Great Acts to Follow

Article excerpt

Who, for you, embodies the essential qualities of a leader? That's the question Management Today asked six pre-eminent figures from the business world -- people who themselves have inspired others and understand all too well the challenges faced by those at the top. Our request to them was simple: take us to your leader

JOHN MONKS, GENERAL SECRETARY, TUC

I naturally look first at union leaders and pick Ernest Bevin. Bevin built the Transport and General Union into Britain's largest union and ruled it with dynamism and skill. Additionally, he was one of the first to see that Keynesian economics could help conquer mass unemployment. He became minister of labour in 1940 and was a massive figure in the wartime coalition government, mobilising more of the country's resources than his counterparts in Nazi Germany. In 1945, he took over as foreign secretary in the Atlee administration and was instrumental in founding NATO. Trade unionist and statesman -- not always right, he was hostile to the forerunners of the EU -- a mighty figure of 20th-century history.

CHARLES MUIRHEAD, FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, ORCHESTREAM

The pace of technological change, and the rate at which businesses are changing, requires leaders to have a particular aptitude for technology and an understanding of the internet. Steve Jobs at Apple has shown vision, and an understanding of organisations, strategic issues and how they relate to technology.

A lot of people in the market are aware of the opportunities, but with clever marketing, product design and technological innovation, and very close attention to detail, he achieved so much. It wouldn't have happened without his awareness, and it's been instrumental in Apple's resurgence.

He has a different approach to management -- he's very much hands on, he doesn't just say that 'this is a business just like any other'. He goes much deeper than that. A good example is their latest idea to make virtual disc space available to Apple users on the internet. The championing and execution of ideas like this comes straight from the influence and insight of the CEO. It's a great example of leadership in the age we're in.

CAROL FISHER, CEO CENTRAL OFFICE OF INFORMATION

As a trained historian I often look at today's events and wonder how history will judge them 30 or 50 years hence. The man for me who is the outstanding leader of the 20th century is Nelson Mandela. He has all of the qualities a great leader should have.

He understood both tactics and strategy and was prepared to play a very long game to achieve his objectives. He understood that in negotiations you need the 'win, win' concept and left the whites with their dignity. He embraced all parts of the population and made them united in their shared pride in being South African. I remember a white South African telling me of the tremendous shared feeling when Mr Mandela donned a national rugby shirt during the World Cup. He achieved memorability by just being himself. …