Case Study

Terry Tsco’s long shelf life

20 pages
December 2008
Reference: IMD-3-1954

This case covers Terry Leahy’s career at Tesco, the UK-based retailer, and especially the ten years since he became CEO in 1997. Tesco has come a long way since the early 1990s, when it was playing second fiddle to Sainsbury’s. It now has a 30% share of the UK groceries market, almost as big as its two closest competitors, Sainsbury’s and the Wal-Mart-backed Asda, put together. It has used its solid domestic base to develop its international operations, culminating with the launch of a chain of convenience stores on Wal-Mart’s home turf in late 2007. The case looks at the leader who has overseen this remarkable progress, Terry Leahy. It traces his rise from council house kid to Britain’s most admired business leader (five times running) and adviser to the British prime minister. His success is all the more surprising given his low-key style and lack of charisma. We look at the other factors – such as ambition, passion and personal example – that have contributed to his rise, effectiveness and longevity as a leader. Learning Objectives: This case allows instructors to examine Terry Leahy’s leadership through three lenses: in terms of the desirable personal traits of an effective leader; the main competencies required; and the critical roles played by the leader. These three perspectives are complementary and allow participants to get a full appreciation of the challenge of leadership – covering how leaders need to be, what they need to know, and what they need to do. The case also allows exploration of other issues, related to learning, surrounding oneself, time allocation and maintaining one’s edge over time.

Leadership Style, Leadership Behavior, Leadership Point of View, Learning, Personal Development, Retail
United Kingdom
Published Sources
© 2008
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note
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