Heroes: John Lewis

Many business leaders and organisations aspire to authenticity, transparency and openness, but struggle when it comes to implementation.  John Lewis and its leadership have long embodied all of these attributes - and outperform most of the competition. 

John Lewis has a unique culture, which engages partners and customers alike. Its focus on building this unique culture and distinctive brand has led to sustainable success. All 76,500 permanent staff are partners who own the business and its five elected board directors are supported by a council of 80 partners who discuss strategy and objectives and make key recommendations. This combination of shared leadership and authentic values is central to John Lewis’ success.

As many organisations struggle to increase levels of employee engagement, many John Lewis partners openly say how proud they are to work for the organisation they jointly own. The high level of trust within the business extends beyond it to its hugely loyal customer base. John Lewis leaders and all partners connect to the organisation's values, which in turn helps them connect to each other and to customers.

John Lewis is famous for its guiding principles. The partnership's ultimate purpose is 'the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business' - a principle at the very heart of employee engagement. Partners share the responsibilities of ownership as well as the rewards. The John Lewis principles underpin its authentic, open and honest leadership.

What lessons can other businesses learn from this beacon of light on the British High Street?