A loss of focus could bite you in the career

What makes a good leader? By all accounts, that’s the big question at Nokia this week as sources suggest that the firm is conducting cloak-and-dagger interviews to replace incumbent chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

It’s no surprise that Nokia may be trying to replace the man at the top. In the four years that Kallasvuo has been in charge, Apple and its rivals have moved onto his turf with their smartphones. So although Kallasvuo still presides over the world’s largest mobile business, he’s losing out to others in this incredibly lucrative segment.

Nokia might want to look at the consumer goods sector to see how important leadership can be in turning around a business. Another chief executive who has been in place for four years is Martin Glenn, boss of frozen food firm Birds Eye Iglo. Glenn’s company seems to be going from strength to strength. This week, it won a bidding war for Unilever’s last European frozen food division – Findus Italy – and it expects to double its business in three years.

When he joined Birds Eye Iglo, Glenn’s research told him that its frozen products were seen as “dead food in a box”. Now frozen items are thought of as an economical and sensible way to eat.

Glenn’s leadership has played a part in this. A former marketer and PepsiCo UK president, he knows the value of building brands and creating corporate strategies to support them. He is backed by private equity firm Permira but has avoided running his business based solely on cost concerns.

“Birds Eye Iglo chief executive Martin Glenn knows the value of building brands, and has avoided running his business based solely on cost concerns”

In fact, says Glenn, his boardroom conversation is never about money alone but also covers “the quality of our people, brands and products”.

Glenn’s understanding of how a brand can drive business performance is a lesson he learned in the days when he was a marketer. In our cover story on page 14, we ask some of the country’s most senior marketers about the qualities needed for leadership. Almost everyone agrees there is no single formula for success, but there are plenty of ways to get it wrong. When leadership falls away in the marketing department, the whole business suffers.

This is something Glenn already knows. And if the rumours about changes at Nokia prove to be correct, it’s something that Kallasvuo – who was formerly a chief financial officer rather than a marketer – may wish he had discovered before Apple took a bite out of his career.

Ruth Mortimer, associate editor

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