Anita Roddick is the creator of Body Shop whose controversial leadership style was contrasted with Jack Welch the acknowledged leader in corporate management. The comparison shows that whilst some traits such as passion for success are common to both leaders there is significant difference in other areas such as the leadership style applied. In some instances though the final outcome is the same, the two leaders were motivated by different ideals. Whilst Anita brings her personal ideas of environmental activism into her business, Jack Welch approves the green approach where it makes sense from a profit making angle. However, taking into account the challenges faced and the leaving behind of a legacy, this study concludes that the Jack Welch approach demonstrates a stronger leadership model that is also replicable rather than the activist approach of Anita.
The following is a comparison of the leadership strategies of two leaders; both successful in their own way, though with markedly different leadership approaches. Both are business leaders and are compared and contrasted by reviewing traits, values, behavior and leadership styles.
Born in 1942, Anita Roddick was the founder of ‘Body Shop’ cosmetics. Her first shop was opened when she was 34 with the sole object of survival for the family. However, in to the highly competitive world of cosmetics where promises are easily made and difficult if not impossible to be validated in marched Anita with her own definition of what beauty meant and more importantly with a mission to set the record straight. Controversy which soon followed her became an opportunity for publicity for the business as well as a platform to air he views. Some claim that Anita is a model for a responsible leadership style whilst others remain more skeptical (Franklin Research’s Insight 1994). In he autobiography, Anita proclaimed that “it is immoral to trade on fear. â€¦ It is immoral to deceive a customer by making miracle claims for a product. It is immoral to use a photograph of a glowing sixteen-year-old to sell a cream aimed at preventing wrinkles in a forty-year old.” (Roddick, 1991 Pg. 15) Anita sums up her leadership strategy in her own direct, no-nonsense style – “Being good is good business”. (Hospitality Leadership, 2009) In 2006, Body Shop was the subject of a take over by the cosmetic giant L’Oreal and Anita passed away in 2007.
Dr. John Francis Jack Welch was born in 1935. With a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Jack Welch became the General Manager of General Electric (GE) when he was 33. Ambitious from a young age, Jack Welch started with the ambition of making $ 30,000 by the time he was 30 years of age. Unlike Body Shop which was established by Anita Roddick, GE had a successful, long standing heritage. Established in 1892, the history of GE can be traced back to the famous inventor Thomas Edison. As Jeff Immelt, the present CEO who replaced Jack Welch, reminded Fortune magazine in 2004, “There’s going to be someone after me, just as there was someone before me” (Time Mastery 2005 Pg. 29).”
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Jack Welch took the rains of an already successful organization in 1981 but took it from triumph to triumph as the CEO till 2001. He is still a well sought after speaker as well as consultant. Unlike Anita’s green approach, Jack Welch is not convinced with global warming (The Washington Post 3 July, 2008) though one year later he sees going green as presenting an enormous opportunity, whether one believes in global warming or not” (Welch, 12 May, 2009). Jack Welch’s leadership approach was that “Effective Leadership involves the acceptance and management of paradox. For example we must function collectively as one company and individually as many businesses at the same time”. (Crainer, 1999, p.49).
A trait is a character that can be observed over and over in one’s personality. Leadership traits can identify a good leader and assist in emulating them. Such traits include, integrity, competency, forward looking approach, fair mindedness, broad mindedness, courage and ability to take risks, intelligence, imagination, inspiring personality and directness of approach.
Integrity has been defined as the quality of a person’s character. (SEP, 2008) Thus integrity may also be seen as the ability to ‘walk the talk’. Anita’s leadership style has been portrayed as a model for responsible leadership acting with great honesty and integrity, especially in the cosmetic industry and she was in the forefront of environmental activism. This of course may also have made good business sense as acknowledged by Jack Welch too in the 2009 interview. Jack Welch considers integrity to be such a fundamental requirement that he refuses to even list it amongst a list of virtues. If you don’t have integrity you should not be allowed on the field at all. (Welch 2007 Pg. 14)
Of course both Anita and Jack Welch display clear forward looking planning. Anita created a company that went where no other cosmetic company of that magnitude had gone before. Jack Welch’s problems were even more complicated requiring him to acknowledge the illustrious history of GE and then to steer in a direction more suited to the future. In doing so Anita and Jack Welch demonstrated immense courage and conviction taking risks that were perhaps make or break decisions. Of course in taking their respective companies to places where they had not been before, both leaders showed clear well developed imaginativeness and superior intelligence.
Anita’s primary motivational factor apart from her charismatic personality was to make the Body Shop employees feel that they were a part of a large family. (Roddick, 1991 Pg. 7) Jack Welch on the other hand used different approaches to motivate employees including money, recognition and training. (Welch, 2007 Pg. 106)
Dark side traits
Dark-side personality traits are those which are counter productive to a leader’s success and may lead to their failure. Whilst everyone has some dark side traits, they may be visible only when the leader is under stress. In the case of Anita Roddick, whilst she was at the front in requiring better corporate governance and ethical corporate response, when Body Shop was put under pressure by criticism that it was not following its ‘talk’ instead of relying on a transparent approach it appears to have used ‘combative response’ and the threat to use legal action to silence its critics. (Franklin Research’s Insight 1994) Anita in her autobiography however states that
As for Jack Welch, his approach to corporate restructuring has been criticized by persons such as O,boyle. Down sizing, lay offs and closure of plants was a key part of this strategy which focused mostly on keeping the shareholders happy (Jakubowicz, 1999). GE which had 440,000 employees world wide when Jack Welch started as CEO in 1981 was by 1997 operating with only 260,000 employees but making much greater profits. (Crainer 1999) This closing of plants and large scale dismissal of employees left many small towns which relied on GE plants for jobs in great difficulty. His pressure on the managers to keep a regular flow of profits may have led to them taking shortcuts to profit making. Requirements for success
Anita though not initially a technical person, continued to be in touch with the technical aspects of her business. She was always travelling around, meeting indigenous people and finding new product ideas. John Davies (2007) who was a consultant to Body Shop at one time talks of how Anita walked into a meeting announcing that she had invented a new lip balm. Therefore, Anita seemed to have actually enjoyed being involved in the technical and development aspects of the business too. Jack Welch was an engineer but came to be recognized as a manager and a CEO rather than an inventor.
For Anita the first milestone in her business was to feed her kids whilst her husband was on an extended tour in South America. Perhaps a turning point in the Body Shop image was when Anita partnered with Greenpeace in protecting whales by marketing products made with jojoba oil as a substitute for whale spermaceti. This was a pioneering venture where business partnered with a charity. (Alcraft, 1998) Though Jack Welch encouraged financial goals to be celebrated, he had little use for milestones as such since, once achieved, they represented the past whilst he preferred to focus on the future. (Hartman, 2003)
Leadership Values and Ethics
If we make an effort to understand our values, it makes it easier to keep our priorities in the right order and our actions in line with our beliefs (Anzary, 2009). The most important qualities and values of a good leader are vision, empathy, consistency, integrity.
Anita as well as Jack Welch both had a clear vision as well as displayed passion in their approach. Anita’s vision included a larger global vision which went beyond the corporate goals (Roddick, 2000) whilst Jack Welch focused on improving the shareholders value at any cost. Jack Welch on vision states that “good business leaders create a vision. They articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”. (Crainer 1999 Pg. 77)
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Anita’s manner of expressing empathy with her staff included that of making them feel that they were part of a large family. Although Jack Welch too recognized the need to invest in people and put this into practice by spending time with them, devising methods to motivate people etc., (Crainer 1999 Pg. 23) it is clear that his approach was to come own heavy on people and he had no regrets about dismissing employees when required.
However, his understanding of the follower’s reality is demonstrated by his approach to budgeting for example where he recognized the reason for the divide between the upper management and field staff and suggests strategies for remedying same. (Welch & Welch 2005 Pg. 189).
From the point of corporate integrity Anita’s propaganda spoke of this as a key factor pushing the idea that the customer needs to be told the truth about what can and cannot be achieved with the products. She was also opposed to animal testing and promoted the green approach and a more socially responsible approach with concepts such as ‘Trade not Aid’ for the developing world.
GE under Jack Welch on the other hand appears to have used an approach that focused on maximizing profits. In this regard, is appears that GE had even pleaded guilty to charges on criminal fraud relating to matters linked to defense. (New York Times 23 July, 1992).
Model is taken from stewart associates website [Online], Available: http://www.stewart-associates.co.uk/leadership-models.aspx
The Leadership Grid shows the emphasis a leader places on people as opposed to production. Anita’s approach appears to be more towards Middle-of-the-Road; balancing the two concerns. In this she may be seen as being closer to the ideal of Team Management. Jack Welch’s approach has been criticized for being Authority-Compliance Management oriented. He is known to have fired low producing managers and to pressurize the employees to achieve. This approach did bring him greater profits at a human cost.
In this study we looked at two leaders with interesting and successful leadership styles. They are both leaders in the corporate sector and have adopted radical approaches to leadership. Anita Roddick is a strong entrepreneur who started her own business brought it to a very important position in the cosmetic industry but finally sold it to L’Oreal. Therefore, all though she created an ethically conscious brand which not only brought commercial success but also succeeded in associating itself with eco friendly concepts, her final transferring of the business to L’Oreal means that she did not leave behind a vehicle by which her vision could be carried though. Thus it remains to be seen whether her vision has died with her.
On the other hand Jack Welch’s approach is one that can be captured within modern management thinking and provides better tools for replication. Also from a leadership point of view, although Jack Welch’s approach has been criticized as profit at any cost and the heavy emphasis on the Authority-Compliance-Management style, his task was perhaps more difficult than that of Anita Roddick. The very fact that he became the CEO of a company that was almost 100 years old and had a huge infrastructure meant that he would have had to face greater challenges to bring about change. Therefore, although it may be more difficult to love Jack Welch as a person when compare to Anita as a leader and also he may be further from the ideal of Team-Management style leadership, looking at the challenges that have been over come Jack Welch comes though as a stronger leader. Anita on the other hand may demonstrate greater entrepreneurial skills.
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