It is increasingly evident that today’s best-performing companies are run by teams, and success is not just down to the CEO.

Perhaps it was always a myth, but the days of the all-seeing, all-knowing CEO are over.

In a multichannel world, specialist skills are required which didn’t exist five years ago.

The pace of change and sheer complexity of running a retailer on a cross-channel and often cross-border basis means that responsibility has to be devolved further down the organisation.

When managed well, this in turn can lead to the development of broader management skills at mid- as well as senior level, creating a strong succession pipeline.

We have also seen the rise of real specialists in certain areas – not just digital, which has probably had the highest profile recently, but also in sourcing, IT and supply chain – and their expertise is often needed in the boardroom and at investor presentations when communicating strategic plans.

Culture shift

There has been a clear shift in the cultural style of successful organisations in recent years.

Historically retail was very much a command and control industry, run by autocrats with an iron fist and an iron will.

Some such leaders are still around, but their days are numbered, as a couple of high-profile examples have recently shown.

”The rising stars and leaders of tomorrow expect to be heard as well as seen and to be treated as valued colleagues, not cogs in the machine”

Today’s approach is far more inclusive and collegiate and, although the buck still stops at the CEO’s desk, this may now be out in an open plan area rather than in an oak-panelled office with deep-pile carpets.

Empowering staff on the front line leads to a higher level of engagement and a sense of ownership which is invaluable in terms of building consumer relationships and driving customer loyalty.

The rising stars and leaders of tomorrow expect to be heard as well as seen and to be treated as valued colleagues, not cogs in the machine.

Team strength

It can’t be coincidence that some of the most consistent performers in retail are run by strong, stable teams which have created a sense of purpose and a set of values that resonates at all levels.

JLP is an obvious example of shared values and Next has built an incredibly loyal and close-knit team.

Next’s double act of Wolfson and Keens was widely respected in the City for many years and, when the latter came to retire, his number two was ready and able to step into his shoes.

“Three power players are starting to emerge: the CFO running all the back office; the chief purchasing officer overseeing buying, merchandising and design; and the chief customer officer responsible for all customer touchpoints”

At Sainsbury’s the trio of Tyler, Coupe and Rogers has continued to impress in the incredibly tough grocery market.

And over in Dublin, Primark’s Paul Marchant has gathered a formidable board which has worked to deliver an outstanding international success story.

At Clarity, recognising the power of teams, we always look to strike a balance in the skillset of the board, supporting the CEO with complementary expertise across the key disciplines.

Three power players are starting to emerge: the CFO running all the back office; the chief product officer overseeing buying, merchandising and design; and the chief customer officer responsible for all customer touchpoints.

And any one of them could be the CEO’s successor.

  • Fran Minogue is managing partner of Clarity Search