“What I’m trying to build is something that’s not cyclical. Whether I achieve it or not will be determined by the people that I leave behind.”


This is a memorable quote from Stephen Johnson, our guest contributor this month, it’s clear throughout his interview that sustaining a people-focused culture is a critical factor for the ongoing success of Quooker, plus it’s an important part of his personal leadership journey.

We were also impressed by Stephen’s capacity to constantly self-reflect and his humility to keep learning and challenging himself. At REAL. Leadership I’ve seen that great leaders are “hear-o-holics”, they don’t just listen to people…they actually hear what’s being said and have the self awareness to know when they need to do something about it.

Things are moving very quickly right now for leaders, the risks of saying or doing the wrong thing, being unaware of their unconscious biases or blind spots, and of course external pressures constantly challenging the traditional ways of doing business. It reminded us of another great editorial that Ben Sullivan, CEO of the Reverse Mentoring Practice wrote for us “What makes a workplace diversity programme successful?”. Ben also talks about the importance of humility as a leader, creating a culture of trust and being active rather than just an ally.

What was the last thing you truly learned from someone in your team? More importantly what did you do about it? Did you just listen and nod or did you make something happen?

Scroll down to read more from Stephen and, for those of you who are looking to share your Leadership expertise or journey but don’t know where to start, Corinna Cunningham explains why it might be time to write your first book!




REAL. Leadership Founder Steve Charlton recently spoke to Stephen Johnson, Managing Director of Quooker “a kitchen revolution that is currently taking over the world!”

We first connected with Stephen when Quooker were included in The Sunday Times Best Places to Work 2023. These are the companies that are putting their staff well-being at the top of the agenda. Stephen was kind enough to give up his time to explain why creating a sustainable people-first culture is so important to him and what has driven him to challenge established ways of working.

This was a fascinating conversation and challenges many preconceptions you may have of building and running a successful business.


If you like the idea of writing a book but don’t know where to start, here is my advice to you – “Always start with the end in mind”.


We spoke recently to Corinna Cunningham, Ghostwriter & Book Mentor, about why we should all be considering writing our first book. Find out more if you like the idea of writing a book but don’t know where to start.


Here at REAL. Leadership we love to share with you the what our leadership community are watching and listening to. When we caught up with Stephen about his Quooker journey we asked him for his top tips.

Currently reading ‘Can’t Hurt Me ‘ by David Goggins.

Currently watching ‘LIVE to 100’- secret of the blue zones.  


Do you really know what your team think of your leadership?


I’ve tried numerous ways to solicit honest feedback during my career such as anonymous surveys or 360 assessments. But I’ve had the most success by creating that safe space people could be totally honest about my leadership, without fear of consequence or judgement. It’s not easy and it takes time. Ironically I would get more honest feedback from the most junior people in my teams, those who hadn’t been “brainwashed” into the organisation, in fact I created a team of “change agents” who were voted by their peers to be the most vocal or challenging in the business. They had free reign to tell me what was truly happening within the team, what people really thought about my leadership or communication, it wasn’t always easy to hear but it was the only way to see my leadership blind spots and begin to create a people-focused culture.
If any of this resonates and you want to have a chat, why not get in touch with the team at getreal@realleadership.consulting, and they will arrange a free 20 minute (no obligation) discovery session.

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