Paul Polman historical background and leadership experiences paper

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The summative paper for this course requires you to select a contemporary government or non-profit sector leader and develop a critical review and research–supported position in which his or her leadership behaviors are discussed and his or her contributions to society/organization are explored.

This assignment also provides opportunities for you to continue to refine your scholarly toolkit in relation to the identification of and the application of sourcing of scholarly research and manuscript development using APA (6th) form and style.

First, identify a contemporary government or non-profit sector leader and provide a one paragraph biography for review and approval by your Instructor. Note: the Instructor may reject the selection based on non-relevance for the course topic. Selection of an alternative leader will then be required. You may NOT select Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for your Final Project due to upcoming classroom content and discussions.

Second, identify at least 10 scholarly references(the university library or google scholar ) to be used in your Final Paper. Each of your scholarly references must have been published within the last 5 years. These scholarly references should be related to your leader or some aspect of the leadership traits/analysis/recommendations intended for your Final Project. Limit the use of textbooks. Resources provided in the classroom, such as journal articles, books, and web-based materials do NOT count in the required 10.

Third, share at least two of your scholarly references and the location of the database in which you found them. Provide the APA citation for the article, and describe any challenges you experienced while searching for your references.

Complete the Reference List in correct APA 6th form and style. Review this week’s Learning Resources containing an APA template, tips, and examples of a reference list. Use

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Explanation & Answer



Leadership Behavior
Student’s name:


Since its inception in the 1870s, the Unilever Company has seen nothing but constant
growth, development, and diversification of its products. This aspect could primarily be attributed
to the kind of leadership the company has had since the founder invented it. Such a successful
organization means that there are effective and efficient leaders that are behind the decisionmaking processes that ensure the smooth running of the company’s operations.
Part of the mission statement of the company states that they purpose to make sustainable
living commonplace through the selling of fast-moving consumer goods. The company has hugely
achieved this mission through its leaders (Ready & Peebles, 2015). This paper is going to focus
on the recently retired Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman. He worked for the company for forty
years while he acted as the CEO for over ten years.
Through his leadership, Unilever was able to maintain top and bottom line growth which
kept it ahead of its markets. For the ten years that Paul Polman was Unilever CEO, the company
realized a Total Shareholder Return of 290%. This was due to his ability to successfully pioneer a
model of sustainable growth that created returns for the shareholders and was also favorable to the
stakeholders. It is, therefore, evident that Paul Polman’s leadership was effective owing to the
length of time that he served as the CEO.
Furthermore, the company witnessed enormous change during his tenure which is an
indication that his leadership was a success. His successor, Alan Jope will have to learn a lot from
Paul Polman’s leadership to ensure that Unilever remains on track in terms of its competitive
advantage. The paper will focus on the various elements of the former CEO’s leadership that are
insightful hence worth borrowing.


Leader Biography
Paul Polman is a Dutch Businessman born in July 1956. Before joining Unilever, he was
Western Europe’s Procter & Gamble president. He as well served as the chief financial officer of
Nestle in 2006 and later in 2008 as the vice president of the Americas. Polman eventually joined
Unilever as the CEO in 2009. Due to his outstanding leadership characteristics, he has won several
awards in relation to sustainable development leadership.
Paul Polman is an academician with an honorary doctorate from the University of
Groningen that he earned in 2004. Later on, in 2018, he received an Honorary Doctorate of
Humane Letters from George Mason University. During this time, he was already the CEO of
Unilever for many years. This made him suitable for the commencement speech of the graduation
ceremony where he gave an excellent speech that captured the spirit of his sense of purpose.
Regarding his career, most of Paul Polman’s work life was characterized by leadership. In
other words, he mainly held leadership positions in mostly huge companies such as Nestle and the
Americas. At the same time, he had other responsibilities in NGOs such as the United Nations,
World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the International Council of the Global
Commission on the Economy and Trade among others (Ready & Peebles, 2015). He served on the
boards of these organizations, an element that proved his desire for the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals.
There is a possibility that his engagement with these NGOs was due to his stunning
leadership skills as well as his passion for a sustainable world. The fact that most of his work life
primarily revolved around leadership also means that he was a good leader. Thus, he rose through


the ranks over time to land as the CEO of the Unilever Company. Therefore, he is one of the most
experienced leaders around the world.
Contributions to Society/Organization
Unilever is a successful company, and people usually tend to think that such companies
are only after profits. First, Unilever is an organization that deals with a range of products but
mostly hygienic products. The time frame between when Paul Polman joined the Unilever
Company to his departure time was characterized by a massive change in many sectors of the
world’s economy. An ability to navigate through such changes and remain ahead of competitors
as a leader is something that requires recognition. During this time, companies experienced
consumer changes as well as technological advancements that significantly impacted
organizational operations.
The former CEO, through his leadership, was able to transform Unilever into one of the
best-performing companies in the sector. At the same time, Paul made the enterprise one of the
most admired around the globe. He was able to achieve this by setting and seeing through the
implementation of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which entailed a defined new era of
responsible capitalism. This alongside other strategies put him out as one of the most envisioned
leaders of his generation.
Also, Paul Polman was committed to serving the best long-term interests if Unilever
through his drive and performance focus, elements that in turn strengthened the operations and
performance of the organization. By the end of his tenure, he was leaving behind a resilient and
agile company that is well-positioned in the dynamic, fast-changing industry. It is difficult to
ascertain that he achieved all of this without the incorporation of other leaders of the company.


In other words, he worked closely with all the stakeholders to ensure that he placed
Unilever in its current position. The fact that the company chose an employee that worked with
Paul Polman to fill into his shoes shows that he integrated other people in his leadership during his
time. Thus, Paul Polman was a key factor in the success of the company since he took office in
2009 until his retirement.
As mentioned above, a true leader is not one that focuses on the revenue that the company
brings during his/her leadership. The legacy of an effective leader should be mostly felt by the
members of the society. However, this mostly depends on the impact one has on the same society
during his/her time. Paul Polman was able to successfully create an impact on the society. The
former CEO’s primary focus was on sustainable development as well as addressing environmental
and social challenges that the contemporary world faces.
This explains his membership to numerous NGOs where he had additional responsibilities
to his CEO work including chairing the boards of councils. From observation, many of the councils
to which Paul Polman was a member were either development or environmental oriented. Most of
the challenges that people in society face today mainly emanate from these two areas. Hence, a
leader that makes it their personal agenda to address these challenges impacts the society in one
way or another. Paul Polman was one of those leaders. He did not only focus on changing the face
of Unilever for the better, but also focused on bringing societal change.
Analysis of Leadership Behaviors
Large organizations usually deploy the most experienced and effective people in leadership
positions. Some even go further to outsource leaders just to ensure that they get the most efficient
senior employees that will steer the company towards the achievement of organizational goals.


Paul Polman was such a leader both in public and in private. He displayed various leadership
qualities both within and outside the Unilever Company that gave him the leadership legacy that
he has.
One of the most significant leadership behaviors that are common among successful
leaders is the delegation of responsibility and empowerment. Strategic leaders are those that realize
the importance of the entire workforce of the organization (Smith et al, 2016) As a result, he/she
strives to push power both across and downwards in the organization. Also, the leader should make
it his/her obligation to empower people at all levels to make decisions. The distribution of tasks is
one way of ensuring leaders achieve this aspect in that they become aware of the outcome of taking
potential risks.
Consequently, the delegation of tasks increases the resilience, adaptability, and collective
intelligence of the organization over time. This is opposed to the traditional decision-making
techniques that followed a hierarchical system. According to Murphy & Murphy (2018), Paul
Polman was one leader who believed in the distribution of roles and empowering his junior
employees. The outcome was a successful Unilever during his tenure. He delegated duties and
empowered people in the different departments of the company. This resulted in innovativeness
and the generation of ideas that gave the company a competitive advantage.
Another leadership behavior that Paul Polman displayed was the inclusion of social and
ethical elements into his leadership style. There were many scenarios where the former Unilever
CEO championed for issues such as environmental sustainability, overall sustainable development
of the society, and addressing adverse issues that affect peaceful coexistence of people in the
society among others (George, 2015). This mostly showcased his public behavior.


Furthermore, he used his leadership position to engage in such activities which were a way
of involving the Unilever Company in the practice of corporate social responsibility. Paul
Polman’s involvement in these activities was also an indication of his commitment and passion to
the leadership position that he held. From this, the teammates or rather the workforce got
inspiration on what a successful leader does to get such a legacy. In addition, commitment and
passion is a way of motivating followers to achieve a particular goal.
Paul Polman was also an innovative and creative leader who incorporated the use of new
technological advancements as a leadership strategy. He believed in adapting to the information
age to make some of the serious choices in Unilever. A creative and innovative leader does not
only generate ideas but also provides his/her followers with the opportunity to present their ideas.
Paul’s leadership was characterized by constantly encouraging his followers to bring their
innovative ideas to the surface.
He believed that creativity was not all about him. Rather, it was about merging various
ideas from the entire workforce to come up with an excellent idea that was favorable for both
employees and the company. In other words, the former Unilever CEO combined creativity and
innovativeness with his performance-oriented strategy to help Unilever remain afloat in the
constantly changing business world (George, 2015). As a result, he left behind a stronger and more
resilient Unilever than it was when he went in as the CEO.
Lastly, Paul Polman was an effective decision-maker. While this is a crucial requirement
for any person in a leadership position, his was characterized by the inclusion of the entire
workforce in the decision-making processes. His vision for the company helped him take the
necessary steps before making a choice that would affect the operations of the company. One thing


that makes decision-making a fragile process that requires skill and expertise is its impact on
As Ready et al (2015) put it, effective leaders of the contemporary world rely less on the
traditional mechanisms of arriving at such decisions and prefer including those that the decision
will affect. This describes democratic leadership, a style that Paul Polman used. However, despite
the inclusion of the key stakeholders in the decision-making processes, the final decision is often
for the leader to make. Therefore, the rate of success of the Unilever Company was a sign of
effective choices that Paul Polm...

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