A guide to good leadership, with Paul Hargreaves

June 2, 2023

In a recent episode of the Inspiring Leadership Podcast, gunnercooke founder and host Darryl Cooke interviews businessman, philanthropist and speaker Paul Hargreaves. Darryl is joined by co-host Sir Peter Fahy, the former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police.

Paul is the Founder and Chief Exec of Cotswold Fayre Ltd, a speciality & fine food wholesaler supplying nearly 2,000 retail outlets throughout the UK.  The business grew from the cellar of his house in London to become the leading wholesaler to farm shops and delicatessens in the UK.  The company’s ethos of working in partnership with its suppliers makes it the most sought-after wholesaler for many new brands launching in the sector.  Cotswold Fayre has been certified as a B Corporation since 2015.

How would you define good leadership?

Inspiring people to do better. I wrote a book on leadership because there wasn’t enough inspiring work going on in that area. I always ask in interviews – who has most inspired you? Very few people have someone in their own career that has inspired them and instead say someone like Richard Branson. I find it very sad that people don’t have someone in their personal career that has inspired them.

Why is leadership important?

Leadership is about setting the direction, the purpose, the standards and the values of a company. It’s around the clarity of direction where so many organisations lose their way. For me, the job of a leader has always been giving clear direction – not only tell people what we want them to do, but also what not to do. All whilst providing and following a strong framework of values.

What is servant leadership?

A lot of what we’ve experienced is the opposite of this – leaders having better rights than the people who work at the company. Leadership has traditionally been about being served, not serving – the leader has the best office, best car space, best perks, etc. A true leader is happy to not have the best and put themselves last. A good leader sees their main job as supporting others and they should have a level of humility.

You mentioned that leadership has traditionally been very masculine – how important is diversity in business?

Massively important. My leadership has been a real journey, for example my leadership in sports when I was younger isn’t something that should be taken into business. As I’ve learnt and grown, I’ve become more feminine in my approach to leadership, having more empathy and understanding how others are thinking and feeling. Having women on a leadership team definitely helps men on that journey. I’ve seen other female leaders who have had to act in a more masculine way in order to succeed, and it’s not their fault at all – rather the men that surround them. We’re crying out for more femininity within business.

Culture is incredibly important to deliver a company’s vision. Do you agree?

Yes, as a leader when I come into the office, people watch the way I interact with others. If I come into the office grumpy, then others might think that it’s acceptable to do the same. For 22 years we only had a B2B business, where it was only people in warehouses or in offices. Starting our foodhalls and restaurants has shown me that leadership is fully behaved – it’s not an email or a phone call. It’s about how you interact with customers and employees.

To listen to the full podcast or the rest of the series visit Spotify or Apple Podcasts.  

Previous guests of the Inspiring Leadership Podcast have included Vikas Shah, Hassan Damluji and Damian Hughes, who discuss how to have integrity in business, the balance of process and innovation, and how CSR drives a business forward.  

Darryl is welcoming inspiring leaders who are making a difference in their business or community to join him for future episodes. Get in touch here to recommend a guest.