Unilever boss to receive CMI’s prestigious Gold Medal accolade

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is delighted to announce that Unilever boss, Paul Polman, is to be awarded with this year’s CMI Gold Medal Award for leadership.

The prestigious annual title is presented to celebrate the achievements of a leader with a proven track record, excelling in the world of management.

Polman, chief executive of Unilever since 2009, was selected for his courage and passion in advocating a long-term approach to business growth and building a strong sense of purpose for Unilever in a highly competitive market. Embodied in the company’s “Unilever Sustainable Living Plan”, the approach has seen the company commit to improving health and well-being, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing livelihoods – while making radical changes like abandoning guidance and quarterly profit reporting in order to reinforce a focus on the long term.

The award also recognises Polman’s dedication to putting people at the centre of his management approach and firm belief that developing and empowering staff is key to sustainable success. The Gold Medal accolade will be officially presented at the CMI President’s Dinner on 13 April 2015.

On receiving news of the award, Polman commented:

“Business need to be at the heart of developing solutions to the long term issues people care about.  That is the way to build a successful and sustainable growth model.  We also need the right standards of leadership across business, with managers who are authentic, have high levels of integrity and are driven by a deep sense of purpose.  I’m very grateful that CMI has chosen to recognise me in this fashion and it will be a privilege to receive the Gold Medal in April.”

Last year Polman was among the leaders who gave testimony to the Commission on the Future of Management and Leadership. Its Management 2020 report called for managers and leaders to focus on the People, Purpose and Potential of their business – which CMI’s Chief Executive, Ann Francke, says is exemplified by Polman’s approach:

“Paul’s leadership shows how management can be reinvented for the 21st century. Building a sense of social purpose, leading people and maximising the potential of the next generation are at the heart of good management, and it’s clear that Paul has led real change in these areas at the same time as delivering business growth. This award is well-deserved and we look forward to presenting the Gold Medal to Paul in April.”

Polman joins a distinguished list of past recipients of the leadership accolade including Dame Fiona Reynolds, Sir John Armitt and Carolyn McCall. He will be presented with the award at the CMI President’s Dinner, hosted by Mike Clasper at the Shakespeare’s Globe on 13 April 2015.

For more information or to attend the event visit: CMI President's Dinner.


Paul Polman is also the cover star of the new edition of Professional Manager magazine.

Five top tips from his interview include:

  • “Don’t be too internally focussed. To be a good leader, you have to be very engaged. You have to be really in touch with what is going on in the world. Sometimes we get too quickly into our own comfort zone, because we are all amongst like-minded people in the office. It’s important to find out what the issues are and how people live. Take the time to break out of your bubble.”
  • “Try to drive the trust factor higher. From my experience, organisations that have a high level of trust are organisations where you have a higher level of cooperation. These are also the organisations where you have a higher level of innovation because you don’t need all the rules and regulations, you don’t need to write everything down.”
  • “Refocus on how you encourage people to develop. Managers often think that their team members have weaknesses that they, as managers, have to worry about. I disagree. For leaders it’s far more important to focus on the strengths of people, and make the most of these strengths, because we are all different.”
  • “Think about the deeper purpose of your business. We can’t all go and join the Peace Corp. We have to produce products, we have to sell them, we have to make money so it’s sustainable. But it is possible to do this with a very deep sense of purpose and leave the world a better place.”
  • “Give your people the courage and the permission to do things differently. When Unilever stopped giving quarterly reporting people asked how I did it. I just did it. In fact, I did it on my first day as I figured ‘they can’t fire me on the first day they hire me.’ That worked out well!”

Further information

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