Why should anyone be led by you?

Why should anyone be led by you? This is a great question for self-reflection for any leader, focused on your leadership identity, values and purpose. It’s also the title of a book of Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones, and a piece of research I use when working with startup founders to help shape and articulate their leadership style.

More and more people and organisations are on the quest for authenticity of leadership. People want to be led by people they trust, respect and who are sincere. Goffee and Jones identify some key concepts – know and show yourself often, get close to your people but also keep your distance, and communicate with care.

The recipe is to get connected to one’s inner self and to start talking and acting in a real, emotionally connected way to enhance engagement and creativity. Organisations want more sincere leadership, more initiative. But leadership isn’t easy. It requires focus and practice.

The tumultuous result from last week’s General Election was as much about the leadership credentials of May and Corbyn as their opposing political ideologies. May’s frequent tortured physiognomy haunted me like a Spitting Image retrospective, contrasting to Corbyn’s calm, principled style of communication, which confused me when set against the narrative of his seemingly naïve and unclear approach to leadership we’ve seen historically.

When May called the general election, Corbyn was widely regarded as the weakest leader the Labour Party had since Michael Foot in 1983 or perhaps even since George Lansbury in 1935. Today he is the comeback king, undisputed leader of the Labour Party.

Whatever your politics, May’s leadership will be remembered for one big, disastrous gamble. She called a snap election, seemingly to bank a bigger majority against an apparently shambolic Labour opposition, characterised by Corbyn’s weak leadership, a safe one-way bet to a landslide and renewed five-year majority term. But there followed one of the most dramatic collapses in British political history.

Corbyn’s conviction politics caught the imagination, his principles overtaking the doubters who stalled at May’s lack of personal empathy and engagement. There will be no ‘strong and stable’ government that May said the country needed when she called the vote. Things fell apart for May, despite Diana Abbott’s mathematical malfunctions.

Whoever becomes British Prime Minister will have to lead a fractured country and grapple with three crises. Firstly there is chronic instability. We are a divided and confused country – between outward and inward-looking Brexit voters, gapping polarity between young and old, the divide between cosmopolitan cities and the rest (don’t get me started on rural broadband in Rossendale versus 4G in Manchester), and the gulf between nationalists and unionist perspectives.

Secondly, I anticipate economic turbulence ahead. Whereas in 2016 the UK economy grew the fastest of the G7, in Q1 of 2017 it was the slowest. Unemployment remains at its lowest in decades, but with inflation at a three-year high and rising, real wages are falling. Tax revenues and growth will suffer as inward investment falls and net migration of skilled Europeans tails off. Maybe it’s just me, but the economy was given little visibility in the Election and voters are blissfully unaware of the coming crunch.

The third issue is on the next page of my diary: in just a week’s time the most important and difficult political negotiation Britain has attempted in peacetime will be upon us. Brexit involves dismantling an economic and political arrangement that has existed for over fifty years, linking Britain to the economic bloc with which we send half of our exports, from which come half of our migrant population, and which has helped to keep the peace in Europe and stability beyond.

May or Corbyn – neither has given any clarity how to negotiate Britain’s trickiest-ever divorce, neither fully answered the question of how the economic pain of Brexit will be shared. We seem resigned to the fact that we were duped by promises of a Brexit dividend of more cash for the NHS, but no one has been held truly accountable. May’s demise is more of a lack of confidence in her personally than retribution for the Bullingdon Boys’ private spat spinning out of control.

From an apparent position of strength and boasting the fatuous slogan that I am a bloody difficult woman, May’s leadership credentials unravelled, undermined by the reluctance to face voters directly, such that a beleaguered May now faces a backlash and is fighting for her political life, seeking a coalition of convenience to bolster her chances of keeping her Government alive.

She’s a hostage inside the Tory Party and in an invidious position, isolated and waiting until someone knocks on her door and tells her to sling her hook. I’m sure those grey men in grey suits at the apex of the Conservative hierarchy are putting their heads together and trying to stitch up some sort of a way forward.

Meanwhile Corbyn started the Election looking like a partisan rebel, supported largely by a small group of faithful hard-leftists in his office, and, outside Parliament, by Len McLuskey, boss of the Unite trade union, and by Momentum, a grassroots pressure group of activists.

In contrast, many have had a fundamental rethink, as Corbyn demonstrated clear values-based leadership, standing for what he really believes in, always been proud of his socialist record rather than cleaving to the middle ground. He has also demonstrated that the tabloids are no longer the influencers to be feared, reaching out to the younger constituency with his manifesto of #forthemanynotthefew and inspired a new cohort of voters.

Corbyn fought a strong campaign against all expectations. He may not have won the Election but, unlike the leader of the Conservative Party, he now has the aura of a winning leader, whereas May looks to be a floundering leader. As it’s a choice between the two, let’s ask the question of May and Corbyn – why should anyone be led by you? – and look at the detailed research from Goffee and Jones, and see how they shape up.

Their research found that successful leaders modify their behaviour to respond to the needs of their followers and the circumstances they encounter – while simultaneously remaining true to who they are. They produce results by being crystal clear on their unique differentiators and by addressing four critical needs of their followers:

·     Community: followers long for a sense of belonging, to feel part of something bigger. Leaders must help them connect to others (not just to the leaders themselves) as well as to the overarching purpose of the organisation.

·     Authenticity: followers choose to be led by humans, not titles or credentials. Leaders must be able to identify and deploy their personal differences, foibles, and strengths to inspire employees to apply their energy and talents.

·     Significance: followers want to believe their efforts matter. Leaders need to recognise contributions in a meaningful way, with highly personalised feedback.

·     Excitement: followers need a spark to trigger their exceptional performance. Leaders who articulate their own passion, values, and vision provide the energy and enthusiasm employees hunger for.

Besides the above skills and attributes, everyone agrees that leaders need vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction. That goes without saying. But Goffee and Jones also discovered that inspirational leaders shared four unexpected qualities:

·     Vulnerability: by exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity. By selectively revealing their weaknesses (weaknesses, not fatal flaws), this lets employees see that they are open and transparent, building an atmosphere of trust which helps galvanise commitment.

·     Intuition: inspirational leaders have a heavy reliance on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Such leaders are good ‘situation sensors’, they can sense what’s going on without having things spelled out for them, acting on gut instinct.

·     Tough empathy: managing employees with ‘tough empathy’ is the third quality of exceptional leadership. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Leaders must empathise passionately and realistically with people, care intensely about the work they do, and be straightforward with them.

·     Personal uniqueness: the fourth quality of top-notch leaders is that they capitalise on their differences. They use what’s unique about themselves to create a social distance and to signal separateness, which in turn motivates employees to perform better.

All four qualities are necessary for inspirational leadership, but they cannot be used mechanically, they must be mixed and matched to meet the demands of particular situations. Most importantly, however, is that the qualities encourage authenticity among leaders.

The main body of leadership thinking focuses on the characteristics of leaders, giving it a strong psychological bias, seeing leadership qualities as inherent to the individual. The underlying assumption is that leadership is something we do to other people. However, in Goffee and Jones’ view, and one that I subscribe too, leadership should be seen as something we do with other people.

You can’t do anything in a startup business without followers, startup leaders must find ways to engage people and rouse their commitment to company goals. It should be noted that effective leadership is not about results per se, the focus is on leaders who excel at inspiring people, in capturing hearts, minds, and souls. This ability is not everything in business, but great results may be impossible without it.

So, May or Corbyn? Who knows themselves and shows themselves enough with authenticity? Who makes it personal, always present in the moment as a person? Who shows the most ‘tough empathy’, managing their social distance, use bandwidth to shift from distance to closeness as needed? Finally, who communicates with care?

It’s not about the cult of personality, the perceived strength or weakness, rather facing the schisms in our country, the drifting performance of the economy and the challenges of Brexit, political leadership must always be viewed as a relationship between the leader and the led. To be a true leader, be yourself.

Maybe neither are the leaders we aspire for, when compared to Justin Trudeau, the current Canadian Prime Minister, who captured his leadership ethos with these words:

Connecting with Canadians isn’t about what you say, it’s about what you’re listening to. It’s about what you understand. Who cares about winning? We should focus on serving. It’s important that people understand who I am and where I come from and not just have it shaped by purely political discourse.

What organisations need – and what followers want – are authentic leaders who know who they are, where the organisation needs to go, and how to convince followers to help them take it there. So, May or Corbyn, who gets your vote as the next leader of Britain? And how does this thinking speak to your own leadership virtues and values?

Startup leadership lessons from the Charge of the Light Brigade

I’ve long held an interest in British military history, taking leadership lessons into my business thinking. One of the harshest examples is the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. It highlights for entrepreneurs on how shortfalls in planning, poor working relationships and ineffective communication can have a hugely negative impact on decision-making and consequently, outcomes.

It is one of the least edifying episodes in British military history. On October 25th, 1854, at the Battle of Balaclava, the elite of the British army, The Light Brigade, charged suicidally into a phalanx of Russian heavy guns. The result was a tragedy: 673 men and officers engaged in the charge – fewer than one hundred survived. The Charge of The Light Brigade is one of the most compelling examples of incompetent British military leadership.

One reason startups plunge headlong into failure is by ignoring the rules of good decision-making and effective communication. The causes have an echo from the Crimea – entrenched attitudes, blinkered leadership, weak planning, clear thinking overcome by emotion. The results are familiar – great passion and effort but wasted energy and missed opportunities.

The story starts in 1853, when Russia invaded the Balkans. Britain and France had Treaty obligations, which they decided to fulfill because they did not want Russia with access to a warm water port and potentially greater political and commercial influence.

 The first problem they had to face was one of leadership. Who would lead the British Forces? Choice was limited. There hadn’t been a major war since the defeat of Napoleon forty years before and there was a lack of experience in the senior ranks.

The choice for leader eventually fell upon Lord Raglan, Wellington’s son-in-law, who had held a desk job as a military secretary for 40 years. There was hope that Wellington’s genius might have rubbed off on him. He was affable, likeable, well mannered – the perfect English gentleman. But he had no experience of leadership in the field.

The Cavalry Division was made up of the Light and Heavy Brigades. Lord Lucan was in charge of the Cavalry Division, a disciplinarian not respected by his troops. He was a hard worker and up before dawn each day. Lord Cardigan was in charge of the Light Brigade. He had a fiery temper. He was dismissed as Colonel of the 15th Hussars for his vindictive and tyrannical rule.

During the Crimean campaign, Cardigan lived on his boat, away from the troops, unlike Lucan who chose to stay with his men and experience the same conditions. Cardigan and Lucan were brothers-in-law and disliked each other intensely.

The lack of a warm relationship between the brothers-in-law impacted the chain of command, and was ultimately one of the factors that created a dysfunctional leadership culture. Raglan was the Head of the Army and Lucan reported to him; Lucan was Cardigan’s boss but Cardigan did not want to report to Lucan and tried to bypass him whenever he could by going direct to Raglan.

When Lucan complained to Raglan, Cardigan complained of Lucan’s interference. Raglan’s natural reaction when faced with interpersonal conflict was to avoid it and not resolve it. His tactic was simply to ask both men to get on with each other. Cardigan and Lucan’s relationship never improved, the pattern of behaviour was set from the outset.

By October 1854, the Allied armies were besieging Sevastopol. On the morning of 25th October, there were large movements of Russian forces threatening the British supply lines at Balaclava. Raglan sent messages for reinforcements to come down to the valley to help defend the base. One of these messages went to Sir George Cathcart, in charge of the Fourth Division, but Cathcart failed to see the urgency. He saw it as one of many urgent requests and considered this to be yet another false alarm.

As it was, history meant that everybody’s expectations were different and unaligned. Raglan thought Cathcart would support Lucan; Lucan thought Cathcart would appear and waited; Cathcart thought it was another false alarm and didn’t move instantly. This had fatal consequences.

On top of the hill, watching the events at Balaclava unfold, were Raglan and his officers. One of them noticed that the Russians were preparing to take away some British guns, captured earlier in the day, which would have been an embarrassment, but of little military impact. Raglan decided to try to stop them – a decision that was emotionally and culturally driven.

Raglan sent down a series of four separate orders to Lucan, telling him to use cavalry to stop the Russians taking away the guns. However, they had totally different physical perspectives on the theatre, and what the key actions and focus were for the next stages of the battle. So the schism was formed. Lucan literally couldn’t see the same guns as Raglan, but he could see guns. Because he could only see one set of guns, he assumed Raglan meant those.

They weren’t the British guns Raglan didn’t want the Russians capturing and enjoying a political and psychological victory, they were Russian guns at the far end of the valley, heavily protected on three sides by Russian infantry and cavalry. Lucan didn’t understand the orders from Raglan; he was confused. However, there were enormous pressures on him to do something.

One of the observers on the hill with Raglan was a young cavalry officer, Captain Louis Nolan. Nolan was experienced and knowledgeable, but, he was a junior officer and not from the right class, so senior officers didn’t take much notice of him. When he saw opportunities for victory being thrown away he was beside himself. Remember, he was seeing what Raglan saw – but he had little respect for the abilities of the cavalry commanders and, watching the activities below, his opinion was being confirmed.

Nolan was chosen to take the fourth and last order to Lucan. It was a disastrous decision considering Nolan’s perspective of the immediate event and his opinions of his superiors, which drove his behaviour. Nolan’s instructions to Lucan were unequivocal – attack the guns. His tone in delivering the order carried the full force of his anger and frustration. He didn’t explain. Lucan had to obey.

Paradoxically, the one time Lucan ought to have delayed and asked for clarity, he didn’t. Lucan ordered Cardigan and the Light Brigade down the valley to attack the (wrong) guns. When Cardigan received the order from Lucan he said I shall never be able to bring a man back but didn’t want his brother-in-law to have the satisfaction of seeing him appear to be cowardly. So he led the charge with 673 men straight at the firing enemy. Everybody knew the order was insane, but everybody followed it.

So what business lessons can we take from this catastrophic failure of leadership? A pointless effort due to muddled orders, especially when compared to the entirely successful and equally gallant charge of the Heavy Brigade earlier on the same day is generally forgotten?

Create a unified leadership culture At one level, the battle is a story of personal ambition, animosity and prejudice. Lucan and Cardigan detested each other and went out of their way to undermine each other. Leaders must put personal differences aside to create a shared consensus and collaborative culture, the adverse impact of personal vendettas is clear to see.

An entrepreneurial leader helps their people achieve greatness, even during hardship. It’s important to push your folks to meet their goals and advance their development and personal growth – it’s about their journey too. Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

Leadership is about people Raglan had never commanded an army in the field before. Politically adept but lacking emotional intelligence, he simply didn’t know the job of leading people, above or below his command.

As an early-stage entrepreneur, your team will be small, but with trustworthy people in place and proper coaching, you can better compete with the big guys. Be courteous to all, and intimate with a trusted few.

Leadership means listening The individual who ended up taking the blame for the fiasco of the Charge, Captain Nolan, was intelligent and motivated, eaten up with frustration at being ignored by a prejudiced class system that refused to acknowledge ability. No one listened to him. The arrogance of leaders means they often ignore others who are younger, more intelligent and from a different background to themselves.

Building a startup team is key, an entrepreneur can’t do it on their own. Assemble a core team of trustworthy people, create an open style of communicating, and listen to them. Consider different viewpoints and figure out the best approach.

Agility over hierarchy in decision making For his part, Cardigan’s pride prevented him from directly challenging an order from his superior. Why did Lucan, against his better judgement, obey Raglan’s order as transmitted by Nolan? Was it obedience to his superior, and the personal authority implied, or a desire not to be bested by his despised brother-in-law?

Under pressure, it is the quality of relationships that matter most. As an entrepreneur, you will make mistakes, but it’s how you learn from them and share this learning that will define your success as a leader.

Focus on clarity of communication From an organisational perspective, the Charge is a catalogue of inadequate channels and clarity of communication. Raglan`s last ‘urgent request’ for reinforcements was dismissed as scaremongering by its recipient. Nolan was responsible for transmitting Raglan’s final order to Lucan to charge, and it is possible that his repetition of Raglan’s order built upon the vagueness of the original message with his own bitterness and anger, resulted in Lucan’s reckless interpretation.

Leadership is about respect and humility As The Light Brigade blundered into a battle in the wrong place at the wrong time, the entire campaign narrowly avoided total disaster due to the heroic independent action of General Colin Campbell of the Sutherland Highlanders 93rd Black Watch Regiment, in forming what became immortalised as The Thin Red Line.

In this incident, the 93rd routed a Russian cavalry charge, which if successful would have signaled total defeat. Convention dictated that the line should be four-men deep. The Times correspondent, William H. Russell, wrote that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British regiment’s base of operations at Balaklava but the “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel” of the 93rd.

The line was two-men deep. This scared the Russians into thinking it was a trap, and they pulled away. Campbell’s relationship with his men was unconventional, he treated them like sons, as individuals, with warmth, compassion and humility.

We can condense this event into a symbol of how personalised leadership and personal connectivity is key to creating composure in battle, and this in business. Treat people as individuals, not resources.

Leadership is personal Asking future leaders to re-interpret their present reality through the lens of past examples is simply indoctrination, instead embody their learning experientially and facilitate an understanding of personal perspective and relevance in the current context. Helping develop essential skills, such as empathy, personal vision and personal presence is vital.

When you respect your folks, they will respect you, and when people believe in their leader, they’ll go to far for her. The forbearing use of power forms a touchstone for respect.

The paradox of leadership is shown clearly between Lucan and Cardigan, and Campbell. The difference is largely down to Campbell’s personal leadership skills. Campbell had that capacity for peripheral vision that enabled him to see what was at stake, and the single-mindedness to do something about it. It is a wonderful contrast with the blinkered myopic response of Lucan and Cardigan, unable to step outside a fixed behaviour.

Leadership is about calmness, not bravado Lieutenant Lewis B. Puller is the most decorated US marine in history, his service spanned four decades. He led marines in nineteen campaigns and some of the most critical battles of the C20th. Puller is most remembered by his fellow marines for his quick-witted encouragement in the midst of combat.

In the face of adversity, you have to stay calm and positive. If you lose it, your team will follow suit: All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.

One valorously tragic incident, immortalised by Tennyson’s epic poem, is a story of a tragic defeat, commanded by officers without a clear view of the battlefield, distracted by personal agendas and plagued by communication problems. Someone had blunder’d. Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred. Was there a man dismayed? It truly was the valley of Death.

The story of the Charge of The Light Brigade is where 673 men charged down the wrong valley after the wrong target. Are you charging down the wrong valleys after the wrong targets in your startup? Ask yourself the question about your direction and purpose, your strategy and tactics. But most of all, reflect on your leadership culture, style and communication.

Brexit and the oxymoron of political leadership: why should anyone be led by you?

On a recent Friday morning, I awoke shocked like many to find that UK electorate had chosen to exit the EU. As an advocate of Remain, I am still struggling to come to terms with the idea of a ‘divorce’ from what I regard to be a positive relationship with our fellow Europeans on social and economic issues. On the surface, Brexit has all the flavours ranging from nostalgia of self-rule to xenophobia.

Some have attributed Brexit to a political error by Cameron in holding a referendum, poor management of migration policy by the EU and downright misjudgement on how inflammable the issue of migration into the UK has become, such that it became the single-decision issue for most Leave voters.

It is worth reflecting on what caused this surprise result and what we can learn from it from a leadership perspective, as for me, the leadership vacuum on both sides of the debate is my overriding takeaway. As a consequence, the subsequent fall-out from the leading voices in both the Remain and Leave campaigns has left us with some dramatic short-term adverse and unexpected challenges.

The fallout is huge. The Prime Minister resigned with haste and no obvious successor, and the Leave campaign leadership exited themselves with equal undue haste, opting to save their own skins. Multiple Tories crept out of the woodwork murmuring their leadership credentials, whilst the Shadow Cabinet is in open revolt in an effort to oust Corbyn, struggling to survive a coup yet stating he’s under no pressure.

Meanwhile, the ‘rerun the referendum petition’ reached over four million signatures seemingly overnight, and the pound hit a 31-year low against the dollar. And there is talk in Scotland and Wales of total secession. It has been a painful experience to watch events unfurl on such a seismic scale, the like of which we have never seen before.

In business, when something happens of such significance – loss of a major customer or project, a strategic shift in the market, or a factory closure and a round of redundancies, we expect a clear sense of authority and direction to be communicated by the leadership. Someone steps up and reassures us that all will be well, and that this moment, like others before it, will pass. Heads come up, we face the challenge, we adapt, shrug our shoulders and move on.

In the case of Brexit, weeks after a vote demanding a significant change of direction, there remains a total leadership void. Precisely no one has stepped up. Neither side advocating their point of view had a clear game plan in the event of victory or defeat.

If you take one constructive lesson from Brexit, it is a stark reminder of the absolute imperative of genuine leadership. The political turmoil of the last few weeks offers many lessons about how to fail and succeed as a leader. Here are my thoughts on the leadership takeaways from the referendum.

Focus on your people first and second It is clear the Remain leaders failed to create engagement, and build trust. Employee engagement is one of the defining issues in current management debate. With the impact of the millennial generation joining the workforce, more people are simply showing up to pick up a paycheck, while their passion for the business and commitment has waned. They are cynical about business and are more focused on ‘what’s in it for me?’

To turn around these attitudes, business leaders need to stop trying to please their investors, who will never be satisfied, no matter how strong the results, and engage and inspire their people. They should invest in them through training, creative and flexible benefits packages, and create an empowering culture.

Business leaders who ignore their co-workers’ emotions and sentiment do so at their peril. Discontented employees lead to disengaged, fractured workplaces, poor customer experience and consequently mediocre results. The lack of engagement delivered by the Remain campaign showed in the results.

Spend face-to-face time with customers There is no greater place for learning what is going on in your business than being in the marketplace with customers. Leaders who apply all five senses to customer interactions learn more first-hand than they do from reading reports or looking at PowerPoint presentations.

When he became CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman asked his leaders ten questions to see how much time they were spending with customers. Their responses were so embarrassing that Polman challenged them to refocus their entire strategies on customers. This type of customer engagement signals to the entire organisation that the company puts customers first.

Remain discounted the apathy of the millennial generation, which favoured Remain, but only 36% voted. The lack of direct contact, creating real opportunities for listening and sharing concerns, was a weakness.

Think, act and behave with transparency In today’s digitally connected world, anything less than complete transparency creates a lack of trust. Employees expect their leaders to keep them informed about what is going on, no matter how negative the news. When they are not treated with this respect, they turn to external sources and internal rumours for information, which undermines leaders even more.

For example, following staff layoffs, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh wrote to employees: ‘Remember this is not my company, and this is not our investors’ company. This company is all of ours, and it’s up to all of us where we go from here.’ Hsieh’s communications are authentic, transparent, and informal. Honest conversations helped to heal issues. Rather than frowning on problems, Hsieh used them to come up with solutions.

Emotion beats logic, and hope beats fear This is a headline I saw in response to the way in which comments from Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, were dismissed. Carney, like those of us with a technical background, default to logical argument an analysis of the risks that might be faced. However, the Brexit campaign showed how little influence this approach carries with many people.

Since Aristotle’s time, effective leaders have recognised the power of emotional appeal (pathos) as a complement to rational argument (logos). The Leave campaigners focused their message at voter’s hearts not their heads, on patriotism, freedom and fear. The Remain campaigners peddled Aristotle’s third way (ethos) to win an argument, citing the expertise and credentials of their advocates.

However, voters ignored the experts. The underlying point here is that whilst we need to rely on the knowledge of others, in instances like Brexit where the arguments are complex and it becomes unfathomable to determine true ‘facts’, people give up trying to get to the truth, and fall back on gut feel and beliefs overcome conflicting evidence.

Indeed, both sides of the debate offered various ‘facts’ to support their arguments. The pile-up of competing promises and predictions left the public confused at best, cynical at worst. The Leave campaign won over by speaking to the anxiety and pain of people who felt ignored. In the end, it didn’t matter to working class voters that Johnson attended an elite Eton School, what counted was that Johnson’s statements resonated with their own grievances and anti-establishment sentiments

The implications for business leaders is that developed expertise and analysis only gets you so far, if you want to bring people with you, you also need emotional conviction and harness intuition effectively. People care less about facts per se than the implications of these facts to their well-being.

It does no good to deny that humans are emotional as well as rational. A campaign that elicits both emotional engagement and intellectual understanding has a huge advantage over one that appeals mainly to rationality.

A leader is a dealer in hope The importance of being an authentic leader – with alignment of thoughts, actions and feelings as enabling trust to inspire collective action – was clearly shown. Leaders advocating change must speak with sincere heartfelt conviction rather than using rhetoric to demand an obligation.

For me, the leading personalities on both sides were frequently manifested as double-dealing hypocrites, masking their ambivalence about the EU for their own self-promotion and careerist convenience. Credibility and authenticity are closely linked, and people are aware and sensitive to the slightest suggestion of hypocrisy.

Both sides of the debate engaged almost solely in fear-based leadership and scaremongering, reminding us constantly of all the short-term problems and issues associated with the opposing campaign. The Leavers focused on problems and issues with immigration and bureaucracy while the Remainers focused almost exclusively on speculating about the economic fallout from Brexit.

Be a positive, visionary leadership Leadership on both sides failed to provide any positive, coherent vision for the near or long term future of staying or exiting the EU. Their performance lacked vision, cohesion, passion and confidence.

To fully appreciate the power of a unifying vision, recall the powerful example provided by the late South African president, Nelson Mandela, who unified the country with his vision of a ‘rainbow nation’ for post-apartheid South Africa. He never resorted to the tactics of scaremongering and fear of change, rather retained an optimistic and positive vision of a future for all, replacing the dogmas of the past.

To deliver change, leaders need to create trust by addressing the real challenges and dilemmas in a positive, transparent and solutions-focused manner. Leaders should deliberately adopt a more intentional approach about their words and actions and how these impact their business.

Why should anyone be led by you? Formal authority counts for almost nothing in those moments of truth. Leadership is a function of what you say and do that attracts others to follow you. Farage had influence but no authority, following Brexit Corbyn has a formal mandate but no influence within the parliamentary Labour party.

The lesson for business leaders is clear, as recounted in Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones book Why Should Anyone be Led by You? It is a question all leaders should all ask themselves – do people have any reason to follow you, above and beyond what their reporting line tells them to do?

Watching Boris Johnson deliver his speech on the Friday morning exiting his challenge for Prime Minister, you could see from his body language that he was starting to wonder what on earth he had done. He had treated the campaign like an Oxford University debate – clever arguments and put downs, with no cares for the consequences – and now he reaped the rewards.

He once famously said he was in favour of having cake and eating cake as well, but despite being an attractive leader to some, eventually people saw through his ‘style over substance’ approach, at which point, a large chunk of his support dissolved away. He simply lacked credibility as a leader.

The leadership lesson here is stay true to yourself and stay on good terms with those around you. If you become too opportunistic, or if you start making empty promises, you will pay for it later. You aren’t a leader is you don’t have any followers.

‘Political leadership’ is an oxymoron by any measure – enduring and woeful unethical individual behaviours driven by self-interest, the absence of a credible ideology and rhetoric underpinned by convenient metrics just to name a few issues where there is no long-term vision that I’ve seen.

Leadership success always starts with vision. John Kennedy famously dreamed of putting a man on the moon. Eleanor Roosevelt envisioned a world of equal opportunity for women and minorities. Compelling visions can truly inspire people. But there is actually nothing mystical about vision, simply, a vision is a picture of what an organisation could and should be.

A hallmark of great leaders is that their vision includes big ideas. Big ideas get people excited. Nobody wants to do something small. Leaders want to feel that what they do matters – Kennedy’s vision for the space programme was ‘We choose to go to the moon . . . not because it is easy, but because it is hard’.

Great business leaders also know how to paint a vivid picture of the future. They make it look easy. However, most of them have worked hard to develop and articulate their thoughts. A powerful vision, well-articulated, attracts people, motivates them to take action toward progress, unites them to a common purpose and drives breakthrough business results.

A leader’s core vision provides the glue that holds an organisation together through time, consisting of core values and core purpose, ideology shaping the vision, the raison d’être. You discover core ideology by looking inside, and connecting with sincerity, humility and authenticity. You can’t fake it.

What Brexit showed what is needed in our political leaders is this big commitment to emotional and intellectual transparency, and robust validation, such that when people see what their vision is, there is almost an audible gasp, creating an emotional connection to sharing the vision.

Brexit should be a wakeup call for all business leaders. The result and feedback showed Britain’s leaders were out of sync with its voters. Could the same thing be happening with your workers in your business? Are you connected and in touch, creating engagement, creating and sharing a vision? Or are you too intent on achieving your own personal agenda and progress? Ask yourself, ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’

100 years on from the voyage of the James Caird: leadership lessons from Shackleton

Exactly 100 years ago today, 9 April 1916, Ernest Shackleton was in the James Caird, a 25 foot boat, attempting the first part of a staggering journey in the tumultuous South Alantic ocean.

Shackleton was an Antarctic explorer who twice came close to being the first to reach the South Pole in 1902 and in 1909, before Amundsen beat Scott in 1912. His Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916, aboard Endurance, also ended in failure, but unlike Scott, who died at the Pole, Shackleton survived.

Lessons have been drawn from Shackleton’s leadership in planning and executing his expedition and subsequent rescue, and how they can be applied to modern business thinking, notably his ability to assemble an outstanding crew and his leadership style. It’s a remarkable story.

Shackleton set out at the age of forty on a self-funded voyage to make what was considered the last great expedition left on Earth – an 1,800 mile crossing of the Antarctic on foot. His ship was the aptly named Endurance, after his family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus by endurance we conquer.

The Endurance set sail on August 8, 1914. All was well, until just one day’s sail from its destination on the Antarctic coast, the ship stuck in pack ice in the Weddell Sea on December 7, becoming trapped on January 18, 1915. She was abandoned ten months later on 27 October, and sank 21 November.

Shackleton and his 27 men were stranded on an ice floe 1,200 miles from land, with no means of communication and no hope of rescue. All they had were three small lifeboats salvaged from the ship, just twenty-five feet long. Temperatures were so low that you could hear the sea freeze. They spent four months in the darkness of the long polar winter.

Eventually when the ice began to melt, the men took to the lifeboats. After four months of mind-numbing boredom and danger sat on the ice floe, they were suddenly pitched into an intense battle for survival that brought them to the limits of human capabilities.

It was 100 years ago today that they started their epic journey to Elephant Island, which had no animals for food or fresh water. On 15 April 1916, after seven days at sea in some of the worst conditions imaginable, the three boats landed, reaching terra firma for the first time in 497 days.

A week later, Shackleton took five men to sail 800 miles in the James Caird, over tumultuous seas to reach South Georgia, part of the Falkland Islands, for help. Their journey lasted sixteen days, navigated only with a sextant. When they landed, they had to cross a mountain range to reach civilisation at a whaling station. This climb took another 36 hours.

When they greeted the whaling station manager, Thoralf Sorlle, he looked at them incredulously, Who the hell are you? One of the men stepped forward and replied: My name is Shackleton. Thoraf Sorlle, it is said, turned away and wept. The first remarkable voyage of the James Caird was 9 April to 16 April, the second from April 24 to May 10, 1916.

Having spent four days recovering with the whalers, Shackleton turned round and led the effort to rescue the rest of his crew, on board a Chilean tugboat, The Yelcho. It took him four attempts to do so. Shackleton saved the lives of 22 men left stranded for 137 days on 30 August 1916, ending The Endurance expedition which set sail on August 8, 1914.

A statue of Luis Pardo, captain of The Yelcho, sits on the landing point at Elephant Island. Since that time, only a handful of expeditions have been there, including the Shackleton Epic expedition of 2013 which sought to replicate the journey – here’s the web site link http://shackletonepic.com/ and a video link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoUCLtTXZOI

In 1922 some of the Endurance crew returned to the island when they landed from the Quest, Shackleton’s last expedition, on which he died of a heart attack aged 48. One can well imagine what an emotional experience it must have been for those men.

Arising from this epic encounter, Shackleton’s Way, his leadership philosophy from his Endurance expedition – resonates with themes and messages any business leader can can learn from. His leadership style, primarily to focus on the team, saw them survive against the odds.

His people centred approach to leadership can be a guide for us all. He built his success on camaraderie, loyalty, responsibility, determination and – above all – optimism. There are eight elements to ‘Shackleton’s Way’ as follows:

The path to leadership Fortitudine Vincimus  – by endurance we conquer. The values Shackleton learned from his family helped form his uniquely progressive leadership style. He turned bad experiences into valuable lessons and he insisted on respect for the individual in a climate that demanded cooperation.

Hiring an outstanding crew Shackleton built a crew around a core of experienced workers. He conducted unconventional interviews to find unique talent. His second in command was his most important hire. He looked for optimism and cheerfulness in the people he hired. He gave his staff the best compensation and equipment he could afford.

Creating a spirit of camaraderie Shackleton made careful observations before acting. He established order and routine so all his staff knew where they stood. He broke down traditional hierarchies. He was fair in his dealings with his staff. He used informal gatherings to build an esprit de corps.

Getting the best from each individual Shackleton led by example. He accepted and understood his crewmen’s quirks and weaknesses. He used informal one-to-one talks to build a bond with his men. He was always willing to help others get their work done. He helped each man reach their potential.

Leading effectively in a crisis Shackleton let everyone know that he was confident of success. He inspired optimism in everyone. He put down dissent by keeping the malcontents close to him. He got everyone to let go of the past and focus on the future. He worked to keep spirits high. He sometime led by doing nothing.

Forming teams for tough assignments Shackleton balanced talent and expertise in each team. He ensured all his groups were keeping pace. He remained visible and vigilant. He shored up the weakest links. He got teams to help each other.

Overcoming obstacles to reach a goal Shackleton took responsibility for getting the job done. He often took risks. He found the inspiration to continue. He kept sight of the big picture. He stepped outside his role as leader to personally help others in their own roles.

Shackleton showed the qualities of strong, effective leadership – enthusiasm, confidence, warmth, integrity, toughness, humility – whilst also recognising the importance of a team, and the trust and respect everyone in a team must show to each other whatever their rank.

It is by building a sense of teamwork and community just as Shackleton did nearly 100 years ago that we can overcome the unexpected detours and hurdles encountered on our own business journeys. Shackleton faced many of the problems we encounter today as business leaders:

  • bringing a diverse group of people together to work toward a common goal
  • bucking up the perpetual worries
  • keeping the disgruntled from poisoning the atmosphere
  • battling fatigue and challenge when things aren’t working
  • bringing order and success to a chaotic environment
  • working within challenging time scales and finite resources

Shackleton was a pioneer, but also an innovator in terms of ‘thinking on his feet’ when faced with unexpected challenges. Anyone can innovate once, all it takes is a good idea, some hard work, sufficient resources, and a little bit of luck. However, Shackleton did it time and time again on the Endurance expedition, and this is what is required in today’s business environment, which demands on-going leadership innovation to stay ahead of the pack.

The core of Shackleton’s leadership philosophy was persistence. Shackleton was essentially a fighter, afraid of nothing and nobody, but overall, he was human, overflowing with kindness and generosity, affectionate and loyal to all his crew. As we reflect back 100 years ago today on the first James Caird voyage, Shackleton’s personal motto of reach beyond your expectations seems so apt. That’s Shackleton’s Way. You wait, everyone has an Antarctic moment.

Leadership lessons from Paul O’Connell

The loss of Paul O’Connell will be keenly felt for Ireland. However it ends, I’ll feel lucky he once said about his career, but his forced retirement announced yesterday, due to a hamstring injury suffered at the World Cup last autumn, was a huge blow for himself and Ireland. He was their leader and talisman.

O’Connell suffered the injury in Ireland’s pool stage victory over France in October and was subsequently unable to captain his side in the quarter-final defeat by Argentina. The 36-year-old had already announced his intention to retire from international rugby after the World Cup but last summer, after more than 14 years with Munster, agreed a two-year deal with Toulon, only for his injury to deny him the chance to appear for the three-times defending European champions.

O’Connell, a ferocious second-row with 115 international caps, was an inspirational captain for Ireland during the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations championship-winning campaigns and in 2009 he was a key member of the so-called golden generation, alongside Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara, that won a first grand slam in 61 years.

He will be saluted throughout the game as a grafting, athletic, whole-hearted player. O’Connell set new standards in terms of conditioning for second-row forwards, forever pushing himself and those around him.

After seeing him crumple to the turf in agony back in October, and then hearing confirmation that his 108-cap career for Ireland is over, I felt a sudden regret we’d seen one of the true greats pass before us. We’ve seen a premature end to his marauding presence on the pitch.

For the past decade he has been a colossus of European and world rugby. Whether playing for and captaining Munster, Ireland or the British Lions, O’Connell has been a dominant presence at the heart of the scrum, the lineout and as a leader of every team who have followed him out of the tunnel.

Much like former England captain, Martin Johnson, O’Connell is a galvanising force when the spirit of those around him looks as if it might dip or flag. Having lead Ireland to successive Six Nations championships in 2015, he is Irelands’ third most capped player, the twelfth most capped player in rugby history. Not bad for someone who only started playing rugby aged 16.

A stalwart of Limerick and Muster, he aimed to spend the next two years of his playing career with Toulon. Now the final image we have of O’Connell is in the green shirt being wheeled away on a stretcher while offering the applauding crowd a thumbs-up to let them know he was all right, and to thank them for their support.

O’Connell has never given in without a fight. It is his defining quality. When all else is stripped back – his lineout prowess, the ferocity of his scrummaging, his octopus-like stretching arms over the maul, his work-rate, his rugby intellect – it is the fierce, elemental nature of his play that sets him apart. He gave it his all, from first whistle to last.

That has been ‘Paulie’ for the last 14 years, uncompromising, committed, a colossus. In the pantheon of great Irish players in my playing and spectating lifetime, O’Connell stands alongside Brian O’Driscoll, Keith Wood, Ronan O’Gara and Fergus Slattery as people that made the team.

O’Connell’s record is as astounding as it is remarkable. His leadership is unquestionable, his playing ability is envied and judged to be the epitome of a second row. He is always there in the mix, leading by being there right on the shoulder of a teammate in the thick of the action.

Being captain in the frenetic and unrelenting pace of international rugby, demands discipline, clarity and focus. So what are O’Connell’s key attributes and traits as captain that we can take as leadership attributes in today’s business environment?

Mental strength & emotional discipline The captain needs to remain focused and alert whilst thinking and making decision under pressure during a game, so that he makes the right decisions at the right time. This requires considerable mental fortitude.

Some decisions will not be clear-cut. It is during critical situations that your team will look to you for guidance and you may be forced to make a quick decision. As a leader, it’s important to be lucid. Don’t immediately choose the first or easiest possibility, and be emotionally disciplined. Fire in the belly, but ice in the brain is a useful maxim here.

Emotional discipline is important. As a role model, the example set by the captain must meet every expectation he has of the players. For example, if the captain becomes angry with the referee and constantly questions his decisions, then he cannot expect his players to accept refereeing decisions themselves. A loss of emotional control will affect timing, co-ordination and the ability to read the game.

A leader creates individuals and defines the team A team executes plays as a unit, they should function as one. The captain exerts the effort to organise, reminding teammates their respective roles in the team. He studies his teammates’ skills, he recognises what they are capable of doing and utilises his teammates’ abilities. He ensures the right people are in the right seats on the bus.

Leading the charge from the front is one aspect of leadership, but success is ultimately down to teamwork so it is essential to creating an organised and efficient business team via delegation. If you don’t learn to trust your team with your vision, you might never progress to the next stage. It’s a fine balance, but one that will have a huge impact on the productivity of your business.

A leader should be visible to the team. Visibility clearly shows that you care and are approachable, it enables you to always know what is going on and it lets teammates know that you are ready to join in and help if needed, and be part of the team – but delegate, don’t hog the remote control!

The leader creates the team spirit A team can only work as one effectively if they maintain an environment free from individual tensions. Your ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to your success. Even the greatest leader cannot lead in a vacuum.

Harnessing and channelling the energies of a coherent and dedicated team is the only true path to success. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

Positive mind set and winning attitude: lead by example Morale is linked to success, and it’s your job as the team leader to instill motivation by positive energy and attitudes, and a winning belief, especially when times are tough. A leader is a dealer in hope – keep the belief.

Good teams have to come from behind sometimes. They know what to do. There may be times where the future looks rough and things aren’t going to plan. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires, assure everyone that setbacks are natural and get focus on the bigger picture. As the leader, by staying calm and confident, you will help keep the team feeling the same.

Remember, your team will take cues from you. Inspiring your team to see the vision of successes to come is vital. As O’Connell shows, a great leader’s courage to fulfil his vision comes from passion, not position.

The successful Ireland team had plenty about them in terms of talent, skills and tactical nous, but so much more besides in terms of mental toughness, resilience and the ability to turn up when it matters, playing and being in the image of O’Connell. It is undoubtedly in them all, but in that moment of potential crisis, it took O’Connell’s leadership to remind them and give them a clear head. He was utterly relentless. When it comes to drive and desire, his levels are off the scale.

Nothing gives you more advantage in the heat of competition as to remain unruffled and think clearly. Composure is the product of an ambitious mentality envisioning the outcome we would aspire. It requires persistence, vision, self-belief and patience. Being persistent requires constant thinking and developing an agile plan to accomplish our goals as the situation changes – a plan doesn’t require detailed steps, rather it guides our actions to ensure we are always progressing towards accomplishing our goals.

As in sport, it’s the same in business, the ability to remain composed is vital, the capacity to make the right decisions when under pressure differentiates leaders in good times and bad. Composure is a telling factor in performance whether it contributes to the scoreboard or the bottom-line. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm, but in the frenzy of the storm, holding your nerve, keeping focus and stopping the blood rushing to the head enable you to put your training into practice.

Leader, motivator, thinker. Paul O’Connell’s mental strength was his greatest power.

Richie McCaw: thinking correctly under pressure

New Zealand reached their second Rugby World Cup final in a row at the weekend due to their experience, discipline and composure in the second-half, beating South Africa 20-18 in an epic slog in Saturday’s semi-final. The All Blacks were five points behind at half-time with a man in the sin-bin as four penalties from Handre Pollard cancelled out Jerome Kaino’s early try.

As coach Steve Hansen said, We had moments where we had to keep that self-belief. Then in those moments it’s just about the process. It becomes the norm. It’s a learned skill and self-belief is massive.

The All Blacks, aiming to become the first nation to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, trailed 12-7 at the break. They returned to the pitch five minutes early for the start of the second half, and captain Richie McCaw led an on-pitch discussion in a team huddle. The television cameras showed it was an intense talk from McCaw, animated, direct and composed. McCaw’s eyes were filled with passion, concentration and a facial expression that simply said, follow me. It was one of the most important team talks of his life.

Immediately Hansen’s team tightened up, as the immaculate Dan Carter’s 45th-minute drop-goal rolled momentum in their favour to set up a brutal second-half encounter. The game swung in the 20 minutes after half-time, New Zealand beginning that period five points down and with Kaino off the pitch, but ending it five points up and with Springbok wing Bryan Habana in the sin-bin instead.

A five-point deficit at the break, nine penalties conceded, a key man in the sin-bin. All other teams would have worried at that point. Most would have felt a little shiver of panic: we’re not going to mess this up, are we? What happens if this stays the same and we can’t knock them backwards? This All Blacks collective is not most teams. When you have lost just three games in four years, panic and self-doubt is not your immediate thought.

So it was once again. Out they came, into the torrential rain and cold of a proper English autumn evening, and went at the problem with the poise of men who simply knew what they had to do. The psychology and discipline of thinking was again summed up by Hansen: We talked about it at half-time. We talked about keeping composure and talked about winning the first 10 minutes. With 14 men.

Dan Carter’s decision-making and kicking was once again peerless, his curling a conversion through the downpour and over the posts from an angle that offered him almost nothing was the moment for me that you knew this was their day. In that twenty-minute period from 40 minutes to 60 the game was wrestled away from the Springboks.

The second-half was a masterpiece of the little things done well, the Forwards hanging on to a slippery ball under pressure, Backs running intelligently, sucking in one defender and drawing another before off-loading with a simple, safe pass to hands.

And the composure in the crescendo, still the right decisions made with the noise deafening in the stadium and the anxiety of the occasion ramping up as the Springboks clawed their way back to within two points.

It was the decision-making, following good habits and knowing what to do under pressure that showed clearly the All Blacks were the masters of their game. When Carter chased back half the length of the pitch to snuff out the threat created by De Allende’s sharp kick deep into the All Blacks half, never appearing to hurry even with Pietersen bearing down on the ball, not diving on it in desperation or hacking it straight into the stands but clipping it away on the bounce as if the pitch were dry and this just another game, that made you realise they are champions.

It was there in the Forwards punching their united physicality into the Springboks’ guts with perfectly-timed sets and drives in scrums, rucks and then mauls to dissipate any South African momentum. And it was there in the final 10 minutes, the lead still so slender, never losing possession, never ceding territory, never giving a sniff. Just thinking correctly under pressure.

New Zealand made sure the last twelve minutes passed with no further scoring, and a shot at becoming the first three-time champions. Under slate-grey skies and in unrelenting rain, with just two points between the sides as they went toe to toe for the final 10 minutes.

Having spent half-time regrouping in the rain under the grip of McCaw, they showed grit to go alongside the guile that has led many to call this All Blacks side the best ever. Great teams have to come from behind sometimes. Great teams need great captains.

Everyone faces those pinch-point situations when the heat is on – from making a critical decision in-the-moment at a meeting, to keeping a cool head in the rugby scrum – those times when you need to function correctly under pressure. The reality is that most people fail in extreme situations. They choke, they get stage fright and their astute, high-wire decision-making skills fail them.

The All Blacks regrouped at the start of the second half due to captain Richie McCaw’s mentality and call to arms. Regarded as the greatest rugby player of all time, his debut for New Zealand was against Ireland in 2001, aged just 20, and despite his first touch of the ball resulting in a knock-on, he was awarded Man of the Match. He was subsequently selected as New Zealand’s first choice openside flanker for the 2003 World Cup and became a regular selection, only missing a few games due to reoccurring concussions.

In 2006 he was appointed All Blacks captain. After defeat in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals, 18-20 versus France, his captaincy came under criticism. It was New Zealand’s earliest exit from a World Cup. An emotional McCaw could not hide his disappointment at the after-match press conference: If I knew the answers we would have sorted it out. We will be thinking about it for a long time. He was accused of not inspiring his team, lacking the ability to change when plan A was not working and not providing leadership on the field.

But he learnt from his mistakes and during the 2011 World Cup tournament, McCaw inspired his teammates and the nation, playing on virtually one leg after suffering a debilitating ankle injury. On 23 October 2011, McCaw led his team to the World Champions title, beating France 8–7 in the final.

In 2012, after the win against South Africa, McCaw became the first rugby union player to win 100 tests – while having only lost 12 games. McCaw, quite incredibly, achieved 100 test wins out of 112 tests played, a staggering 89.28% winning ratio – he has been on the winning side in 9 out of every 10 tests he has played. He’s also the most capped All Blacks captain.

McCaw’s record is as astounding as it is remarkable. His leadership is unquestionable, his playing ability is envied and judged to be the epitome of an openside flanker. McCaw is always there in the mix, leading by being there right on the shoulder of a teammate in the thick of the action.

Being captain in the frenetic and unrelenting pace of international rugby, demands discipline, clarity and focus as we saw at the weekend, so what are McCaw’s key attributes and traits as captain that we can take as leadership attributes in today’s commercial environment?

Mental strength & emotional discipline The captain needs to remain focused and alert whilst thinking and making decision under pressure during a game, so that he makes the right decisions at the right time. This requires considerable mental fortitude.

Some decisions will not be clear-cut. It is during critical situations that your team will look to you for guidance and you may be forced to make a quick decision. As a leader, it’s important to be lucid. Don’t immediately choose the first or easiest possibility, and be emotionally disciplined. Fire in the belly, but ice in the brain is a useful maxim here.

Emotional discipline is important. As a role model, the example set by the captain must meet every expectation he has of the players. For example, if the captain becomes angry with the referee and constantly questions his decisions, then he cannot expect his players to accept refereeing decisions themselves. A loss of emotional control will affect timing, co-ordination and the ability to read the game.

A leader creates individuals and defines the team A team executes plays as a unit, they should function as one. The captain exerts the effort to organise, reminding teammates their respective roles in the team. He studies his teammates’ skills, he recognises what they are capable of doing and utilises his teammates’ abilities. He ensures the right people are in the right seats on the bus.

Leading the charge from the front is one aspect of leadership, but success is ultimately down to teamwork so it is essential to creating an organised and efficient business team via delegation. If you don’t learn to trust your team with your vision, you might never progress to the next stage. It’s a fine balance, but one that will have a huge impact on the productivity of your business.

A leader should be visible to the team. Visibility clearly shows that you care and are approachable, it enables you to always know what is going on and it lets teammates know that you are ready to join in and help if needed, and be part of the team – but delegate, don’t hog the remote control!

The leader creates the team spirit A team can only work as one effectively if they maintain an environment free from individual tensions. Your ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to your success. Even the greatest leader cannot lead in a vacuum.

Harnessing and channelling the energies of a coherent and dedicated team is the only true path to success. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

Positive mind set and winning attitude: lead by example Morale is linked to success, and it’s your job as the team leader to instill motivation by positive energy and attitudes, and a winning belief, especially when times are tough. A leader is a dealer in hope – keep the belief.

Good teams have to come from behind sometimes. They know what to do. There may be times where the future looks rough and things aren’t going to plan. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires, assure everyone that setbacks are natural and get focus on the bigger picture. As the leader, by staying calm and confident, you will help keep the team feeling the same. Remember, your team will take cues from you. Inspiring your team to see the vision of successes to come is vital. As McCaw shows, a great leader’s courage to fulfil his vision comes from passion, not position.

This wonderful All Blacks team has plenty about them in terms of talent, skills and tactical nous, but so much more besides in terms of mental toughness, resilience and the ability to turn up when it matters as they showed in the semi-final. It is undoubtedly in them all, but in that moment of potential crisis, it took McCaw’s leadership to remind them and give them a clear head. He was utterly relentless against the Boks at the weekend. When it comes to drive and desire, his levels are off the scale.

Nothing gives you more advantage in the heat of competition as to remain unruffled and think clearly. Composure is the product of an ambitious mentality envisioning the outcome we would aspire. It requires persistence, vision, self-belief and patience. Being persistent requires constant thinking and developing an agile plan to accomplish our goals as the situation changes – a plan doesn’t require detailed steps, rather it guides our actions to ensure we are always progressing towards accomplishing our goals.

As in sport, it’s the same in business, the ability to remain composed is vital, the capacity to make the right decisions when under pressure differentiates leaders in good times and bad. Composure is a telling factor in performance whether it contributes to the scoreboard or the bottom-line. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm, but in the frenzy of the storm, holding your nerve, keeping focus and stopping the blood rushing to the head enable you to put your training into practice.

I’d love to know what McCaw said at half-time as the team stood in the pouring rain, a man down and losing 7-12. I’m pretty sure the four points of his leadership attributes I’ve detailed above were vital elements of his call to action. McCaw shows a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Their responsibility is getting all the players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.

Next Saturday afternoon, 4pm, put yourself in that dressing room, as the referee knocks on the door, game time gentlemen. The World Cup Final. For Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu, next week’s showpiece final against Australia may signal the end of the international road for all four of them as they retire at their peak. They will all look to McCaw as he leads the team out. I’m sure he will set the call: make it count, and take control where it matters most: inside your own head.

Leadership lessons from The Battle of Britain

We celebrated the 75th anniversary of the The Battle of Britain last Friday, July 10, the start of one of the most significant moments in British history. In the summer of 1940, Hitler, having captured France, looked to invade Britain, the last bastion of democratic free Europe, and he ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb Britain into surrender.

On 10 July 1940, the Luftwaffe carried out their initial attacks. Some 200 RAF patrols involving 641 aircraft were flown that day, shooting down 14 enemy aircraft and damaging 23 more. It would be the start of a battle for air supremacy that would take months to win.

Spitfires and Hurricanes were outnumbered by the German bombers, coming over the Channel in there hundreds. Many of the British pilots were young men still in their teens. From airfields around southern England, they would run to their aircraft at a moment’s notice when the sirens sounded. They would take off, often more than once a day, knowing that their chances of returning alive were not good.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,’ said Winston Churchill in Parliament on 20 August, 1940 as the Battle of Britain raged overhead. But who were ‘The Few’? It was not long before the press of the day seized on the epithet as the collective noun for the RAF’s Fighter Command pilots who were struggling against almost insurmountable odds to defeat the Luftwaffe.

The average member of the British public in the Spring of 1940 probably thought of the typical RAF pilot as carefree, out for a good time, doing a bit of flying within a club setting and able to impress the ladies on a Saturday night with the lads. In reality nothing was further from the truth. Wartime flying, piloting a 350mph fighter daily to within an inch of your life, was a deadly serious business requiring a cool head and a steady, calculating nerve.

The average age of an RAF pilot in 1940 was twenty, some were as young as eighteen, many were not old enough to vote. Not all were British, Fighter Command was a cosmopolitan mix with Poles (141), Czechs (87), Belgians (24) and French (13) swelling the ranks along with those from the British Commonwealth who answered the call for pilots to defend freedom.

The cost of the Battle of Britain was high – of the 3,000 aircrew who fought, 544 lost their lives and a further 814 died before the end of the War. The Battle of Britain monument on the Victoria Embankment, London, records the names of the 2,936 flyers who flew. Today, around 30 are still alive.

There are many brave, brave men who engaged in this battle, but for me, two men stand out for their leadership skills.

Firstly, Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Commander, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding. He was regarded as a difficult, self-opinionated and determined man, and a man who knew more than anybody about all aspects of aerial warfare. Dowding is regarded as the architect of victory in the Battle of Britain.

Having joined the RAF in 1913, Dowding had originally been told he would retire in June 1939 but his retirement was postponed several times. Although he did not have day-to-day control of the air defences, which lay in the hands of his four Group Commanders, his management of these subordinates during the Battle of Britain was a crucial tenet of victory.

Dowding was criticised by some for not using the aggressive ‘Big Wing’ tactics favoured by people like Douglas Bader, but whether large formations of aircraft would really have been more effective is still in dispute. Figures show that the large number of Luftwaffe aircraft shot down during the Battle of Britain proved that Dowding’s tactics were correct.

For all his personal foibles, Dowding was a forward thinking strategist who had encouraged the development of advanced fighter aircraft, and it was largely on his initiative that the Hurricane and Spitfire were ordered into production in 1934. Appointed to lead Fighter Command when it was set up in July 1936, Dowding oversaw the introduction new aircraft, bulletproof windscreens and the integration of electronic communications far in advance of anything else in the world.

In early 1940, heavy fighter losses saw Dowding warn the War Cabinet of the dire consequences should the present wastage rates continue, and a letter dated 16 May 1940 is one of the great documents of history, identifying the strategy to fight the Luftwaffe in the one place they could be effectively used – within the comprehensive air defence system he had built in the UK.

He continued to have constant brushes with the political heavies, but he did his job in winning the Battle of Britain. An unwillingness to break with Service precedents meant that Dowding was not promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Royal Force – even when it was suggested by the King, and he was forced to relinquish his position in November 1940. He retired in 1942 and spent the rest of his life largely away from the RAF. In later years he became President of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. After his death in 1970, his remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, a fitting tribute to his remarkable achievements.

The second great leader was Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park. A New Zealander, he came to Britain to serve in the First World War. By 1938 he had become Dowding’s right-hand man, and was appointed as Air Officer Commanding. Like Dowding, Park was relieved of his post almost immediately after the Battle of Britain, the outcome of pointed criticism of his tactics and wasn’t given the credit in the immediate aftermath he merited.

It has been stated that, Dowding controlled the Battle of Britain from day to day, while Keith Park controlled it hour by hour. Park organised and managed his squadrons and men brilliantly, he was respected and admired by many. Most of the criticism he received was due to the fact that he fought the battle in a defensive manner, when it was thought that he should give greater consideration to taking the fight to the Germans in an offensive manner.

Neither Park nor Dowding had much time for internal politics and fell easy prey to their waiting critics. Park was to remain indignant over his and Dowding’s treatment for the rest of his life. However, if any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. ‘I do not believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did not only this country, but the world’, said Lord Tedder, Chief of Air Staff, in February 1947. Another ace who fought in the Battle of Britain, pilot Douglas Bader, said that ‘the awesome responsibility for this country’s survival rested squarely on Keith Park’s shoulders’.

There has been much analysis of the Battle of Britain and Park’s role over the intervening decades. Many issues on air-tactics which were not clear at the time to most in command have been researched, analysed and some clarity has been obtained through the mists of time. Keith Park though had such a clear grasp of air strategy that even with the benefit of this hindsight from decades of research little could be done to improve on his performance.

A temporary statue to Park was unveiled on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2009 until a permanent bronze version of the sculpture was installed at Waterloo Place on 15 September 2010, Battle of Britain Day, during the 70th anniversary commemorations. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, said that Park was ‘a man without whom the history of the Battle of Britain could have been disastrously different’.

So what are the lessons from the leadership of Dowding and Park we can take from the Battle of Britain, into our business thinking of today?

Beware of the ‘Bad Idea Fairy’. Both leaders could hardly turn a corner without being pestered by others with some hare-brained scheme or opinion on strategy to win the war. Though in fairness, the only thing worse than a foolhardy new idea is a crackpot old idea disguised as something new, it is good to listen to others. However, being confident in your own judgement having weighted up options, risks and priorities and being decisive, is a key leadership trait in times of crisis. Be a paranoid optimist.

The requirement for moral courage. Courage is a fundamental of crisis leadership and is at the heart of earning respect and trust. Whilst physical courage is most often identified with the Armed Forces, moral courage is equally important, having the ability to do the right thing – and not necessarily the easiest or obvious thing. A business crisis is the acid test of leadership and it is the ability to see beyond short term expediency and make decisions which are right, even if they are not easy, which are the true tests of courage.

Integrity is about being honest and unafraid to stand up for what is right and to uphold moral values, even under intense pressure. It is about being transparent, knowing when to admit mistakes, to ensure there are no cover-ups and not shifting the blame onto others. The most respected leaders understand this intuitively.. For me Park stood straight and tall, always driven by his integrity.

Leaders embrace a ‘mop and bucket’ philosophy. The late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s hamburger chain, when asked what made him so successful said, ‘my mop-and-bucket attitude’ – in other words, no work task was too insignificant for him to tackle, he simply jumped in and got the job done. Both Dowding and Park lead from the front, with a positive attitude and a desire to do whatever it took. They rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in. A leader is a dealer in hope, an aura of energy around them.

Position the leader where they can have most effect. Military leaders must know what the bigger picture looks like, whilst also having an accurate understanding of the tactical situation on the ground. Generally, a leader must ensure they are in a place where they can gain the best understanding of the situation with a clear line of sight, not too close to become embroiled in the detail, but not so far away that they are unable to influence events. Leaders need to be seen.

Manage your own fear. Fear of failure, particularly in a combat environment, is inevitable. The key is to acknowledge it and be able to deal with it. Failure to do so can result in a paralysing effect, which is contagious and can result in inactivity throughout a team unless dealt with swiftly. Both Dowding and Park showed they were able to identify, contain and overcome their own fear, to enable them to think rationally, set an example and encourage those around them, reducing anxiety.

For Dowding and Park this meant literally making life or death decisions, taking ‘calculated risks’. Crisis leaders must be comfortable with uncertainty and have confidence to take decisions, which may be imperfect, but are much better than paralysis from doing nothing.

Leaders are cat wranglers. Wrestling with flamboyant and committed pilots and your own line manager can be likened to ‘wrangling the cats’ – you’re constantly forced to lead on persuasion, argument, and the strength of your ideas. As you move up in responsibility, it’ll happen more often than you’d think. Get used to it!

See around corners In his book, ‘The Attacker’s Advantage’, Ram Charan, identified five basic leadership strategies to stay ahead of the game:

  • Always on the alert, sensing for signals and meaning of change
  • A mind-set to see opportunity in uncertainty
  • The ability to see a new path forward and commit to it
  • Adeptness in managing the transition to the new path
  • Skill in making the organisation steerable and agile

Examples of leaders who exemplify these attributes include Steve Jobs, who moved Apple from a computer company to smart phones and music, Elon Musk, who seems to be driving structural changes in the auto industry, and Jeff Bezos, developing selling books on the Internet to a whole new paradigm for shopping from home.

Many leaders allow the pressures of crises and total immersion in tactical details to narrow their thinking and to lower the altitude of their view. Everyone needs to find and hone the techniques that work for them in maintaining that perceptual acuity and looking forward.

Successful leadership in a business crisis requires qualities of courage, integrity, empathy, judgement, decision-making and communication. Dowding and Park displayed these qualities under the most intense pressure in the Battle of Britain. Business leaders who want to succeed in a crisis would be well advised to learn from their experience and performance.

 

Reflections on Napoleon’s leadership at the Battle of Waterloo

The bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo celebrated last week rekindled my curiosity in British military history. Accounts revealed just what an appallingly bloody battle it was, and one of the defining events of European history. Waterloo not only brought to an end the extraordinary career of Napoleon Bonaparte, whose ambitions had led directly to the deaths of up to 6 million people, it also redrew the map of Europe.

Napoleon’s Waterloo campaign dramatically demonstrates how one of history’s greatest commanders had a clear set of strategic principles underlying his decisions. The narrative accounts, combined with analysis of the decision-making and actions upon which the outcome of the struggle turned, provide for a tense leadership allegory.

Today’s business leaders can learn a great deal about the art and science of decision-making by studying Napoleon’s Waterloo campaign. Although the methods of warfare have changed, fundamentals such as planning, project management, delegation, risk analysis and tactics remain.

The story of the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 – the third engagement between Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch forces and the French following that at Quatre Bras on June 16 and the much bigger battle of Ligny on the following day – remains tense and gripping.

Doubtless some of the reports and anecdotes were embroidered, but they convey in extraordinary detail and colour the horror, the heroism, the terror and the leadership of fighting men in extremis. In all probability, Napoleon could not ultimately have won the war, but what gives the story its enduring power is the fact that the outcome of this battle was far from certain. As Wellington said later, it was ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life’.

Returning from his nine-month exile on Elba, Napoleon quickly mobilised an army of 200,000 men to take on the coalition forces gathering to apprehend him. The conception of what turned out to be Napoleon’s final campaign was brilliant. The plan was to split the forces commanded by Wellington from the Prussian army led by the redoubtable Gebhard von Blücher and then defeat each separately. However, its execution depended on a speed and decisiveness.

So what caused the defeat of one of history’s greatest commanders, and how can we draw lessons from this into our business thinking? Napoleon’s initial planning, aside from selection of his ill-suited deputies, had been flawless. His campaign strategy, and build up of his battle strategy, are judged by many historians as brilliant.

His defeat was not the result of flawed strategic planning, rather decision-making in the heat of the battle, when it mattered most, fell short. Fighting in the fog of war, under conditions of extreme uncertainty, there are a number of decisions Napoleon made which highlight his strategic thinking and planning, but ultimately shortfalls in tactical execution led to his demise. Let’s look at these decisions, and the traits they reflect.

Be consistent. Napoleon decided to attack as his campaign strategy against the allies. He chose to seize the offensive, consistent characteristics throughout his 23 years and 60 battles of his military career. He went for the quick knockout blow, the defensive was an anathema to him, and his foremost objective was always the destruction of the enemy’s forces

Chose able deputies and learn to delegate. Historians are near unanimous in disparaging the selections of Marshals Ney and Grouchy. Ultimately Ney’s inexplicable hesitation in taking the strategic crossroads of Quatre Bras, the key to dividing the coalition armies, and the failure of initiative by Grouchy that allowed the regrouped Prussians to outflank him and arrive at the critical moment to save Wellington at Waterloo, were key failures in the battle.

Why did Napoleon choose so poorly? Marshals Davout and Suchet were his two most able deputies, but he left them behind. Hindsight shows that the issue was the inappropriate role assigned to Ney and Grouchy, and an insistence of Napoleon retaining overall command and his presence at every critical engagement. Without delegation and empowerment, there was no tactical leadership when it was needed most.

Timing and taking your time. Having made a decision, timing of execution is everything. The choice of time and place of his initial engagement was a masterpiece of speed and secrecy, striking the enemy unaware and unprepared. Strategic surprise is a key principle of business decision-making.

But there are many aspect of Waterloo that Napoleon could have won if he had been more patient rather than rushing, impulsively into battle. Bonaparte lacked the temperament to fight a defensive battle. Focusing all your energy on forward movement might seem like the right thing to do, especially if it’s what has led to your success before. However, every leader needs to be expert in controlling active periods as well as calm ones.

Make smart, bold and decisive moves. Napoleon’s tactics were to drive the allies two armies away from each other, causing each to fall back and isolate them, breaking lines of communication. This captures the excellent tactical application of the principle of ‘manoeuvre’ another characteristic of Napoleon’s style of combat.

Maintain momentum. At this stage in the battle, it appeared Napoleon had achieved victory, but the advantage was not carried through. He should have ordered immediate pursuit to exploit his initial success and ensure he reduced the allied armies to a disorganised table. But he delayed this decision until daybreak. This was an usual lapse for Napoleon, and was to be ultimately costly.

Be alert to options. At this stage Napoleon had three possible courses of action as tactical next steps. However, he remained committed to his strategic intent, and thus he look to simply secure his gains, rather than press home his advantage. He thus lost momentum and the upper hand by not being alert to options.

You need to make your planning and risk analysis commensurate with the size of your project. This was a large project and, even though Napoleon did unprecedented planning, it still wasn’t enough. Take the time to imagine what can go wrong, think about the ‘What if?’ scenarios, and develop solutions to address each option.

Be open-minded and balanced. Napoleon surmised that Wellington was planning an attack on 18 June, and so relaxed his attention. He overruled his generals. Historians have made much of this decision, since this failure contributed to the ultimate defeat. His stubborn refusal, coupled with apparent emotional outbursts against his generals, suggests that his close-minded attitude and temperament were impacting his leadership and he lacked a clear-headed approach.

Napoleon also had a bad temper. Sometimes he’d fly off the handle over small matters and sometimes he’d plan a fit hoping that his dramatics would inspire his subordinates to action. He used his loud outbursts to inspire fear and respect in the ranks, but they rarely won him points in diplomacy. Such hysterics made Napoleon look uncertain, weak and hot-headed.

Don’t knee-jerk. At 11am on 18 June, Napoleon changed his mind on his strategy, and went for a single, massive, frontal offensive supported by a small number of preliminary attacks. The straightforward assault lacked guile and subtlety, and he was confident, ‘we have 90 chances in our favour, and not ten against us’. However, there was no fall back position, and they attacked without success. Their momentum exhausted by dogged English defence, Napoleon has no response when the English plunged back directly into the central France army.

Listen to your people. Napoleon now had two options: he could call off the attack and regroup, or he could go again, and fling everything he had against Wellington. His generals implored him to retreat, they knew their troops needed to regroup. But Napoleon saw no reason to retire, and his decision was to continue the battle – and at any cost to push home and win. The French thus attacked in frenzy, but without discipline and with communication lost in the melee, their effort fractured.

This is the critical moment in the campaign, Napoleon, with the first signs of disarray in his troops, failed to listen to his generals and in fact went directly against them with his battle orders. This time spent arguing gave Wellington time to think, plan and execute his placement and defensive line. Many historians think that if Napoleon had been more strategic and thoughtful at this moment, the battle may have been won.

Reflect, don’t be stubborn. At this point, around 7pm, Napoleon should have withdrawn further, but retreat was not in his concept of war. Moreover, he was not physically situated such that he had little choice but to continue the conflict. In his mind, the moment to snatch success was a hand, the fate in a single instant. He thought this was the decisive moment and he personally took forward eight battalions to attack the English centre. At 8.15pm Napoleon order a general advance but the French were crushed. The elite Imperial Guard had never failed in an attack, and moved forward Wellington’s men met them head-on and fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued.

In identifying the gaps in Napoleon’s judgement, nothing should be taken away from Wellington, who was unmatched in the art of defence and who had experienced and competent subordinates, and a British infantry who were hardened veterans of the highest quality, factors that Napoleon almost certainly underestimated in his strategic calculus.

Napoleon was a master at the art of project management in general, and military strategy in particular. Was it a case of Napoleon being overconfident and ignoring his own valued principles that cause his demise at Waterloo?

Some specific lessons to be learned are: Napoleon seemed to commit a series of mistakes that sealed his fate. In summary, he began too late; he did not follow up his initial assaults; he did not retreat when needed; he could attend to only one thing at a time; he failed to control his generals; he was nether calm nor alert, and more than anything else, Napoleon’s defeat stems from his failure in controlling the timing aspect of his decision making.

I think they key learning is don’t become over-confident, especially after many successes, and never attempt a difficult endeavour in isolation. Always remember the basic leadership principles of ideals, ethics and responsibility to others. Napoleon began his career with strong ideals meant to restore equality to the people. He crafted the French Civil Code, which is a basis for all civil codes today, and was responsible for much of the architecture you see today in Paris. Yet at Waterloo, he seemed to operate in a self-centered manner, driven by ego and self-belief above leading his team.

Napoleon was ambitious to a fault, and total control became his focus. Power corrupts. His power blinded him into taking both extreme risks and arrogant, lazy decisions at Waterloo, which failed despite his unprecedented planning. It’s worth noting that there is a fine line between being overly ambitious and having confidence. 
In his memoirs, Napoleon went on and on about what he could have done to win at Waterloo, it seems he never truly reflected on lessons to be learned.

There is no doubt that Napoleon was a military genius and dynamic leader, and many of his lessons can be applied to business leadership today. One only has to read about his many successes, and stories of the dedication and admiration of his troops. However, it’s equally important that we learn from his downfall. In the end, he failed not because of his principles and maxims, but despite them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

See beyond self: the art of being a trusted leader

Tomorrow’s General Election seems to be culminating in a contest of negatives, as opinion polls confirm voters have a low opinion of both potential prime ministers. In a way, there is nothing new in this. My earliest political memories and energies were provided by a flowering of left-wing views under Tony Benn’s banner, who never gained popular support, and the growth of free-market fundamentalists harnessed by Margaret Thatcher, who won, but was never popular in my neck of the woods.

Hostility to politics-as-usual has been stronger since the financial crash, and the inherent lack of trust in business – banker’s bonuses, tax evasion, zero hours contracts, PPI mis-selling – and the outcry over MPs’ expenses. In a contest of negatives at a time when all politicians are distrusted, the most striking finding in a Com Res poll last week is the question that uses the word ‘trust’.

Only 31% agree with the statement: I trust Cameron and Osborne to make the right decisions about the economy – but this compares with 21% who agree with the same statement about Miliband and Balls. If there is a lesson to take from the two manifestos, it is that both are intent on neutralising each other’s perceived weaknesses, rather than promoting their own values and trust based agendas.

Labour will neither admit that it would borrow to invest (a necessary flexibility as all Keynesians would support) nor set out where serious cuts would be, and the Tories will not explain how they intend to make £12Bn of welfare cuts – their numbers are so absurd as to be beyond credible discussion. Who can you trust? Why would you if this is their clarion call for your vote?

Miliband has blamed the broken promises by the Lib Dems on scrapping tuition fees and the Tories on curbing immigration for helping erode trust in all political leaders. Last week’s BBC Question Time highlighted the question of trust as an important theme.

Cameron was asked why anyone should trust him on the NHS. Miliband faced questions of trusting Labour over the economy, whilst Clegg battled down questions on how he could be trusted given his broken promise on tuition fees. It’s a question the Liberal Democrat leader has faced on many occasions. Clegg sought to turn the question of trust back onto his rivals, saying neither Cameron nor Miliband would come clean on the compromises they would have to make to win power.

There is a trust deficit in politics as with big business. While rear-view mirror approaches to dissect and repair what went wrong on an organisational level are warranted in many companies, offering strategic initiatives for work-culture enhancements, that’s not the answer for most people who want to impact trust today.

Trust is a key leadership trait, and can’t be built overnight. It requires time, effort, diligence, and character. Inspiring trust is not easy to build. To be a trusted leader, trust must be carefully constructed, vigorously nurtured, and constantly reinforced. Although trust takes a long time to develop, it can be destroyed by a single action and can burn down with a just touch of carelessness, as many politicians know to their cost. Moreover, once lost, it is very difficult to re-establish.

The financial sector also seems to be confused because it fails to distinguish between intellectual trust and emotional trust. The customer has no intellectual trust when he believes his bank will go bust or its senior managers earned bonuses way out of kilter with performance. He displays a lack of emotional trust when he does not believe his bank will give him a fair deal. The crash caused a reawakening of concern about the soundness of banks, so intellectual trust became an issue for the first time in years. But the lack of emotional trust is absolutely not new. Have people ever trusted the financial sector to give them a fair deal?

Perhaps both business and political leaders should also think about trustworthiness, rather than trust per se. Trustworthiness demands reciprocal vulnerability. Trustworthy leaders recognise times have changed and that they are no longer in control, they think and behave more like social activists in their leadership styles rather than conventional CEOs. Accountability is everything, social and moral principles come before profit. Do our political leaders have a moral compass, or self-interest, as their guiding principle?

For some people, asking a politician for advice on public trust is like asking the Grand Old Duke of York for tips on military strategy. While only a third of people trust business leaders to tell the truth, for politicians the figure is just a sixth. As politicians have discovered, trust is easier to lose than to gain. Rebuilding trust cannot start unless dissenting voices are brought together. No one can learn if they do not listen.

Trust within an organisation is further complicated by the fact that people use the word ‘trust’ to refer to three different kinds.

The first is strategic trust – the trust employees have in the people running the show to make the right strategic decisions. Do top managers have the vision and competence to set the right course, allocate resources intelligently, fulfil the mission, and help the company succeed?

The second is personal trust – the trust employees have in their own managers. Do the managers treat employees fairly? Do they consider employees’ needs when making decisions about the business and put the company’s needs ahead of their own desires?

The third is organisational trust – the trust people have not in any individual but in the company itself. Are processes well designed, consistent, and fair? Does the company make good on its promises?

Clearly these three types of trust are distinct, but they’re linked in important ways. Every time an individual manager violates the personal trust of her direct reports, for example, their organisational trust will be shaken.

In this era of distrust, leaders, whatever their organisation, need to be trust creators. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to assume that others trust them simply by virtue of their title. As a leader, you are trusted only to the degree that people believe in your ability, consistency, integrity, and commitment to deliver.

The good news is that as a leader you can earn trust over time, by building and maintaining eight key strengths of behaviours and actions. For example:

Clarity: People want transparency that removes ambiguity. Be clear about your vision, purpose, values and expectations. When a leader is clear about expectations, she will likely get what she wants, communicating priorities will see people become productive and effective.

Empathy: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves. Trusted leaders never underestimate the power of sincerely caring about their staff. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is not just an old saying, it is a bottom-line truth. Follow it, and you will build trust.

Character: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy or populist. Leaders who have built this trait consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether they feel like doing it or not. They earn trust and respect as a person for doing what should be done, consistently. Simply, they make the right moral judgement.

Aptitude: People have confidence in those who show competency and capability as a leader. According to one study, the key competency of a successful leader is not a specific skill but rather the ability to learn and grow. Arrogance and a ‘been there done that’ attitude erodes confidence. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of learning to stay ahead of the game.

Connectivity: Trust is all about relationships, and relationships are built by establishing genuine connections. Creating and sustaining relationships is a key leadership challenge. By building a network of trust based relationships, a leader will gain credibility, useful when difficult decisions are called for.

Commitment: In times of adversity, it is the leaders who stay strong, resolute and determined that hold the respect of people, who trust their judgement. Wartime leaders like General Patton, leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lech Walesa, because they saw commitment and sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment builds trust, it creates a sense of purpose.

Reliability: In every area of life, it’s the little things done consistently that make the difference. The little things done consistently make for a higher level of trust and better results. The great leaders consistently do the small but most important things first. A leader is a dealer in hope, and behaving consistently inspires trust, respect and support. Equally, they don’t hide when the going gets tough, they stand up and show they are reliable.

Accountability: A leader is ultimately accountable for their decisions, behaviours and actions, you cannot expect people to follow you blindly without giving them justification. Being honest should be a trait that is taken for granted, but just how many of our political leaders answer a straightforward question with a straightforward, direct response?

As difficult as it is to build and maintain trust within organisations, it’s critical. An established body of research demonstrates the links between trust and corporate performance. If people trust each other and their leaders, they’ll be able to work through disagreements. They’ll take smarter risks. They’ll work harder, stay with the company longer, contribute better ideas, and dig deeper than anyone has a right to ask.

If they don’t trust the organisation and its leaders though, they’ll disengage from their work and focus instead on rumours, politics, and be unproductive. The building blocks of trust are unsurprising, they’re old-fashioned managerial virtues like consistency, clear communication, and a willingness to tackle awkward questions as highlighted above.

What do the enemies of trust look like? Sometimes the enemy is a person, a first-line supervisor who habitually expresses contempt, sometimes it’s knit into the fabric of the organisation, a culture that punishes dissent or buries conflict. Some enemies are overt, and some are covert – a conversation you thought was private is repeated and then grossly distorted by the rumour mill.

Because any act of bad management erodes trust, the list of enemies could be endless. Practically speaking, though, most breakdowns in trust can be traced back to either inconsistent messages and standards from leaders, misplaced benevolence or false feedback. The lesson is simple – to be a trusted leader,

In the words of Arnold H. Glasgow, A trusted leader takes a little more than his share of blame; a little less than his share of credit. They see beyond self. It’s not about their personal status, bonus, or achievement, it’s about something bigger. They link the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’, and help others view the landscape of purpose. They enable us see they do respect us as individuals, and that they acknowledge they have to earn our trust.

Six VCs before breakfast – leadership lessons from Gallipoli

Saturday saw the centenary anniversary of the morning of April 25, 1915, a day forever recognised in British Military history for one of the most courageous actions ever performed by the British armed forces, which took place at a beach close to Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. The gallantry displayed that day led to the famous ‘Six Before Breakfast’ awards of half a dozen Victoria Crosses handed out in recognition of the bravery shown by the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers.

By early 1915, the war on the Western Front was not going well for the Allies. The fighting had bogged down, casualties were high and all the signs were that it would not be the short conflict many predicted. The Russians, too, were struggling against the Turks in the Caucasus.

To help their ally and to try to knock the Turks out of the war, Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, began a campaign to force the Royal Navy through the Dardanelles. But this faltered and it was decided to land troops at Gallipoli to clear the way forward.

Unlike the Australians who landed at dawn on the beach soon to be known as ‘Anzac Cove’, the British were to land in full daylight on five beaches around Cape Helles. To make up for this loss of surprise, a heavy naval bombardment was to cover the British landing. This meant the Turks had a good idea of what was coming as the biggest amphibious landing of the war began.

As part of the wider British attack, the Lancashire Fusiliers were chosen to land on and take control of a small, sandy cove – code-named ‘W Beach’ – just 350 yards long and between 15 and 40 yards wide between Cape Helles and Tekke Burnu. It was so well defended that the Turks may have regarded it as impregnable to an attack from open boats. Nevertheless, the attack began at 6am on April 25. By 8am, the mass fatalities had occurred.

Captain Richard Willis, who led C Company during the attack, survived to record the events of the day: Not a sign of life was to be seen on the peninsula in front of us. It might have been a deserted land we were nearing in our little boats. Then crack! The signal for the massacre had been given; rapid fire, machine-guns and deadly accurate sniping opened from the cliffs above, and soon the casualties included the rest of the crew and many men.

The Lancashire Fusiliers started the day with 27 officers and 1,002 men. Twenty-four hours later, a head count revealed just 16 officers and 304 men. Initially six men from the regiment, who had been nominated by their peers, were proposed for the VC, Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

But this number was turned down and only three Fusiliers were gazetted for the VC in August 1915. However, after much lobbying, nearly two years later, in March 1917, the remaining three who had originally been selected were also finally awarded the VC for their bravery at ‘W Beach’ – renamed ‘Lancashire Landing’ in honour of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Together they became known as the ‘Six Before Breakfast’ VCs.

The VC is the highest military decoration awarded for ‘valour in the face of the enemy’ to members of British, Commonwealth and Empire armed forces. It was created in 1856 and given the inscription ‘for Valour’ by Queen Victoria. All VCs are made by melting down the bronze knobs removed from two Chinese cannon taken from the Russians at Sebastopol. Some 1,355 VCs have been awarded, and three people have received them twice. There is enough bronze left to make 85 more.

The Lancashire Fusilier medals were awarded to Major Cuthbert Bromley Cpl John Grimshaw, Pte William Keneally, Sgt Alfred Richards, Sgt Frank Stubbs and Capt Richard Willis.

The allied Commander-in-Chief said that No finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldier than the storming of those trenches from open boats. The Lancashire Fusiliers have been awarded nineteen VCs, eighteen of which were awarded in the First World War, more than any other regiment in that conflict.

You must have a heart of stone not to be moved by New Zealand’s casualties at Gallipoli too. Out of 8,450 soldiers sent to fight in Turkey, 2,721 were killed and 4,752 wounded. What other nation can claim an 88% casualty rate in battle?

The invasion failed, with the Allied forces unable to advance more than a few kilometres inland. A bloody stalemate ensued which lasted until Allied troops evacuated the peninsula eight months later in January 1916.

The Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War is a valuable case study for learning about leadership qualities and styles Although it is a sad fact that close to 500,000 lives were lost in the campaign, the decisions taken and tactics adopted during the course of the battle would serve present and future generations of military and political leaders.

1. Leaders need a rational and balanced mind at all times

With the setback of the Dardanelles initiative, the British concluded that an amphibious assault was the only option left. As a result, a strong regiment of 70,000 Allied soldiers were assembled but their forward thrust met with immediate resistance and the Allies managed to hold their beach positions with great difficulty. They were stay put in that position for another 4 months. It was at this juncture that Churchill called for further reinforcements. Fortunately, his wish was countermanded which prevented further casualties.

The episode goes to show how leaders are gripped by irrationality in their pursuit of a glory that is elusive. When so much is at stake, the tendency is to take unwarranted risks. The countermand order to Churchill’s request for troops was a decision taken in a balanced frame of mind by weighing the pros and cons of the eventual course. All leaders should train themselves to preserve their rationality in the most turbulent of times.

2. Leaders have to inspire, whatever their own circumstances

One leader of men who captured the imagination of both sides is Captain Alfred Shout, his name synonymous with the battle for Walker’s Ridge. Captain Shout engaged the Turkish defence with his predominantly under-trained troops and still managed to hold ground.

But what brought Alfred Shout enduring recognition and a place in the history books is his unsurpassed dedication to his men. Shout helped save several lives through his courage and determination. In spite of being hit by several bullets, Shout continued to carry wounded men away from the line of fire. He is said to have saved a dozen lives, but what makes the endeavour all the more remarkable is that Shout himself was severely wounded while performing these brave acts – his arm was made useless by the impact of an artillery and his lung punctured by one of the bullets. The severe strain would ultimately claim his life, but still, his commitment to his men helped inspire others in the thick of battle.

Captain Shout’s story is one of leading by example. To gain the respect of your team, a leader will have to set an example through his actions. And Captain Shout’s heroics will remain a worthy lesson for all leaders.

3. Good leaders listen to their team

The decision to attack Turkey was advocated by the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. He argued that a surprise attack on Turkey would debilitate them from further participation in the War and facilitate an Allied march into Constantinople. The capture of Constantinople would give the allies the much coveted access to the Black Sea, via which they can send supplies to their allies in Russia.

Theoretically, it was a sound idea, but Churchill failed to take into consideration practical factors like terrain and enemy strength. Interestingly, the Officers did not share the same enthusiasm that their leaders did, and there was scepticism about the feasibility of the project. In hindsight their fears proved true.

This demonstrates that front line personnel in the thick of action possess a better sense of ground realities than the view offered to the leaders from a higher perspective. Here is a lesson for all leaders – heeding to the feelings and voice of others who have a closer contact to the reality can provide valuable clues which can be used in devising more suitable plans of action.

4. Leaders always strategise with foresight

A wave of New Zealand soldiers were sent to back up the already inland Australian regiment at would later be named the Anzac Cove, but chaos and confusion ensued as the Anzacs had to move inland. Without a clear vision of the objectives, the operation failed miserably. But indifferent to the general consensus, General Hamilton ordered his men to move on irrespective of enemy hostility.

The fiasco at Anzac Cove would lead to General Ian Hamilton losing his job. Here is an important lesson for all leaders. No amount of ambition can act as a substitute for strategy and methodical, meticulous planning. The damages at the cove could have been averted or substantially reduced had Hamilton prepared and coordinated more carefully.

There were other significant factors as well that undermined Allied efforts. The infantry were not properly trained, and some serious technical difficulties were overlooked in preparation for the campaign – for example, the capability of the Royal Navy in the unique geographical conditions of the Dardanelles Straight was never tested

5. Leaders respect the competition & take lessons from failure

Gallipoli will always be remembered for the Allied defeat. The Allies came very close to gaining some strategically important victories in the course of their year long ordeal in Turkey, but the defeat is all the more surprising, given their superior technological know-how and greater numbers.

Inaccurate maps, poor decision making, loss of momentum and landing on the wrong beach near the start of the campaign all led to its failure. The Allies should have known that the terrain was not ideal for an offensive, and should have focused their troops somewhere else.

It is evident that British officials underestimated the Turkish military infrastructure and sophistication too. One of the qualities of good leadership is gaining sound understanding of the competition. The British leadership apparently failed in this regard. All these factors, when combined, offers a recipe for disaster.

6. Leadership dysfunction can consume legitimacy

The shortcomings of political and military leadership were experienced on the ground as management failures. The notorious acceptance of mass casualties prompted widespread mutinies in the French and Russian forces. The very name of Gallipoli conjures up visions of unimaginable, unnecessary slaughter, with industrial age weaponry blasting row after row of young bodies into bloody bits. Confidence in the authorities was swept away. This would hasten the emergence of anti-colonial movements and strip the legitimacy of military, social, and political leadership.

7. The fog of conflict is lethal

Entering a war has been compared to walking into a pitch-black room and shutting the door behind. World War I was triggered by violence in the Balkans, The Armistice did not resolve the issues that prompted the outbreak.

The same principles hold for conflicts in all settings. War, or its parallels in business and civilian life, can take on a life of its own. The enveloping ‘fog’ that descends can take the participants far from any outcome they would have foreseen, much less desired.

8. Leaders do not stand still

Technology, culture, economics, trade, and finance were driving Europe in extraordinary new directions through nearly a century of peace prior to the fateful summer of 1914. Political and social structures, reflecting the values of earlier times, failed to keep pace.

Looking past wistful renderings such as Downton Abbey, one recognises the tragic shortcomings of a European aristocratic and political leadership brought ruin to the nations it was intended to serve. The tides of history can be ignored for a time–but to do so is to risk being overwhelmed soon enough.

Leadership must act in the now, as well as securing a future. Resting on your laurels brings complacency and inertia, leaders have a responsibility to be active at all times, and not to stand still.

A remarkable spirit of reconciliation that brings the Gallipoli story to a conclusion, is the post-war message from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, leader of the Turkish army and it’s founding president, now inscribed on a large monument at ANZAC Cove, in answer to the pressing requests of the parents of ANZAC soldiers who wanted the remains of their sons to be shipped home for burial.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where, they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons, from far away countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our Sons as well.

As we celebrate the centenary of Gallipoli, this week at the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum in Bury for the first time, all ‘Six VCs before breakfast’ awarded to the Lancashire Fusiliers on the first day at Gallipoli are in the same place, at the same time, an apt tribute to their heroism. http://www.fusiliermuseum.com/.

My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally people to a common purpose with the character to inspire confidence. I also like the quote from French bishop, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord: I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.