Jim Cassell’s Leadership Signature at Manchester City’s Football Academy

July 29, 2009
Jim Cassell

Jim Cassell

Jim Cassell helped create the highly successful Football Academy at Manchester City. His work helps us understand the nature of fifh-level leadership

News that Micah Richards had contacted Swine Flu while on holiday, [July 10th 2009] concerned his former mentor Jim Cassell, head of Manchester City’s Football Academy.

A few hours before the flu news news broke, I had interviewed Jim at his Platt Lane office in advance of a presentation he was planning for The Manchester International Festival. He was preparing for his talk on identifying and fostering talent, subjects in which he is highly qualified.

Micah was one of the talented young players who had been at the Academy, and Cassell talked proudly of him, and other emerging stars such as Stephen Ireland, and of his team which won the youth-cup in 2008, beating Chelsea’s top-dollar stars in the final legs of the competition.

The Cassell story

A Times reporter captured the Academy’s achievements [Oct 14th 2007]

Plenty of Premier League academies are more salubrious, many have annual budgets in excess of Platt Lane’s £2m, several boast better facilities, more recruits, bigger staffs. But none can compete with the output of this place.

“We’ve never won a national trophy and yet we have produced more first-team players than any other academy,” says Cassell. “We sacrifice our teams sometimes because the priority is the development of individuals. If after 10 years we had four FA Youth Cups but no players, we wouldn’t have done very well, but we’ve brought through 25 to the first team, 24 of whom are still playing with us or in league football. Six are internationals. We’ve recouped £31m in transfers and, if you add Micah Richards, Michael Johnson, Nedum Onuoha, Kasper Schmeichel and Stephen Ireland, provided another £40m-worth of players for the current City squad.”

Manchester City supporters have been fulsome in their praise of the contribution made by Cassell, who is quick to share credit with his small team of senior coaches.

A former book-keeper and local government officer, Cassell’s playing career lasted only two games [at Bury, a nearby regional club] in the mid-1960s.

One report explains why:

After doing some scouting work [for Oldham, another local club] he was appointed chief scout at City under Joe Royle [English International and then Manager of Manchester City].

When Royle brought him to City in 1997 Cassell set about re-organising the youth set-up. In Blue Moon: Down among the dead men at City, author Mark Hodkinson describes him as ‘thoughtful and shrewd, candid and friendly, immaculate in a suit and tie and wire-framed glasses, the original Gentleman Jim’. The following summer he presented a 51-page dossier to new chairman David Bernstein and the board. According to Hodkinson, it revealed ‘a club run by people without real job specifications, where the hierarchical structure was muddled and essential facilities had to be borrowed, or were missing altogether’. Bernstein spent £500,000 to implement the reforms, which might be the shrewdest investment the club has ever made. Cassell’s first coup was picking up a 15-year-old Shaun Wright Phillips, who had been released by Forest, and he is responsible for signing Micah Richards from Oldham’s youth academy aged 14.

Cassell’s leadership methods

Cassell leaves a consistent impression on friends, colleagues, and journalists who have turned up at Platt Lane to report on the Academy and its founder. It is reflected in the interviews quoted here, and in my own meetings with him. You could say that he has a consistent leadership signature, authentic and hard to simulate.

Signature leadership is becoming part of the leadership development vocabulary. In absence of a more thorough survey, I would attribute its growing popularity to derive from the work of the Sloane School (MIT) and its Four Capabilities Framework.

This framework is also a good starting point to the related ideas of distributed leadership. It claims that it can:

… help leaders discover their unique Change Signature – the leader’s credo and characteristic way of creating change. Each leader’s signature draws upon his or her values, skills, experience, tactics, and personality in order to build trust, respect, and authenticity.

The fifth-level leader

I was also reminded of a famous quote about fifth-level leaders, who are becoming recognized as more successful in building effective organizations than the turbo-boost results and ego-driven efforts of many charismatic leaders. Probably it’s a coincidence that Leaders we deserve identified Manchester City’s manager Mark Hughes as a fifth-level leader before he joined the club. His style has seen him survive serious corporate turbulence which would have hastened the departure of a manager with a more volatile style and a more abrasive relationship with the owner and board.

The debate over charismatic and fifth level leaders will continue, as there is a need for more and more careful studies of context, leadership styles, and effectiveness.


Thanks to Olivia Day, World Academy of Sport for arranging the interview with Jim Cassell. To The Manchester International Festival and The Executive Centre at Manchester Business School for the opportunity to discuss identification of talent with Jim and other distinguished panellists from industry, academia and government.

Parental influences on leadership

July 28, 2009

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

A recent obesity study suggests that there are parental links in obese children, but not across the gender divide. Should we seek to understand the acquired characteristics of female leaders from studies of their fathers, and those of male leaders from those of their mothers?


A recent research study into obesity had implications for leadership research:

There is a strong link in obesity between mothers and daughters and fathers and sons, but not across the gender divide, research suggests. A study of 226 families by Plymouth’s Peninsula Medical School found obese mothers were 10 times more likely to have obese daughters. For fathers and sons, there was a six-fold rise. But in both cases children of the opposite sex were not affected.
The researchers believe the link is behavioural rather than genetic. They say the findings mean policy on obesity should be re-thought.

The research has implications across a whole range of health and well-being policies and treatments. A particular implication may be as a research approach within what has become intractable ‘nature/nurture’ debates.

Are leaders ‘made or born?’. Maybe differential impact studies such as this one holds a clue. Perhaps we should seek to understand the acquired characteristics of female leaders from their fathers, and those of male leaders from those of their mothers. That feels a somewhat counter-intuitive notion, but at least it is testable.

Worth discussing further

I’m not sure where this is taking me, but look forward to discussing it with others more qualified than I am.


Image is from a portrait of Henry VIIIth of England on the fromoldbooks website

In What Ways should Ethics come into Creativity?

July 26, 2009

Loyalty wheel

The literature of creativity distances the concept from ethical considerations. But this stance is thrown into question when it is examined critically. How are we to evaluate the creativity of an Oppenheimer or a Hitler, a de Sade or a Henry Ford?

A thought-provoking question

In what ways should ethics come into creativity? This thought-provoking question was posed by Marci Segal, founder of World Creativity and Innovation Week Marci is planning to present a paper on the topic. Her question [July 2009] drew attention to the fact that much of the literature on the creative process makes no reference to ethics. In that sense, the subject floats free of ethical considerations.

Artists take as a given that art stands above conventional morality. Many scientists still cling to the rationale that the pursuit of knowledge is morally neutral. Business leaders have favoured the licence to consider their only responsibility is to the financial health of their organizations.

Scientists, artists, and business leaders create their professional products and engage in their creative activities in bubbles which have in the past excluded considerations of ethics. These traditional beliefs are now changing.

The moral neutrality of scientific discovery

Scientists, card-carrying empiricists, have long argued for the moral neutrality of scientific creativity. In earlier days, pioneering figures such as Darwin, Newton and even Descartes managed to hold on to the ethical systems of their religious beliefs and kept them distinct from their discoveries which were eventually to challanges those beliefs.

But increasingly scientists have accepted the social responsibilities of science (or at least of scientists). The moral dimension can no longer be tacked on as an afterthought to the discovery process. The creation of the first atomic bomb in the Manhattan project is often quoted as a historical tipping point for awareness of social responsibilities of scientists. A recent paper by Penny Gilmer and Michael DuBois discusses the Manhattan project as an ethical dilemma that scientists may have to confront. No longer can ethics be tacked on to the creative process as an extra dimension in assessing the potential of a new idea or of its implementation.

More recently, scientific discovery has grappled with the ethical concerns of its potential ethical consequences. President Obama’s reversal of President Bush’s stance on stem-cell research is a current example of the ethical dilemmas of scientific research.

The morality of artistic creativity

Artistic creativity retains ancient beliefs in the purity of art, and its right to exist beyond reach of moral judgment. The view may sometimes be tackled legalistically, as in the famous trial in the UK of the publishers of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Was Lawrence’s work creative art or pornography or both?

Artists have always deployed the weapon of challenging conventional notions of morality and ethics. Critics argue that the process is culturally benign and necessary. Artists help society to reflect on, and perhaps adjust its ethical beliefs. The cosy distinction between eroticism (OK) and pornography (Not OK) in artistic endeavours leaves many people uncomfortable.

Creative leadership and the Hitler problem

The terms creative leadership and transformational leadership are often used interechangably. Writings on transformational leadership have struggled with what is called the Hitler problem. Was Hitler ‘really’ a transformational leader? The dictator ticked most of the boxes of envisioning (creating) achieving enormous changes, however hateful the end or the means.

Hitler’s infamy derived from acts which were utterly contrary to the ethics of transformational (creative) leadership.

The ethics of production

In the literatures of creation and innovation, issues of ethics are largely peripheral to production and marketing considerations. One of the most widely-accepted taxonomies of creativity is the 4Ps of person, product, process, and press (environment). The 4Ps are rarely examined in the light of ethical considerations of products generated, processes engaged with, or of concerns of socially benign or malign environments.

Increasingly, the social benefits of production and growth are becoming tempered with considerations of resource depletion, and extravagant consumption. As with science, ethics is increasingly elbowing its way into the commercial world.

Ethics in or out

Should ethics be part of the professional training of artists, scientists, leaders, teachers, politicians? Or should it be granted independence, transcending the professions, and studied as a subject of itself? The debate deserves more attention than it has yet received.
Leaders we deserve welcome comments on this issue.


The Loyalty Wheel image is from
Volunteer Ethics, a site worth visiting. I found other sites with nice images of ethical models, accompanied by warnings about the unethicality of sharing their creative ideas with others …The creativity/ethics question again.

The Posh and Becks of Banking: Diana and Roger Jenkins

July 21, 2009

Roger Jenkins

Sanela Diana Jenkins

Roger Jenkins, celebrity socialite banker is to start his own consulting firm. His story, and that of his wife Diana, illustrate the glamorous side of international finance

Barclays avoided any government bailout in 2008 by raising £7bn, mainly from investors in the Middle East. A key player was the arbitrage figure Roger Jenkins. Now, regulation of the bonuses of such celebrity bankers may have influenced him to quit and start his own consulting firm [July 2009].

According to City rumours picked up in the media,

The top executives of Barclays have given up their bonuses, but do not expect Roger Jenkins to forgo his…Mr. Jenkins, who runs the hugely profitable tax arbitrage unit of Barclays was the matchmaker between the British banking giant and Middle Eastern investors who put £5.8 billion ($8.6 billion) into Barclays. His looming reward, perhaps more than £30 million (almost $45 million), underscores how much cash-constrained institutions must reward the deal makers crucial to their survival — even at a time of austerity and caution in international banking.

The article goes on to mention a similarly richly-rewarded financial figure of Amanda Staveley who figured in an earlier Leaders We Deserve post as one of the most successful network activators in the business.

In a short space of time, the rumour was confirmed.

It should not come as a surprise that Mr. Jenkins plans to set up his new venture close to his family. It was his wife, Sanela Diana Jenkins, who introduced him in 2006 to Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar and director of its sovereign wealth fund. Mrs. Jenkins is a prominent socialite whose friends include Mick Jagger and Paris Hilton.

A picture emerges of an energetically ambitious couple, the Becks and Posh of banking maybe.

[Note: Becks and Posh aka David and Victoria Beckam, is becoming a short-hand term in the UK for an extreme celebrity liferstyle]

The glamour of banking

Glamour and bankers are not particularly strongly associated. Except maybe in the old idea of the intoxicating effect that loadsamoney has on loadsapeople.

Yet both the Jenkins partnership and Staveley are often mentioned as glamorous figures.

Both are considered to be essential deal-making intermediaries through their skills at winning the trust and friendship of mega-wealthy Middle Eastern figures. They are the superstar performers of banking, and their rewards are those of superstar entertainers. In more humble leadership theory, they have vital skills of network activation.


Image of Roger Jenkins from Bad Idea

Image of Sanela Diana Jenkins Sanela Diana Jenkins from UCLA Law School site . but not downloadable from her own website when I tried, [July 21st 2009]

Amir Kahn and his world-beating team

July 19, 2009
Amir Kahn

Amir Kahn

When Amir Kahn won the WBA Light-Welterweight Boxing Championship in July 2009, he was quick to thank the efforts of his team. But did he overlook one influential figure, while including another?

In the UK, Amir Kahn has been a hero in waiting since winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics as a spindly teenager of 17. He turned professional shortly afterwards and retained loyalty to his coaching team for a while after turning Professional.

But loyalty was not enough to take him to the highest levels, and he switched trainers several times. The most significant switch occurred after his first professional loss, a first round humiliation [to Bredis Prescott, 6th Sept 2008].

The changes seem to have been orchestrated by Kahn’s promoter, the colourful and controversial Frank Warren.

The World Championship match

Amir Kahn had his first world championship match, [July 18th 2009] against Andreas Kotelnik, at the MEN Arena, in Manchester for the WBA Light-Welterweight Championship. Khan outboxed a dangerous puncher of an opponent, despite tiring toward the end.

Khan thanks his team

After the fight, Kahn, remarkably level-headed in a sport which encourages hyperbole was fulsome in his praise for his team. I thought I heard him say the following, which has the added charm of ambiguity regrading the membership of his team:

“First of all I want to thank God, thank my mum and dad and thank Freddie Roach [his new trainer]. Without the team I got it wouldn’t have been possible.”

To date I haven’t heard a replay, so my memory may be letting me down. The BBC report cut out mention of God on Amir’s team. (too controversial?).

On Teams and Super-teams

Regular subscribers to LWD will know of our affinity of looking for signs of leadership distributed across membership of a social group or team. See the post on distributed leadership at Chelsea Football Club. That seems also to be the case here.

Khan has recognized the benefits of a switch to a world-class trainer. Also the longer-term familial support. Interesting that in his ingenuous first remarks he omitted to mention Frank Warren. Not so much a team member as an influential power broker, perhaps?

Maybe Amir figured he had all the powerbroking he needs on his super- team, and he doesn’t recognise Frank’s influence.


Image from wikipedia

On Pelotons, Tigers, and Leading from the Front in the Tour de France

July 17, 2009



The Tour de France, and the Open Golf Championship both offer insights about leading from the front

Susan asks good questions. Ones I don’t have answers to. This week, as we were watching Tour de France highlights on Eurosport, she broke in with

“How is it the main group always catches the breakaway leader?”

Our cycling friends have been quick to provide us with answers. It seems that sometimes, the front-runner does escape and win. But far more often, the breakaway leader is overtaken by the main group or Peloton.

The peloton is like some monstrous cycling centipede possessing the wisdom of the swarm. The arrangement conserves energy for individuals which has to be sacrificed by anyone who breaks away and becomes a breakaway leader. That provides for numerous tactics and team work.

As we watched, the process looked as if the one-time leader was caught and somehow then trick-cycled backwards through the swarming riders making up the peloton.

A few years ago, Paul Hochman wrote a brilliant journalistic description of how it all works:

Nothing in [American] sports resembles the bizarre dynamic of the cycling peloton, partly because a stage race is less a sporting event than a commodities exchange on wheels. What appears to be a random mass of bicycles is really an orderly, complex web of shifting alliances, crossed with brutal competition, designed to keep or acquire the market’s most valued currency: energy.
Amassing it (i.e., letting as little of it as possible drain away) is the only way for a racer to survive the brutal physical strain of a Tour de France, the metabolic equivalent of running 21 marathons in 23 days. Bikers save energy by riding together in a massive slipstream. Those who save the most energy can “buy” various goods – international glory, TV time, a bright yellow jersey, attractive French girls.

But here’s the key: To thrive in the angry little swarm that is the peloton, enemies often have to stick together and make deals with one another. Cooperation across enemy lines is the centerpiece of a winning game plan. It’s a weird concept to those accustomed to the zero-sum, us-them finality of the walk-off home run or the Hail Mary touchdown pass.
Why play nice with someone who might beat you? Racers in the peloton are not pals; they’re enemies without options.

To which it might be worth mentioning that not winning a stage may not be the same as losing one. The gallant front-runners are still doing a good job for their sponsors whose branding they are sustaining. The breakaway will have been worth a lot of prime-time ads.

The golfing front-runner

How about golf? Is there a peloton principle at work? Not quite. Tiger Woods has a fearsome reputation for winning when he does hit the front.

However, there is general principle which is more statistical than psychological at play. It explains why a relatively lowly-ranked golfer can leap into a substantial lead after the first round of a tournament, and why is almost always caught by many of the pursuing group.

Simple stats can test whether there is a random deviation around an average score. Some high and some low scores are the inevitable result of the expected distribution of scores. The stats can reveal if variations are due to a few exceptionally good (and exceptionally bad) players, or may be no more than a statistical effect.

When more data become available in the next round, there will be similar expected distributions of scores. For the front-runner, there is only one direction to move. Down. The result is that the one-time leader appears to be going backwards. Just like the would-be leader in the Tour de France.

Tiger, and Tiger alone for much of the last decade, plays golf in a way which can’t be explained as a random distribution of scores. If Tiger appears in the lead, the greatest of modern players, the rest of the competition, and almost all watchers of the event reach the same conclusion. Tiger is on his way to another win. Tiger’s scores are those of a statistical outlier.

How about Leadership Behaviours outside Sport?

Just a few speculative thoughts. Might the processes of the Peloton and of statistical theory help explain more mysterious phenomena such as momentum (leader going forward) and loss of momentum (leader going backward)?

And what about the tall-poppy syndrome, or the more folksy principle that pride comes before a fall? Might we have some explanations from tales of the Tour and the Tiger?

Much food for thought on the dynamics of leading from the front, the hero-to-zero phenomenon, and maybe even the tall-poppy syndrome.


The brilliant illustration of a peloton in action is from the social networking site Fark. The post also explains the how and why of the flocking process of Geese.

Does Government have a leadership role in innovation?

July 13, 2009

Glenn Rothberg

Glenn Rothberg

Glenn Rothberg

An Australian Government initiative provides examples of idea leadership, but reveals aspects which remind LWD author Glenn Rothberg of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes

A report of The Australian Government’s innovation policy agenda to 2020 was entitled Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st century.

The initiative resulted from the change of Government in December 2007. Unfortunately, I believe that the claims are a little like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. I list the various aspects of the report which have led me to that conclusion.

[1] Assessing Innovation Track Record

It is not at all clear that policy makers have accurately examined those gaps responsible for poor innovation performance in the past, in seeking to address performance in the future.

Powering Ideas says that Australia has a relatively weak innovation performance record, based on poor competitiveness, and spending on science and innovation. The policy statement does not articulate the source of these particular shortcomings, – just the result.

[2] Innovation Resource: Finite?

Secondly, I think there is a problem in defining the nature of the innovation resource. The Minister’s innovation statement says: “ Australia’s resources are finite…”, (p.4) . I argue that the ideas resource is not finite. For example, ideas accumulate, to become our store of knowledge, also making knowledge an innovation resource that is both renewable and expansive.

Of course, knowledge can also be depleted or rendered inaccessible, should ideas disappear. If the Government is assuming that our ideas resource is finite it may be limiting its views about innovation.

[3] Innovation: General or Selective?

Is innovation better understood as a national culture, or is it project-specific? Sometimes the report favours the one perspective while elsewhere it favours the other.

[4] Private, Public, Science and Non-Science Sectors

Typically, sectors and industries tend to be defined by their inputs, techniques of production, and value adding. This does not need to be the case. Ideas, knowledge, and innovation, like language, can cross all sectors. Innovation as a way of life should be reflected in activities spanning organizations, communities, regions. It should be evident in the private and public sectors, and other sectors, in which ever way they are defined, although the report seems to be confining the process to the business sector.

[5] Market Failure: How Do We Know?

The report references a lack of innovation arising because of market failure, but it is unclear that there is market failure. Ideas might also be lost because of the way in which organizations are managed. Perhaps their practices reflect flaws in management theory. In this case, the gap to be plugged is in understanding and re-framing what happens to ideas in organizations, and therefore throughout the economy.

[6] Innovation Framework

It is unclear whether the prevailing “capture” approach to innovation is adequately balanced by encouragement of the creative and implementation resources of stakeholders. It isn’t enough to state “we are all part of the innovation system …Genius is wasted if you can’t capture it and apply it to the real world. That’s what the national innovation system does”

[7] Measurement of Innovation

Little attention is paid in the report to what actually happens to ideas in organizations, and measuring this activity. It is not at all clear that prevailing measures of innovation are adequate, or that they are explaining relative growth performance in our nations. I have been looking at ways of framing and measuring idea activity and found, in a recent study, that one well-credentialed innovation index explains a negligible proportion of economic growth across 17 OECD countries over a 20 year period.

[8] Innovation Early Warning

A framework that acknowledges idea activity, frames it, and measures it, provides valuable information on what is happening while innovation is underway, or is being stalled. This is like an early warning system, preferable to the performance monitoring that tells you what has happened at the end of the innovation cycle. Perhaps there is still opportunity for a more advanced, early warning approach for the future.

[9] National Innovation: Priorities and Collaboration

In the process of encouraging innovation, the report is ambiguous in its support for being more productive and competitive, while also being collaborative. What is the basis of the suitability and superiority of the collaborative model of innovation? Why is it superior to the competitive model?

The Leaders We Deserve

I have outlined nine reasons why I believe that Australia’s new innovation policy has characteristics of the Emperor’s new clothes. Are we getting the policy leaders we deserve?

To Go More Deeply

An extended version of this analysis can be found on the Idea Activity website


Displays of ‘friendly’ bonfires to mark Northern Ireland’s marching season

July 11, 2009
Northern Ireland Bonfire BPA

Northern Ireland Bonfire BPA

The bonfires of Northern Ireland have long been part of the rituals of the marching season. Now efforts are being made to convert the symbols into affirmation of the peace process

The marching season in Northern Ireland comes each July with a host of symbolically and culturally significant actions which reinforce historic loyalties.

The challenge for leadership is the management of the meaning of such actions and images. This has become increasingly recognised since the publication of an influential article by Smircich and Morgan in the 1980s.

Leaders of the peace process rightly worry about the impact of symbolism and associated violence. But it is hardly surprising that efforts are being made to avoid counter-productive reactions by too direct action against such symbols.

The BBC reports a more subtle approach this year [July 2009]

Traditionally, bonfires are lit the night before the Twelfth of July and the aim is to make them as big – and as brutal – as possible. Over the years, for many loyalists the fires were not complete without an Irish flag, a Glasgow Celtic shirt or a Catholic emblem on the top for a ceremonial burning.

In the past, there have been so-called ‘shows of strength’ when hooded gunmen appeared from the shadows and fired bullets into the night air.

If all goes according to plan, a very different scene will be witnessed this weekend in loyalist parts of Belfast. The centre piece will be a custom-built beacon. Although technically bonfires are illegal, Belfast City Council is taking a pragmatic approach and trying to manage them rather than get rid of them.

The council’s Good Relations Officer, David Robinson, explained: “People might say that bonfires are never going to be environmentally friendly, but this is about as close as we’re going to get.”

Communities willing to work with the new system will be eligible for a grant towards a street party.

Action and Reaction

Maybe the initiative will trigger opposition. Bribery, cry some. But whatever happens, the sensitive management of meaning will remain in important aspect of any leadership within attempts to influence the processes of social and cultural change.


Image from The Guardian publicizing Unseen, issued by The British Press Photographers’ Association from unpublished images from its members’ back catalogue [ISBN 978-0-9561801-0-0] .

Stuart Rose and the Beethoven Effect

July 9, 2009



When Napoleon took on wider powers, Beethoven rejected his onetime idol. Is Stuart Rose getting the Beethoven treatment at Marks and Spencer?

Stuart Rose has won the acclaim of ordinary shareholders and institutional investors alike as CEO of Marks and Spencers. But his move to take on the powers of Chairman and Chief Executive has not been so widely approved. Is this a modern-day Beethoven effect?

Music lovers are brought up on the tale of Beethoven’s admiration of Napoleon and how it turned to wrath when Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France.

A work originally entitled “Bonaparte Symphony” … was renamed when Bonaparte crowned himself emperor, a move which angered Beethoven. As legend has it, the composer ripped through the title page and later renamed the symphony the Eroica, refusing to dedicate one of his pieces to the man he now considered a “tyrant”.

When Business Leaders fall …

The fall of a Business Leader can also be accompanied by a rapid flip ‘from hero to zero’ , as many case examples in LWD have illustrated. Recently a spate of examples accompanied the fall of failed financial executives such as Fred Goodwin.

The hero-to-zero effect in some ways is a throwback to the days of The Great Leader, a period during which charismatic personality was believed to be the driving force behind transformational change.

The Governance Issue

There has been uneasiness about the joint role since last year’s AGM. However, despite continued turbulent times in the retail sector, Sir Stuart’s track-record as entrepreneurial leader remains relatively intact.

At this week’s AGM he retained considerable support, although the Governance issue will not go away.

Sir Stuart has been under pressure from institutional investors for more than a year over the board’s controversial decision to allow him to hold the roles of chairman and chief executive, which is against best corporate governance.
[One] said if Sir Stuart were to stand down early as chairman, he should consider leaving the board altogether. Sir Stuart’s urbane response was to say he was “a servant of the board. If they wish me to stay I will be here until the latest July 2011.”
The Universities Superannuation Scheme called for Sir David Michels, deputy chairman and senior independent director to be made chairman at least on an interim basis. “If Sir David would become the chairman, and I would become the chief executive, it’s moving . . . back to the past,” Sir Stuart replied. And while Sir Stuart could charm the audience, he could not escape the words of Councillor Ian Greenwood, urging support for a motion for him to hand back [the Chairmanship] “Whatever happens we are not going away.”

The Wider Issues

Students of leadership will recognise the wider issues implied in the ongoing story of Sir Stuart Rose’s leadership. At one level there is the technical matter of corporate governanace. At another level these is the process through which a powerful leader appears to seize greater powers ‘in the interests of the company or country’.

In other words, the Beethoven effect.


Close examination of the Beethoven image reveals it to be an ironic comment on the great man’s coiffure, to be found on a blogpost by Charlie White

I know these chimps. They are not terrorists

July 6, 2009
Chester Zoo Chimps

Chester Zoo Chimps

Thirty chimpanzees break out of their enclosure in Chester Zoo. They were subsequently captured and returned to their compound. But I can vouch for their characters. They are a well-adjusted and well-led group of primates

Sunday July 5th 2008. Around the time Roger Federer was starting his marathon tennis match with Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, a group of chimpanzees at Chester Zoo broke out of their compound and broke into the on-site chimp catering facility. There they managed to locate the supplies of bananas and other goodies, and generally has a good time wrecking the joint. Zoo staff swung into emergency action mode, secured the miscreants, and evacuated some 5000 humans from the vicinity.

Long before Roger had squeezed out his fifteenth Grand Slam victory, the chimps were back in their own ecologically-designed living quarters.

Old friends

The story had particular interest for me. Some years ago I had studied the behaviour of this particular group guided by Stephen McEwan and his team of animal behaviouralists at the zoo. They talked fondly of each animal and its behaviours. How dominant males used assorted rewards and punishments in battles for status. These included playing with infants to curry favours with dominant females.

How alpha male dominance was not just a matter of physical strength. Indeed one particularly strong creature seemed less intelligent than his fellows and was treated in a way which could be described as how a retarded sibling might be treated.

Overall it was a fascinating experience. Later when groups of managers were introduced to the various animal groups it was to lead a rich vein of ideas relating animal to human behaviours.

One unreported anecdote

One unreported anecdote about this same group of Chimpanzees. I very much want to carry out confirmatory studies. According to the zoo staff, the chimps were often visited by family groups, and by groups of visiting dignitaries. These mini-safaris produced an attack-defence pattern in which a high-status ape rushed to the barrier of the enclosure threatening the approaching strangers. Not remarkable. More remarkable was the claim that the angry ape targeted the head of the family or most senior ‘leader’ of the group of dignitaries. Go figure, as the Americans say.

Aggressive, perhaps but not terrorists

I don’t have illusions of chimps as suitable to be turned into human pets. Fortunately, more and more people have reached the same conclusion. There are conservational arguments for maintaining their gene pool through creating safe and environmentally conditions.

But I just wanted to add that this story was not about a bunch of terrorists engaged in wanton acts of violence.

I know these chimps. They are not terrorists. They just got a bit impatient while waiting for their Sunday meal.