The greatest Briton: Adrian Cadbury

If the BBC can do it, so can Personnel Today. We want to know which Briton
you rate as the greatest people manager and leader of all time. Personnel Today
has invited 10 leading figures in the field of management to nominate
individuals they believe are the best, and then convince you they are right. To
vote, visit the voting form where you will also find summaries of all 10
nominees.
The voting closes on Tuesday 4th March 2003.

This week’s nominee is:

Adrian Cadbury

By Geoff Armstrong, director-general of the Chartered Institute of Personnel
and Development

There are many great leaders in all walks of life. Not all of them are at
the top of their organisations, and not all are household names or heroic
figures. Dominant personality or forceful influence is not often the measure of
an effective leader, other than, perhaps, in times of crisis.

By my reckoning, a leader is someone who crafts a clear winning vision,
listening carefully to the views of those being asked to follow; who
articulates, practices and embodies consistent values; and who communicates
compellingly, engaging the willing contribution, commitment and initiative of
the led.

A leader is sensitive to changing customer and other stakeholder demands and
is flexible enough to keep on raising the game without compromising values.
Above all, a leader is able to project into the future and introduce
strategies, practices, cultures, relationships and organisations that make the
vision a reality.

Most of the time, the best leaders pursue programmes of organisation-wide
continuous learning and improvement. Sustainable success is built on
regeneration, not jerky revolution.

Leadership is a collective act over time – not a one-man-band or a one-night
stand. Leaders boldly seek out, evaluate and adopt radical options that fit the
strategy and values of the organisation. They don’t indulge in strategic
pinball, chasing untried strategies just because previous leaders have not.

I believe Sir Adrian Cadbury deserves the title of Greatest Briton in
Management and Leadership on two counts. First, he led his family firm towards
being a global player and, second, he pioneered thinking about management
ethics, governance and social responsibility, setting a practical path for
others to follow.

Building on the Quaker tradition of mutual respect, the original Cadbury
business invested heavily in employee welfare, education and housing. Employees
were not just cogs in the wheel, but expected to contribute ideas, and their
views were sought and valued.

Cadbury’s particular contribution was to move beyond paternalism and
articulate the values underpinning a progressive approach to people. He showed
that practices could be designed to draw the best from employees, and that
there was a compelling business case for treating people as respected
contributors, not disposable human resources. He led the team that laid the
groundwork for the globally competitive Cadbury Schweppes that we see today – a
thinking, learning company with a hard-headed business performance culture
rooted in respect for people and their potential.

Early in his career, Cadbury spent substantial time in personnel, and it
convinced him of the importance of linking people management with business
strategy. Writing in 1982, he said: "It does concern me that so little
note seems to be taken in the upper reaches of management of what is known
about how people behave and how they are likely to react, for example, to
different approaches to participation, work organisation or payment
systems."

He recognised, once again ahead of many, that organisations would need to
adapt rapidly to changes in the marketplace, and that the way they organised
themselves to achieve that was a source of competitive advantage.

"I see the future lying with small units, flexibly managed, largely on
the basis of individuals rather than departments and based on personal contact
rather than collective negotiation," he says.

His prophecy was that personnel departments would need to take the lead in
framing policies for every aspect of the business and involve in their
formation "those whom you hope will be bound by it".

Moving that into today’s terms of high-performance working, psychological
contact and employee voice, Cadbury’s call is every bit as relevant today.

More broadly, Cadbury tackled head-on the subject of business and management
ethics. Notably in his award-winning Harvard Business Review article of 1987,
‘Ethical Managers Make Their Own Rules’, he gave a practical template for
managers wishing to work ethically. Internationally, his influence has been
huge, demonstrating in practical terms that businesses do not operate in a
moral or social vacuum and that it is possible to compete while adhering to
consistent ethical values.

He went on in the 1990s to lead the review of corporate governance that
bears his name. While he focused on ethical values, transparency and
consistency, it was perhaps inevitable that the recommendations about
structures, rules and procedures attracted most attention.

Rightly, in my view, he emphasised that compliance is hard to enforce if
people are not convinced it is the right thing to do. Willing engagement, as in
all aspects of people management, is far preferable to reluctant working to the
rules.

So, Cadbury is a visionary and a people-centred business leader. He is a
clear-thinking, principled man with a genuine interest in people as
individuals. Cadbury gets my vote.

Cadbury’s CV

1929 Adrian Cadbury born

1947 Educated at King’s College, Cambridge

1952 A keen rower, he competes in the Olympics

1965 Works in various roles in the family business – including
a stint in personnel – before becoming chairman of the company at age 36

1970 Appointed as a director of the Bank of England, a role he
carries out for 24 years  

1989 Steps down as Cadbury chairman

1990 Writes business tome The Company Chairman

1992 Releases influential, government-backed code on corporate
governance

2002 Author of Corporate Governance and Chairmanship – A
Personal View

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