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Lord John Bird of Notting Hill is the force and mastermind behind The Big Issue, the world’s most successful street magazine. He is an award winning entrepreneur. Bird is also an inspirational leader with an impressive reputation of using business as a tool for social change.
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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).
Lord of Notting Hill
Marcus Morris Award
2001 Honorary Degree, Oxford Brookes University
2000 PPA Publisher of the Year Award
2000 Honorary Degree, John Moores University, Liverpool
2000 CRE Race in the Media Award – 3 times winner (also 1998 and 1995)
2000 International Federation of Journalists Award
1998 Mind Journalist of the Year
1996 United Nation’s Habitat Two Award, recognising him as one of the world’s top 100 social entrepreneurs
1995 Best Environmental Coverage
1993 British Society of Magazine Editors’ Editor of the Year Award
In a 2004 BBC poll, John was voted London’s Living Legend.
Bird on Bird
“My name is Lord John Bird of Notting Hill. I earned my MBE by creating The Big Issue, probably the biggest social business in the world. We now have publications and offices throughout the world. I have spoken in City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, in US and British prisons, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and Number Ten. I have spoken to Princes and Queens, pop stars, football stars and ambassadors. I have spoken at Scotland Yard, the UN, and at Rotary clubs and local councils. I have talked to leaders, from Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit to Jesse Jackson and Lord Moody Stewart, the former head of Shell. I have inspired South London Social workers on the front line and Swedish Bankers worried about the bottom line.
I speak clearly and powerfully and my message is simple: It’s about motivation, leadership, drive, learning from your mistakes, and turning rejection into something positive. I have been homeless, an offender, and an addict. Yet I’ve achieved a more than many who started life with more advantages than me. I am now ready to help other people to realize their goals.”
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.
John Bird talks on Leadership, entrepreneurism, social change, necessity of poverty and many more topics.