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Former Porsche and BMW boss: ‘Our job as leaders is to make sure people are inspired'

Automotive entrepreneur and adventurer Kevin Gaskell on-stage at AM Live 2021

Inclusive leadership which can motivate and inspire ambition emerged as the key ingredient for success in presentations at Automotive Management Live’s Inspiration Theatre.

Automotive entrepreneur and adventurer Kevin Gaskell has climbed Everest, set records for rowing the Atlantic and claims to have created £3 billion in shareholder value as a business leader over the past 20 years.

But the former BMW UK and Porsche Cars GB managing director said that – as a catalyst for success – inclusive leadership is impossible to replicate.

“Our job as leaders is to make sure that people are inspired, that they want to come to work in the morning, that they want to create something, that they want to have fun,” he said.

Gaskell showed a strategic plan for ‘Faster Britain’, a broadband infrastructure business which has grown 2,000% in the past three years and anticipates 150% further growth in 2022, with him as chairman.


He said the simple hand-written plan is displayed on the businesses office wall for all to see – to attract employee input.

“We don’t hold our board meetings behind closed doors, we go and stand with the team and we have this plan,” Gaskell said. “The team members come and join us and share ideas. They go home that evening and they say ‘you know where I was today? I was in the board meeting and the board were listening to me’.”

Gaskell said all levels of employee should contribute ideas because they “know how to do the job”.

“I don’t know how to fix a car, build a boat, build a fibre network, but you do, so come and join the board and help us get better at what we do.” Gaskell added:

“Leadership is not about being a genius, it’s about being a genius creator. They say everybody is about 5% genius. So, if I can get 20 people and their 5% aiming at the same goal, then I’ve got a complete genius.”

Communicating ambitious targets and a clear vision is key to engaging a team.

When Gaskell took his role at Porsche, the brand was 32nd out of 32 brands for reputation, was losing 20% on sales and had inventory “everywhere”, he said.

Clean slate thinking, the introduction of dealers to the board, a clear vision and the removal of any fear of failure were vital to its rise to number one.

Explaining his technique for forming a successful business strategy, Gaskell said: “Start at the end. Ask ‘what does success look like?’ and then come back to here.

“If I start there and come back to here, that’s a straight line. Do it the other way and the market’s changed, there are competitors to take into account and all sorts of other things. No, start at the end and aim for world class.”


Julia Muir, the founder the Automotive 30% Club, was joined by members of the organisation at AM Live’s Inspiration Theatre to highlight how a more inclusive and diverse workforce should be considered a key ingredient for success.

The Automotive 30% Club has more than 50 member organisations aiming to fulfil its goal of having 30% of key leadership or key decision-making roles filled by diverse women by 2030.

Muir highlighted McKinsey research which found that diverse leadership is 25% more likely to have above average profitability, with diverse and female leadership increasing that to 36%.

“Business teams with a balance of women and men make better decisions than homogenous ones, leading to superior financial performance,” she said.

Muir said employers need to “immerse” themselves in employee data to properly understand their gender balance and policies, claiming that a lack of opportunity for women had left them “working harder for less” than their male counterparts in many cases.

Automotive 30% Club patron member Tom Kilroy, the chief executive of Keyloop, said his leadership team – built over the course of the past six months – comprised 30% women.

He said the business scrutinised its employee data carefully to understand its pay balance and prioritised flexibility, with the recent introduction of Fridays off during school holiday periods.

Alison Fisher, Cox Automotive International HR director, said she felt like she had “stepped back in time” when she joined the automotive sector six years ago.

“I was the only female in the room, and it felt like that needed to change,” she said. “That has to be done through a culture that is hard wired throughout an organisation. It has to do with how people are hired, promoted and how their stories are shared."

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