John Bird was born into poverty, brought up in care, and has lived through a lot. His life’s journey has included spells as a thief, prison inmate, artist and poet. Now an established iconoclast, activist and publisher, John Bird is the force behind The Big Issue, the world’s most successful street magazine. He is an inspirational business leader with an outstanding record of using business as a tool for social change.
At a time when Corporate Social Responsibility is preoccupying business leaders and consumers alike, John Bird offers an authoritative, fresh approach, and some original perspectives on the interaction of business and society. His diverse experience, combined with his exuberant personality, erudition and often trenchant views make him a compelling and entertaining speaker.
John has spoken at the UN in New York, Nairobi and Istanbul, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. The UN Scroll of Honour, an MBE and the 2005/6 Beacon Prize for Creative Giving are just three of the many accolades and awards he has received. Since founding The Big Issue in 1991 with Gordon Roddick, John has overseen its development into the UK’s most successful social enterprise, stretching from Tokyo to Totnes and helping thousands of homeless people worldwide.
His autobiography “Some Luck”, published by Penguin is a compelling story of John’s journey from poverty, rejection, and struggle to eventual redemption. In March 2007 he took part to the Quick Reads campaign and wrote the bestselling ‘How to change your life in 7 steps’ (Random House).
John Bird on leadership
"I have always been interested in the phenomenon of leadership. I have made a study of what creates good leaders and have given speeches on leadership to many different audiences. I have met many successful leaders and count some of them among my friends. I’m told I’m a good leader too. Keeping the Big Issue together through all its trials and torments has certainly been a test of my own leadership skills. The fact that The Big Issue is stronger than ever today is in part testament to my ability to lead from the front.
My life has been about leadership and inspiring others to become leaders – even if it is just to take leadership of their own lives. Creating and motivating new leaders is what I do best. My leadership style is to be engaging, questioning, and above all inspirational, because my own life story and experiences have been inspirational. The people I have known, the experiences I have had, and the places I’ve been – all still inspire me today.
Bringing leadership to your role in whatever you do is worth trying. Bad leaders can ruin whole organisations, and even nations, while great leaders inspire those around them to feel better and do better. Great leaders can turn even an ordinary business or organisation into an exceptional one. Successful leadership breeds success."