I MIGHT not have too much trouble drawing up a list of the most - and least - influential people in the North East.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of business leaders over the last 42 years, looking every time for someone who impresses and inspires me and therefore has a good chance of having the same effect on their workers and customers.

Good results and happy shareholders don’t just happen because the books balance and there are no legal proceeding pending. Organisations need to be led, not dragged, staff need to consulted, not ambushed, and customers need to trust the person sitting in front of them.

I look to our leaders in government and in business to have different skills to those around them.

It needs to be obvious why they have been selected to lead.


Towards the end of a year that has challenged us to find our own strengths I have spoken to people for this supplement who show how many variations of leadership style we need.

They are people who interest me and who I think BUSINESSiQ readers should know a bit more about. You may know them from their business titles, but what are they like as people, what are their ethics, characters, inspirations, family backgrounds?

Even just a few minutes with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak tells you something about him as a person -a chance to look him in the eyes, see how he responds to questions, how he chooses his words.

This new weekly supplement means that through 2022 I will be talking to around 50 more people who will influence this remarkable reborn region.

The five I have interviewed so far have left no doubt about their commitment to the North East.

Nolan Gray: “It’s not that I own the Freeport, or that anyone owns a Freeport. The Freeport is actually the people.”

Heather Scott: “I’m extremely excited for all of the residents in the town and the opportunities that these jobs will bring.”

Jamie Driscoll: “I’ll always look at it from the point of view of what makes the biggest difference to people.”

Bill Scott: “I’m the CEO but I’m just an employee of the company and I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong.”

Rishi Sunak: “What I’m loving is that it will grow and as it does we are becoming part of the community.”

The common thread is our leaders telling us they put us first.

They are working for us and - crucially - we have to feel that they genuinely mean it, not that it’s just ‘the right thing to say’ to keep us on board.

The North East will spend 2022 making the most of the amazing gifts it has been given, from people to investment and support to promises. Leaders like these will be put to the test.

I’ll be watching closely, but I think they’ll pass with distinction.