Sitting and watching Stuart Rose present on M&S' excellent interims this week, it was hard not to notice how much credit he continually gave to the team beneath him. It was quite endearing, but more importantly, enlightening. Chief executives are important figureheads and should set the strategic agenda, but no CEO is an island: managing in the retail sector is about building and motivating a team. The job can't be done alone.

In broad terms, the head of any business is responsible for two key areas: strategy and execution. The best companies combine both and have coherent road maps for where they want their brands to go, and how they're going to get there.

But that's the point: they have to work hand in hand. And that's why having a trusted and capable executive board (to look ahead) and operations board (to do the day job) are the keys to success.

How have two of the big recovery stories in retail done it? Well they've taken different approaches. Justin King at Sainsbury has taken much more of a "clear the decks" approach: a number of new ops guys have come in from other retailers, with King building the team almost from scratch. There are not many executives from the Davis era left. Very José Mourinho.

Over at M&S, Stuart Rose has taken a different line. Realising that he was inheriting an excellent squad of executives anyway, it's been much more a case of fine-tuning. He picked them up, he shook them up and now he's turned them around. Morale is high and the confidence has returned. Very Martin O'Neill.

But it doesn't always work this well, and to us, the common theme where retailers have slipped up is the breakdown of the relationship between the strategists and the shop floor. Somerfield and Kwik Save, we fear, have struggled of late....are there too many financiers setting the agenda without reference to what really matters in store? Could Debenhams be accused of being a retailer run by accountants? Arcadia is run by a great man of the sector, but the spotlight is rarely diverted by that chief executive towards the people who help him succeed.

The lessons are clear. Build a team around you that thinks strategically and operationally in the same proportions. Reward inspiration and perspiration. If it works, enjoy the limelight. But never, ever forget that ultimately, it's a team game.