In Management in 10 Words, former Tesco CEO Terry Leahy shares a powerful story of personal accomplishment and, moreover, one of transforming a giant.
When Leahy started his career, he was stocking shelves, but by 1997, at the age of 41, he had stepped into the top job. Back then, Tesco was an industry laggard, dwarfed by its two larger rivals, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. Concluding Tesco’s future was in leading the industry through market knowledge, Leahy set out to radically transform Tesco and the industry.
By the time Leahy left some fourteen years later, Tesco was six times the size of the former industry leaders and the third largest retailer in the world. An extraordinary transformation, yet Leahy makes it seem all too easy by summarizing management in just ten words.
One of his words is: “Act.”
As you well know, getting what you want requires taking action. It requires you take steps and keep taking steps all the way until you get what you want.
And here’s the thing: whereas many of us get stuck contemplating the right next steps to take, instead what you find is by taking just the smallest steps you build the momentum that keeps you moving.
As Dale Carnegie put it: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Another aspect to “Act” is you must be willing to think far enough ahead.
Constantly bombarded with emails and voicemails. All day every day engulfed in fire drills. Continuously looking ahead to what needs to be done today, tomorrow, and this week, few of us make the time to look beyond our weekly schedule, let alone be planning ahead.
It’s a shame.
And it’s one of the main reasons that few people will ever reach their potential and create the most magnificent version of their life.
Instead, with long bucket lists and idealized dreams for their future, most people will just keep pounding away, only to one day look back and see those things they once dreamed are no longer possible in their life.
The Chinese have a proverb that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. So, while it would have been nice to have been thinking far ahead twenty years ago, the time is always NOW.
What is it that enabled a young man to go from stacking shelves to building one of the largest companies in the world?
In his book, Terry Leahy writes: “The words ‘long term’ ran like a thread through many decisions we took. For example, starting in a new country takes ten year to build the store network and probably another ten years to create a leading consumer brand.”
It is through thinking ahead and consistently taking actions that anything and everything becomes possible.