Alison Brittain’s seven tips to become a CEO

Alison Brittain, CEO of Whitbread (proprietary company of brands such as Premier Inn and Costa Coffee), has good advice to dispense to those who dream of becoming a CEO. The manager is one of seven women included in the FTSE 100 (as reported by Wikipedia, the share index of the 100 most highly capitalized companies listed on the London Stock Exchange) and, during the FT Women event, gave her tips to move up from being a top manager to being the CEO of a large company.


Ask the right question

According to Brittain, asking the right question at the right time is critical. “The ripple effect that your words can have on your employees is amazing”, said the manager, who stressed the importance of body language.

“You have to pay attention to what you say and to how you say it; when I make a comment that comes from the heart, people begin to focus on my words and to centre all their resources around them.”

Be authentic

“Do not be fake” warned Alison Brittain. The reason? Simply that “not being authentic is a waste of precious energy.”

Authenticity, then, is a fundamental element for directing a company because it will be recognized as a value by employees and consultants. “We seven [referring to the seven women CEOs] are rare creatures, particularly interested to observation”.

Being able to combine one’s private and professional life, then, is another aspect that Brittain indicates as a step in her climb to the top of the company.

Do not surround yourself with ‘yes men’

Having a mix of capable people among your closest associates, and not just people who approve every choice uncritically, is crucial for all managers who want to grow their businesses. We must therefore be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our business and to have employees capable of doing so is essential.

Be self-confident and self-assured

We have to believe in ourselves to get to the top; being competent is not enough. “You may be capable, but you must be self-assured to develop a long-term strategy and manage a company effectively “.

You must become… thick-skinned

Alison Britain used the term ‘thick skinned’. “You’ll need to be,” she warned.

Be curious (to be innovative)

Curiosity is ‘vital’ to take the ‘big step’ up: “You have to be able to predict the future.”

To understand the trends and develop a forward-looking strategy, you must be highly curious and never be satisfied. “Premier Inn has been successful for a long period of time. It would have been easy to be complacent about that but, from my perspective, what brought us here will not take us further. “

Open yourself to technology

“In-depth technology skills are increasingly essential for a leader. You must consider how technology can help the delivery and customization of services, I find this aspect essential and I consider myself lucky, although I am not a technologist. “

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