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Defining leadership as service to a group or team and why followership is key to being a leader.

Philip Green
Former CFO at Deliveroo & Finance Director, EMEA, Amazon

Learning outcomes

  • Earning the right to lead comes through service to the team
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Executive Bio

Philip Green

Former CFO at Deliveroo & Finance Director, EMEA, Amazon

Philip Green spent almost eight years at Amazon, culminating with the role of Finance Director of EU operations. He then took on the role of CFO at Groupon, followed by the role of CFO of Deliveroo. He currently is Director and CFO of theatre and entertainment producer Jamie Hendry Productions, as well as CFO of robotics and AR gaming business Reach Robotics, and advisor to several high-tech digital start-ups.Read more

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Interview Transcript

In your experience, how would you define excellence in leadership?

The starting point is, “What is leadership?” I had the joy of being on a training course, and they said, “The first thing about being a leader is you need followers.” You can’t force people to follow you, so I think the first thing is people’s free will to follow you. A lot of people get that wrong — that leadership is given to them. It’s something you earn. I guess “greatness” is the fact you can keep it and continue to add to it, so people want to stay around. I’d say that’s the definition — you can inherit a team, but if they don’t want to stay with you, you’re not really a leader because they always want to go and do different things.

If they can learn from you, they feel supported by you — it’s the protection, support, continued development, and that people get behind the vision you’re building. They see what you’re trying to achieve and say, “This is the person I want to be behind and build this thing with.” You talk about books like Good to Great, which I probably misquote so often. You get into a level-five leader, and you start talking about the humility and all the ways it’s not about celebrating your own success but your team’s success — but recognising your own failures.

So, you start getting into the core of the person. “The cause before your own reward,” and all those great things I’ve seen in terms of real, good-quality leadership, most notably at Amazon.

Amazon often gets hurt in the press for its leadership style when there’s actually a lot of very humble people there and genuine, big leaders. You can’t build an organisation to that scale without having many leaders — not just one.

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