Sainsbury Plc Leadership Style

In this dynamic business world where an organization needs to face different types of change regularly. To adapt to this changing business environment and to operate organizational operation successfully organizations need a qualified leader. Most of the retail organizations are performing in the same way but a good leader can make a big difference a great example of great leadership in the UK retail industry can be Justin King (former CEO of Sainsbury).

Sainsbury Plc Leadership and Management Style

The great leaders set the long term vision for the organization to make a perfect plan to achieve that vision (Mumford et al., 2000). A leader is an individual who has some special qualities to motivate his subordinates and has the ability to control team members to achieve organizational goals and objectives.  Leader of the company take all the liability and try to understand the needs of the future. A good leader and good manager always communicate with their team members about the organization’s vision and influence everybody to work together to achieve it. In the following study, the researcher discusses different types of leadership and management styles that follow by the UK retail sector and the positive and negative sides of these styles. In the final, part research will do the analysis of how his chosen organization implement different leadership and management style and draw some recommendation for that organization.

Sainsbury Plc Leadership and Management Style

Sainsbury Plc Leadership Style

Background of Sainsbury Plc: In the UK retail sector, Sainsbury holds more than 16% of the market share after Tesco and they are the 2nd largest supermarket in the UK market (Sainsbury annual report, 2018).  In 1922 John James established the 1st Sainsbury store in London and from the beginning, Sainsbury is dominating the UK retail market.  Sainsbury is the big supermarket and they are selling different kinds of fruit and vegetables, fresh food, all kinds of grocery, household, electronic items, etc. Sainsbury also provides financial services and insurance services to their customers through their own Bank known as Sainsbury Bank. Sainsbury also has a mobile network and internet service provider.

Sainsbury clothing is called TU clothing which is also very popular among UK customers. Sainsbury is successful from their day one because they believe in innovation and regularly introduce something new for their customers. From 1922 to 1995 they were the market leader after that Tesco take over Sainsbury and in 2003 ASDA take over Sainsbury and they became the 3rd largest supermarket in the UK.

Justin King the former CEO of Sainsbury was a great leader and he introduced so many things in Sainsbury and after his great leadership, Sainsbury regains their 2nd position in the UK market in 2014 (Guardian, 2015).

The main reason that helps Sainsbury to regain their position back is effective leadership and management style because he adopts the most popular leadership strategy called democratic strategy in terms of decision making and provides all the facilities to the employees to ensure the high level of motivation among the employees (Ruddick, G. 2014)

Sainsbury provides the best quality food for its customers and provides excellent customer services. Only because of customer service standards many people prefer to go to Sainsbury for their shopping.

Justin King or almost every CEO of Sainsbury believes that they are successful because of their employees and because of that Sainsbury always provides a better work environment for their employees and ensures all the attractive facilities. Sainsbury is enlisted in London Stock exchange and trading there and the headquarters is in Holborn, in the heart of central London (Sainsbury annual report, 2018).

 The Rationale to Choose Sainsbury

The researcher chooses Sainsbury as an organization to complete this particular study because Sainsbury is the 2nd biggest supermarket in the UK and one of the oldest retail shops in the UK. The researcher uses to worked for Sainsbury in his student life so he has some practical experiences and on the internet, there is enough information about Sainsbury’s leadership and management style so it helps the researcher to complete this study successfully.

Long term vision of Sainsbury

 ‘Our vision is to be the most trusted retailer, where people love to work and shop. We will do this by putting our customer at the heart of everything we do and investing in our stores, our colleagues and our channels to offer the best possible shopping experience’

 Literature Review

In this part of this study, the researcher is going to discuss different literature about the leadership and management style and in the later part, he will explain how Sainsbury is adopted this leadership and management theory in their operation.

Leadership Theory

There are different types of leadership theory available but most of the organization companies are using 3 different theories such as- transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and laissez-faire.


Transactional leadership is used in most UK retailers to maintain their daily operations and to ensure the highest level of productivity.  Leaders who follow the transactional leadership method set the goals and objectives of the organization and explain the goals and objectives to the team members. Most of the transactional leaders follow the reward and punishment strategy to ensure better productivity in the organization. The leader explains what he wants to achieve and directs team members what to do. Transactional leaders always appreciate the high performers of the organization and give punish if any employee performs below the standard level.    


Transformational leadership also widely used by many organizations. In this leadership, the leader creates long term vision for the organization and communicates each and every member of the team regarding vision and consults with them on how to achieve that vision.  In this style, employees are more productive and dedicated (Ismail, A. et al., 2009). This leadership is appropriate when the company wants to initiate a big change in the organization.

 Autocratic Management Style

Autocratic management is the most traditional management style that an organization follows to make its organizational decision and manage its operation. In autocratic styles, top management never consults with their operational level people when they make any important business decision. In an autocratic style manager does not ask their employees for suggestion and because of this employee motivation level is very low (Mumford et al., 2000).

Democratic Management Style

The most common and preferred style of management used by most of the UK organization is democratic style management style. In this style top management always consult with their employees before making any important decisions. The main reason organization follows the democratic management style is the organization because employee motivation is very high in this management style.


Laissez-faire is a very rare kind of management styles there are very few organizations that followed this kind of management style. In Laissez-faire managers give the full authority to their employees about organizational tasks (Skogstad, A. et a., 2007). Employees must be highly efficient and experienced.

 Analysis of Sainsbury’s Leadership and Management Style

Sainsbury is the most popular and traditional supermarket chain shop that are successfully operating its business since 1922. Sainsbury is following the most popular form of leadership and management styles when they make any business decision. Previously Sainsbury used to follow the autocratic style of management but in 1992 David Sainsbury told that they should use democratic leadership.

Sainsbury uses transformational leadership theory when they initiate any big change. To make any big change in the organization Sainsbury appoint all of their higher performers and dedicated team to do that.

Sainsbury management team at the store level always consults with their employees when they make any decision to manage their store operation.  Majority store managers discuss with their experienced staff and supervisors and collect information from them before making any decisions. From this scenario, we can tell that Sainsbury is maintaining democratic leadership in their organization.

Sainsbury regularly arranges stuff meetings with their colleagues and discuss with them about the organizational decisions. The Sainsbury management believes democratic leadership is the most efficient style because in this style they involve all the employees and because of that employee motivation is very high.

Some of the Sainsbury managers follow autocratic management styles to manage their daily operations. Some of the managers use that approach because every employee is not performing equally.


Culture is means the company’s values, beliefs, and norms. How the company treats its employees, how they treat their customers all of these are part of the organizational culture. In terms of Sainsbury they create a very good corporate culture in the UK market they provide the best customer service they treat their customers like a king. In any occasion, they said customer is always right and this tendency makes them popular among the UK customers.

Sainsbury provides all the facilities to their colleagues because they believe they are successful because of the employees and if their employees did not perform well then they never are in this position. Sainsbury is very concerned about their employees’ health and safety.

In their store, Sainsbury ensures the cultural diversity they recruit people from different cultural backgrounds and respect everyone’s cultural beliefs.

Sainsbury never discriminates their employees because of race, religion or gender everyone gets a similar facility in Sainsbury.

To create a better corporate culture all the Sainsbury stores are designed in the same way and every one of their employees has to wear the work Uniform which creates a unique environment in their stores.

In Sainsbury, every employee treats Sainsbury as their own company and Sainsbury also gives the best facility to their employees to keep them motivated in the workplace.

 Recommendation for Sainsbury

In 2014 Sainsbury regain its market position in the UK retail market but still, now they are struggling to compete in the market because of high competition. The researcher works at Sainsbury and after doing some research on Sainsbury he found some of the weak areas of Sainsbury. To stay competitive in the UK retail industry Sainsbury must address those issues which are-

  • The researcher also believes that Sainsbury is unbeatable in terms of customer service. But in UK life is very expensive and because of that most of the people want to spend less on their grocery and household shopping. There are many supermarkets who are successful in this segment and selling their products at a very cheap price such as- Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl Aldi, etc. To stay competitive and to generate more sales Sainsbury also sells its products at a cheap price. To ensure this cost leadership Sainsbury needs to cut their cost in a different sector and use better and modern technology;
  • Sainsbury is very successful in the UK market because of product quality and customer service. By using their brand image they can expand their business in different European countries as well as some of the Asian countries where markets are growing;
  • In terms of decision making Sainsbury is maintaining power culture but they use role culture instead because in this way they can make effective decision in quicker time;
  • In most of their stores and even from the hear quarter manager instructed to follow the democratic management style but in operational level, some of the managers are following autocratic style management and because of this many people are leaving their job so top management should ensure that every store managers are using participative management style leadership.


Ruddick, G (2014), ‘Sainsbury’s overtakes ASDA for the first time in decade’ Independent newspaper

Mumford et al., (2000), ‘Patterns of leader characteristics: Implications for performance and development’, the leadership quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 1

Skogstad, A. et al., (2007), ‘The destructiveness of laissez-faire leadership behavior’, Journal of occupational health psychology, Vol.12, No. 1

Ismail, A. et al., (2009), ‘The mediating effect of empowerment in the relationship between transformational leadership and service quality, Journal of business management, vol. 4

Annual report, (2018)

The Guardian, (28th July 2015), ‘Sainsbury’s becomes UK’s Second biggest supermarket’

Sainsbury vision statement

Sainsbury Plc Leadership Style

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