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This page and contents, ©2016 Business Case Studies, is intended to be viewed online and may not be printed. Outlines the three main leadership styles (autocratic, democratic, laissez faire) and the key pros and cons of each.
Tesco has more than a 30% market share of the UK grocery market, nearly double that of its nearest rival. Roles in Tesco range from business development, supply chain management and marketing to finance, store operations and personnel management.
This case study will show how Tesco’s leadership framework is fundamental to developing the qualities of leadership needed at every level in the business. Developing appropriate leadership styles is a Tesco case study taken from edition 16 of The Times 100.
Tesco’s leadership framework sets out not just the skills and competencies but also the personal characteristics and behaviours it expects of its leaders. People at each level of responsibility in Tesco, from administrators and customer assistants to directors, face different types of decisions. In order to build a sustainable and robust business, Tesco has set out critical success factors (CSFs).
By meeting the requirements of these CSFs, Tesco managers can build their leadership skills & contribute to the growth of the business. He has been with the company for over 10 years and his first job was filling shelves in the dairy section. It aims to offer products that provide value for money for its customers and to deliver high-quality service. One of the key challenges of Berian’s job is to ensure his team produces the right products to meet demand at key times. Tesco looks for managers who are positive, confident and genuine, with the capacity to inspire and encourage their teams.


Before making a decision, the manager will consider the task in hand, the people involved and those who will be affected (such as customers). This can give a business clear direction but it may also lead managers to undervalue or ignore input from their teams. Tesco wants to attract new customers, but it also wants to keep its existing customers happy. To keep at the top of its game and to maintain its number one spot in the market, the company needs skilled staff at all levels and in all roles. Tesco aims to develop the leadership qualities of its people throughout the organisation, from administrators and customer assistants to the board of directors. The manager then needs to communicate this approach clearly to his or her team and to allocate tasks to each team member. Team leaders will set the objectives but empower team members to decide how these objectives are achieved. His usual management approach is to allow the team to take responsibility for achieving the desired result.
A key part of Tesco’s programme for building leaders is encouraging self review and reflection. These will influence the most appropriate leadership style for a particular piece of work or for a given project or audience. This may require the manager to adopt a more directive style, providing clear communication so that everyone knows what to do to achieve goals and tasks. Stephen directly manages a team of around 20 departmental managers, who between them are responsible for almost 300 people. For example, when planning a major stock reduction programme, he encourages his managers to put forward ideas and develop plans. This could be because he trusts that the manager has a good knowledge of the needs of the department and of the business. This allows staff to assess their strengths and find ways of demonstrating the characteristics that are vital to the long-term development of the business. On the other hand, team leaders may take a more consultative approach with other managers of equal standing in order to get their co-operation for a project.


It is valuable when the business faces a crisis or when an urgent problem arises that requires an immediate response. Stephen’s leadership style is usually to allow his managers to make most operational decisions. It is about coaching and developing people, treating them with respect but challenging them.
However, other factors will also have an influence on whether the target is achieved, including the task in hand, the skills of the team and the style of leadership. It helps to motivate individuals in the team and it draws on the expertise of the members of the team.
For example, when the bakery expanded its product range and Berian needed to ensure that all the products would be on the shelves by 8.00 am, rather than enforce a solution, he turned to the team for ideas. However, if, for example, an accident occurs in the store, Stephen may take control to ensure a prompt and co-ordinated response. Managers can suggest ideas to make cost savings and they can jointly discuss their proposals with Martin. Leaders seek to create strong teams, with people committed to the organisation’s overall goals. The team solved the problem by agreeing to split break times so that productivity could be maintained. For example, Berian may need to use a persuasive style to convince a customer to accept a replacement product for an item that is temporarily out of stock.
Some may be business critical and it is important that he responds to these in the most appropriate way. In such situations, Stephen may need to adapt his leadership approach and exert more authority.



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