Leadership Q&A: Ben Reid of the Midcounties Co-operative

The group chief executive of the independent society says openness lies at the core of leadership

Being a leader in a co-operative environment brings with it a range of responsibilities that are unique.

Expectations around how a co-op leader will act are high and based on the underlying values of the organisation. At the core of this is our commitment to openness in all that we do. This ranges from our interfaces with customers and members through to how we deal with our colleagues.

A co-operative leader should be ready to explain decisions to a wider audience and that in itself imposes an additional test on all key decisions. This provides a defence against decisions being made in the dark or for personal gain.

Midcounties’ group chief executive Ben Reid

Of course, there are examples where these checks and balances have failed but I would suggest far less frequently than our competitor business models.

Another key difference in our model is that co-op leaders/managers report to a board elected from the membership. This brings with it the challenge of ensuring that complex business issues are understood by a group of directors from a wide range of backgrounds.

Again at the heart of this relationship is developing an open relationship, where all relevant information is shared, to allow directors to play a key role in the decision making process.

There is therefore a common theme that runs through all aspects of a co-operative business. An acceptance that, in a membership organisation, there must be full transparency and leaders are liable to be held to account for all their actions.

A higher standard than other leaders are measured against, but it is the aspect that makes us unique, and which has ensured that we have been able to thrive for over 150 years.

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