Sir Terry Leahy says marketers have great CEO potential

Marketers make the best CEOs and more should be represented in company boardrooms, according to Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy.

Leahy says that marketers’ appreciation of the consumer is a key strength for any business.

At an event hosted by the London Business Forum, Leahy said: “There should be more marketers as CEOs. The customer is a great place to build a business from. The customer is the most important thing and so understanding the customer and how to win and keep them is a terrific strength for a business.”

Leahy joined Tesco in 1979 as a marketer and was the first marketing director to sit on the supermarket’s board in 1992.

“It’s hard to argue with what the customer is saying and if you can bring that into the boardroom it’s a very powerful tool,” he says.

“All I had was the voice of the customer and made my argument to the decision makers on their behalf, which proved to be incredibly powerful in terms of persuading colleagues how the business needed to change.”

Leahy has been CEO of Tesco since 1997 but will be replaced by current international and IT director Philip Clarke in March. Clarke has also held marketing roles at the supermarket giant.

McDonald’s has recently promoted former chief marketing officer Jill McDonald to UK chief executive and president for the fast-food chain’s Northern Europe division, while DIY chain B&Q has reinstated marketing to the board with the appointment of former Asda marketer Katherine Paterson as its marketing director.

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