Five Principles That Define Leadership Development


The last few years have, undoubtedly, come with their fair share of organizational challenges. Many longstanding work practices have been disrupted or brought into question and while this has been an uncomfortable experience in many ways, this time has also provided an opportunity to reflect, take stock of our approach to leadership and what it truly means. Ultimately, I believe the challenges we have faced have done much to reaffirm one thing: the critical importance of leadership development.


Inspired by Purpose, People and Performance

At Bimbo Canada, leadership isn’t just focused on performance-driven results.  To reflect our values, our purpose of Nourishing a Better World, and our strategy to Reinvent with Purpose, leadership must be able - and willing - to evolve, to rise to unforeseen challenges, and reaffirm our commitment to caring for our people and community.

For these reasons, we’ve taken the opportunity to focus on what effective, inspired, and meaningful leadership really looks like. The result of our desire to create a blueprint for leaders – complete with a wide range of self-management skills to better navigate challenges – is our recently-implemented, new Bimbo Canada Leader Model. It reflects the input of our single greatest asset: our people, who have contributed to the transformation of our leadership development approach. Our investment in leadership is designed to support our business and our people-first culture – after all, how we lead matters just as much as, if not more than, what we accomplish.


Lead by Example

The cornerstone of any meaningful, effective leadership strategy begins and ends with a tried-and-true maxim: lead by example. For Bimbo Canada, this means fostering genuine trust within our organization and leading with authenticity. This is done through prioritizing the safety and well-being of others, building genuine connections, showing respect and empathy, taking ownership, and staying humble and grounded. It’s important that all leaders of our organization are given the tools to ‘walk the talk,’ so to speak. Moreover, to lead by example is to be aware of our impact on others, to stay professional and respectful, and to navigate challenges with focus, energy, and optimism.  There’s also something to be said about having fun along the way too!


Empower Our People 

An effective leader understands that empowerment is a cyclical process: when we empower our team through a strong emphasis on communication, engagement, collaboration, and inclusivity, we give them the tools to drive results and success. Our goals are their goals.

Communication is the cornerstone of empowerment for effective leaders who understand the benefits of attentive listening, actively seeking out others’ perspectives and opinions, and being clear, thorough, and succinct when it comes to sharing information.  Strong communication is also a product of the genuine trust I’ve previously touched on.  By creating a safe environment where people are encouraged to speak freely, ask questions, and challenge other points of view, leaders can foster an environment where others feel valued, part of the team, and ultimately encouraged to push, learn, and develop further.


Be Adaptable

I’m sure more than a few leaders would prefer to have a crystal ball on-hand to help anticipate the unexpected, but for practical purposes, I believe that effective leadership is focused on being both adaptable and anticipatory. At Bimbo Canada, we drive a consumer-is-our-boss and customer-is-our-partner approach that emphasizes the importance of staying on top of the consumer’s preferences, wants, and values. We also engage and partner with customers and suppliers to further meet consumer needs. Not only does this approach to leadership allow us to identify new opportunities as they arise, it also offers us a competitive advantage in better serving our customers.

Internally, adaptable leaders also demonstrate a keen awareness of various factors that may impact business, be they social, governmental, competitive, or consumer based. By thinking ahead and planning accordingly, a strong leader will anticipate, prepare for, and be ready to change course quickly – ultimately investing in initiatives that position their team for future success.


Deliver Results by Prioritizing

Before an effective leader can deliver on results, I believe that providing vision, clarity, and direction, is indispensable. Through an established and aligned set of goals, plans, and priorities, leaders can help minimize reactivity, remove distractions, and help their teams remain focused on the big picture. Inspiring leaders will communicate direction with confidence and credibility, create buy-in and commitment, and energize others.

Results and success also depend on a leader’s ability to focus on what is important by driving value and fostering a safe, people-first culture. Initiative and accountability are key factors as well; effective leaders shouldn’t wait for direction rather, they need to take the same initiative they’d expect from others. Accountability means taking ownership for our actions, decisions and commitments regardless of organizational chart hierarchy or reporting relationships.

At Bimbo Canada, we are passionate about great leadership and I’ll share my thoughts on this with anyone who will listen! The model I’ve briefly highlighted is designed to develop inspiring and confident leaders who acknowledge that nurturing a culture of strong leadership is also a great driver of performance and positive change. For these reasons, I believe that a long-term investment in leadership brings with it an enduring effect – one that helps us shift perspective, evolve, and ultimately win in the marketplace.


Leslee Wills
Vice President, People & Corporate Affairs