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Leadership: The Importance of Balance

Karl Martin
Former Vice President, Fresh, Frozen & Chilled at Asda and former Buying Director, Iceland Foods

Learning outcomes

  • How positive behavioural qualities can be taken too far
  • Cultivating self-awareness as the antidote to ego inflation

Executive Bio

Karl Martin

Former Vice President, Fresh, Frozen & Chilled at Asda and former Buying Director, Iceland Foods

Karl has spent the majority of his career in food retailing, joining Sainsbury’s after graduating in the mid 1980s to work in the trading department. He joined Iceland in 1992 to eventually become trading director, responsible for all buying, with a position on the board of the company. After 5 years in senior commercial positions at UK facilities management business Sodexo, in 2010 Karl joined Asda, the UK’s second largest food retailer, to run the food trading team. At Asda he was responsible for fresh food, chilled food and frozen, categories with combined revenue of ~GBP 8bn and gross profit of ~GBP 3bn. Since leaving Asda Karl has taken on a range of consultancy roles, including a year working for Sainsbury’s Netto discounter concept, where he gained deep insight into the discounter retail format. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Here’s an excerpt from a book, by Tom Peters, that I always go back to, for leaders. “This great thing, is the first word I’m going to use, can breed a monster, if not controlled and not balanced. Confidence can breed a sense of infallibility. Quickness can lead to overhastiness. Sharp wit can lead to abrasiveness. Alertness can lead to a narrow focus. Dedication can lead to workaholism. Control can lead to inflexibility. Courage can lead to foolhardiness. Perseverance can lead to resistance to change. Charm can lead to manipulation. Thriftiness can lead to false economy. Commitment can lead to blind faith.”

Constantly keeping a balance and a check on yourself, not taking yourself too seriously, minimizing your ego. There’s got to be an element of ego in there, whether it’s charisma, self-confidence – to some people, self-confidence can be a huge ego. I’ve sat in with some fairly junior members of the team, on occasions, and they’ve started crying. I’ve said, what’s the matter? We’ve never sat in with anyone who talks the way you do, so passionately, so positively, so enthusiastically, so almost in your face. There has to be, again, a balance and a check on all of those things.

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