The secret of successful leadership in a new industry

A personal mantra focusing on three key factors has helped Elio Leoni Sceti adapt his leadership to different sectors.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 27 Feb 2019

Convention says that if you break it down to its most basic level, every business is the same on the inside. In theory then, once they’ve got to grips with a few esoteric considerations, a good CEO should be able to run a company whether it’s selling shower gel, painkillers or hand-crafted replica Venus figurines.

However, this isn't always the case when it comes to leadership. Different organisations have their own internal culture, driven by particular external market pressures that can often make it much harder to adapt.

It's a familiar scenario for Elio Leoni Sceti. Having spent eight years as European VP for FMCG giant RB, his next gig was trying to turn around the troubled music group EMI. He temporarily returned the label to top line growth, before abruptly being given the cold shoulder in 2010 - EMI would collapse in 2012.

His next job was CEO of frozen food brand Iglo Birdseye, which he left in 2015. Following stints on the boards of various profit and non-profits, he now co-runs The Craftory, an investment house for challenger brands.

He says that whichever sector he has worked in, a three pronged approach has helped him quickly see the wood from the trees.

"I have a personal mantra: PIE. People, Ideas and Execution. It's a little cheesy but everytime I move to lead a new organisation my aim is to grow the pie and this has helped me to do that.


"If you do good things, great things or bad things, I have found that it’s the people around you that really make them happen.

"I tend to look for three criteria when recruiting or shuffling my leadership team. Honesty, intellectual curiosity - in that they are making sure that are keen to continually developing over time - and a passion for what they do. If you have those three things it is very rare that something will go wrong.

"You can always tell who they are by the quality of their team. A players recruit and develop other A players because over time they want to be replaced so they can move on to the next exciting stage. B players tend to recruit C players because they are scared to have somebody who might be as good as they are.


"Ideas always come after people, because you can’t have good ideas without good people.

"You have to judge how an idea can win people's hearts or minds. That sounds very easy but lots of ideas are very clearly speaking to either the heart or the mind of the people involved. You either fall in love with the idea because it is cool, or you rationalise the reasons why that idea is good even if it didn't talk to you at a personal level.

"Ideas that are sustainable in leadership can talk to both the heart and the mind. In my latest project with the Craftory, we have built the investment model on the assumption that doing good and doing well comes as one package and one cannot come without the other.

"When you focus on good ideas it is much easier to gain people because they can feel that they're really powerful and authentic.


"This is the most important and very often the most undervalued part of the equation. Execution for many people is boring, but you have to look at the details and make it click the way it was intended to.

"How many times have we heard 'Oh he was such a great guy, with such great ideas' but nothing happened because the way they tried to implement the ideas was inefficient?

"So you have to close the project with somebody who has the capacity, the desire and the understanding of what execution is and how to translate these great thoughts into a more specific plan.

"PIE is just a methodology that I have taken with me as I’ve moved between new companies. If you really boil leadership down to these elements it applies whether you are selling watches, CDs or toilet cleaners."

Further reading:

Image credits: Lena_Zajchikova/Gettyimages

Stephen Jones

Stephen Jones recommends

How to grow in a saturated market

Read more

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime