The 5 principles of leadership

There are 5 principles of leadership that I live by, and these help DPD UK and our people to stay ahead of the pack, by being hungry, dynamic, disruptive and agile.

We lead the parcel delivery market by always putting our customers at the forefront of everything we do. We have a full-on culture, a dynamic leadership team and an engaging vision. Underpinning every step of our success, are 5 principles of leadership:

  1. Leading through purpose
  2. Leading by example
  3. Getting it right for the customer
  4. Leading by innovation and simplification
  5. Leading with passion and belief


Our managers have a simple mission: leading and inspiring their teams to deliver amazing service every day. But, you can only create and nurture effective leaders if there is a clear definition of what this looks like for your organisation.

That’s why our core values – known at DPD as our DNA – are the inspiration for how we  lead our people. Our six DNA values define who we are, what we care about and what’s most important to us. These values are: passion, respect, honesty, flexibility, hard work and accountability. We live by these six small words every day. We want our friends and colleagues to use these words to describe us.

They’re also our principles of teamwork, customer service and success.


The principles of leadership

Leadership is all about creating an environment where people can reach their full potential in order to deliver amazing service every day. Leadership is about inspiring people to make life easier for our customers, because everything we do starts and ends with a customer.

Great leaders are not born, but neither can they be developed from nothing. Leadership is an art and a science, but most of all it is an attitude, a way of being. The first is the ability to put others before yourself.

Leadership is also a craft that can be learned through doing. Attitude matters far more than letters after your name. I left school at 16 and most of DPD UK’s Board Directors started with us on the shop floor with no formal qualifications. Together we have created a culture where we celebrate success as well as calling out failure. The leadership style is direct: we tell it like it is, so people always know where they stand with us. In this honest and accountable climate, people can grow their careers with us.

Now, here’s more about those 5 principles of leadership that I live by. They’re not a one-size-fits-all definition. But defining what good leadership means to your organisation is the initial step. Once this is in place, you can then use these principles of leadership to develop and shape your leaders.


Principle 1 – leading through purpose

What is the primary motivator for your people? Getting paid, yes. But people want to do more than ‘just get by’. They want a sense of  meaning and purpose and they perform best when they have exciting goals. In particular, when times get tough, a clearly defined shared purpose can make all the difference.

Our drive and sense of purpose at DPD UK is exactly what pushes us to ever greater heights. And we constantly push ourselves to innovate for our customers. Take our ground-breaking app, for example, the first of its kind. In 2018, 3.6 million people downloaded the DPD app, now we have over 6 million downloads and thousands of truly engaged customers. But when we started developing it in 2015, we were told it couldn’t be done. Honestly, there were times we wanted to jack it in. It was just too difficult. But we didn’t. Why? Because our defined purpose is to keep improving what we offer our customers. So we kept going and we came up with an industry-leading app that we’re all proud of and our customers love.

Having a purpose is vital. This applies to every level, every stage of business, and every position within an organisation. Strong leaders make sure their people know why they are doing what they are doing and are on board with it.

I sometimes compare us to the Red Arrows, because when we set our sights on something for our customers, we move at lightning speed and we’re a synchronised team, flying in a perfect and precise formation.


Principle 2 – leading by example

It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do, and that’s why leaders affect their organisations through the examples they set.  So the next of my 5 principles of leadership is simply to think about how you want to lead by example. Then do it.


Principle 3 – getting it right for the customer

At DPD UK, everything we do is geared towards getting it right for the customer. As CEO, I know that it’s important to understand where our competitors are (behind us these days!), but we really obsess over our customers. This is what is behind our internal structure, our company culture and our drive to continuously improve.

We never stop innovating, and we don’t rest on our laurels. This is why we’re consistently voted the nation’s favourite UK courier company. Truly effective, successful leaders don’t stop planning and they’re constantly working towards a better future for their teams and customers. We want our customers to feel delighted with the best service money can buy, impressed by the best technology available, and amazed by the most customer-centric people in the industry.


Principle 4 – leading by innovation and simplification

Each step you take as a leader should be about cutting complexity, simplifying the offering and making it better for the customer.

When I became CEO, I switched our strategy, our focus and our ambitions. From a complicated values, vision and philosophy statement that didn’t translate across the board, I simplified what we stand for. In came our simple, effective 1-2-3 strategy:

  1. Deliver the best service that money can buy
  2. Use the best technology available
  3. Recruit, retain and develop the most customer-centric people in the industry.

Our 1-2-3 strategy has served us well for the last 10 years. As an example of our continual innovation, we have now extended our 1-2-3 strategy to incorporate a 4th key element:

4. Be the UK’s leader in sustainable delivery.

We’re not the cheapest, but we are the best. And we will never compromise the quality of the DPD brand, no matter what.


Principle 5 – leading with passion and belief

And finally, when it comes to the principles of leadership, it’s vital to lead with passion and belief. Always thinking big, innovating, raising your game and asking yourself how to really wow your customers. That’s what we do.

Leading with passion and belief is about calculated strategic risk-taking. If your entire industry says something isn’t possible, find a way to make it possible. That’s how you stand out from the crowd and push your organisation to the front of the pack.

Ten years ago, DPD UK started reinventing itself as the leader for the home delivery market. It was a strategy of calculated risk and it’s totally paid off. It has transformed us into a company with revenues of £1.4 billion. By 2025 we will smash £2 billion turnover. And we will never stop innovating, leading by example and transforming ourselves. That’s how successful leadership works.

And these are the principles of leadership.