The 4 principles of CEO Neil Burkett’s leadership

Originally born in New Zealand, Neil Burkett currently heads the Guardian Media Group and is taking them from strength to strength after previously overseeing the rise and subsequent sale of Virgin Media in 2013 to the American firm Liberty Global for over $23 billion. So what’s the key to his success? He believes that looking after your customers and being innovative are behind Virgin Media’s rejuvenation under his leadership.

Neil Burkett is a CEO with integrity, focus, courage and vision. All these abilities enable him to mobilise collaboration and work with his teams as a great leader.

His principles as a CEO already give you an idea of how you can follow in his footsteps. But here’s a closer look at how he has employed these in building and leading some of the UK’s largest companies.


Perhaps the most important of Berkett’s principles with regards to his leadership skills are honesty, probity and forthrightness, as great leadership demands these. Many companies and leaders fail because they don’t follow this principle even though this is what staff and customers alike look for.


Leaders often have many competing challenges and tasks. In order for Berkett to be an effective leader he stays focused, and as such provides an undeviating vision of what he is leading his team towards.

That is not to say that new ideas should be cast aside, but they must be discussed, prioritised and introduced within the framework of the focused vision so that everything ultimately works towards the end goal of a successful and well-oiled company.


One of the most important leadership virtues is courage. Aristotle called it ‘the first virtue’ and said it is teachable. In short, it instructs and strengthens all others, particularly in the face of challenges or uncertainty. At a young age, Berkett’s courage and conviction were propelling him to greatness within his field of expertise. Everyone has the propensity for courage, it just needs to be encouraged.


You cannot be a great leader without vision. That is, the ability to see the future, embrace and adapt to changes and ideas from others, to be passionate about the work you do, and show this same compassion towards those you work with. Berkett is a visionary. When he joined Virgin, the company was losing customers at an alarming rate and was almost in tatters. His skills, vision and determination have turned that around, and since then, this same principle has seen him achieve the same in many other companies.

From the boardroom to the playing field: a shining example

Vince Lombardi was one of America’s most famous football coaches, the reason being he respected the same principles as Berkett and knew that they would give his team the advantage. He planned every session methodically and told his players: if you want to win, you have to pay the price. But, instead of burdening the team with this, he took responsibility and accepted that duty himself. By doing this, the team were relieved of pressure, which in turn allowed them to focus. This example led to a growth of trust between him and the team, and subsequently a much better performance from them. These are the principles which Berkett utilises each and every day to achieve his goals. That is leadership!

These principles are not exclusive to CEOs at the top firms – they can be nurtured in leaders across industries and companies large and small. Our tailored and innovative consultation service and training courses in leadership can help you take your company to the next level. For more information or to book a course, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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