Featured Business Leader: Sir John Sunderland

Last modified 03 May 2022
Categories: Business Leaders
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Knighted by the Queen of England in 2006 for his services to business, Sir John Sunderland is a great example of how anyone can defy the odds and succeed. Once labelled by his headmaster as ‘a distinctly average boy’, Sunderland went on to prove he is significantly better than average. Joining Cadbury Limited in 1968, Sunderland worked in a range of streams within the business working his way up to the boards of Cadbury Ireland and Cadbury South Africa. After almost 20 years of service, he was appointed Managing Director of Trebor Bassett (currently Cadbury UK), before being appointed Chief Executive (CEO) of Cadbury in 1996.

After serving as CEO for seven years, Sunderland became Chairman in 2003. Five years after this appointment he retired at the age of 63. Despite retirement, Sunderland is still an active member of a number of organisations. These include being the Non-Executive Director on the Barclays board from 2010-2014, as well as being current Director of the Financial Reporting Council, and an active member of BUPA and Reading University.

Aside from his wealth of professional experience, Sunderland comes from an educated background. Holding a degree in Social Sciences as well as a Masters of Business Administration, he proves that a great foundation of knowledge can assist you in working your way up within an organisation. When asked to present prizes at his former high school, he explained to the audience that he did not have any ‘words of wisdom’ to share, however then went on to encourage students to ‘defy the impossible’. Although somewhat controversial, he also encouraged them to ‘defy authority on the way to success’, meaning that not everything that superiors say is correct. This encouraged students to be confident in new ways of thinking and in suggesting new ideas.  

Today Sir John Sunderland is the Chancellor of Aston University, further cementing the high value he places on higher education. When considering Sunderland’s story, we can all learn that no matter what our current position is – we can always work towards something better. No matter what other people have declared you – you can always prove them wrong. I am interested to hear your views though – do you agree with this take on business and success? What do you think about Sir John Sunderland’s story? Also, if you would like to see another business leader profiled, please let me know.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Barclays http://group.barclays.com/about-barclays/about-us/sir-john-sunderland and Business Week.  http://investing.businessweek.com Source: Barclays http://group.barclays.com/about-barclays/about-us/sir-john-sunderland

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