is to deflect questions if anyone asks him about it.

For two weeks, the CEO carries round a copy of The Grocer magazine.

At the next meeting, the coach asks the CEO how the experiment has gone. The CEO says: No-one commented on it, no-one questioned it, no-one even appeared to notice it. They listen to what I say, but you are wrong: they don’t watch my every move.

The coach then drops a bombshell: Sainsbury’s employees had taken out 400 new subscriptions to the Grocer during the previous two weeks.

4 thoughts on “Following the leader

  1. Management Craft

    Why Managers and Leaders Fail

    Here are a few interesting links that relate to why managers and leaders fail: This post from Leadership Now discusses why many managers and leaders fail after taking on a new job. Hint: Relationships are key. Second comes this interesting

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  2. Management Craft

    Why Managers and Leaders Fail

    Here are a few interesting links that relate to why managers and leaders fail: This post from Leadership Now discusses why many managers and leaders fail after taking on a new job. Hint: Relationships are key. Second comes this interesting little story…

    Reply
  3. Stanley Moss

    Reminds me of a story I once heard about a corporate lunch in Japan, where everyone watched the CEO at the head of the table refuse the salt for his meal. Everyone else follows suit. Turns out it isn’t a matter of taste; the guy is simply on a low-sodium diet.

    Reply
  4. Adrian Trenholm

    In Japanese culture, the “follow the leader” trait is particularly strong. As a postgrad, living in a hall of residence, I used to sit down to eat every day with a dozen academics, including two Japanese professors who were in the UK for a year.

    They took their lead from the most senior: the hall warden. The warden, knowing this trait, used to wind them up by putting butter on his chips. Immediately, the Japanese called for butter and did likewise. Not one of the “juniors” could persuade them that this was not a great idea.

    Reply

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