BA’s Martin Broughton battles against US security practices

October 27, 2010

Last week Martin Broughton as chairman of Liverpool FC came to public awareness in the club’s battle against its American owners. This week as chairman of British Airways he springs into action against the practices of the US Transport Security Administration

The BBC reported his speech [October 27th 2010] to the UK Airport Operators’ Association annual conference. Mr Broughton argued that:

Some “completely redundant” airport security checks should be scrapped and the UK should stop “kowtowing” to US security demands. Practices such as forcing passengers to take off their shoes should be abandoned, and he questioned why laptop computers needed to be screened separately. He also criticised the US for imposing increased checks on US-bound flights but not on its own domestic services. The US stepped up security in January in the wake of an alleged bomb plot. “We should say, ‘we’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential’.”

A spokesperson for The US’s Transport Security Administration said it worked closely with its international partners to ensure the best possible security and that they “..constantly review and evolve our security measures based on the latest intelligence.”

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

October 25, 2010

Book Review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman, Canongate Publishers, 2010

Pullman’s retelling of the Christian story is inevitably a controversial work. The author’s creative twist is to provide “a story about a story” in which Jesus has acquired a twin brother Christos

The literary conceit permits a mythic tale in which Jesus is presented as the radical charismatic, with Christos offering the benefits of setting up a formal institution to carry the words and work of Jesus forward. It is not difficult to see how the basic idea permits a creative writer to explore deep theological and philosophical issues. Which is what Pullman does, in a deceptively lucid style. Sally Vickers, noted that

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ was bound to become something of a hornet’s nest. Known for his dislike of organised religion and the unflattering portrait of God..Pullman has been branded as a latter-day anti-Christ. [This book] was written at the prompting of one of Pullman’s admirers, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – who asked Pullman during a public debate why having tackled God he had neglected to write about the figure of Jesus – the Pullman version of the Gospel stories is inevitably, well, unchristian. What it is certainly not, however, is anti-Jesus – which is the book’s main point.

Pullman says of the work: “The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

The way myths work

Pullman is a supreme storyteller who knows better than anyone that a myth needs no justification. Myths give us the facts. They are not the “facts” of testable evidence but of a different order of reality… The truths which myth deals in are more like the fundamental data of human consciousness; we have always played with them in an attempt to adumbrate life’s ambiguities and discover meaning

Another story?

Some weeks after reading the book I came across another tale of enormous potential consequences.

“Artificial life breakthrough announced by scientists” announced the headline. The story told of the most recent advance of Craig Ventner and his team of scientists in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA. Dr Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK accused Dr Ventner of unethical motives: “He isn’t God,” she said, “he’s actually being very human; trying to get money invested in his technology and avoid regulation that would restrict its use.”

Now where did I come across that idea recently?

Jonathan Powell is the latest advocate of Machiavelli’s doctrines

October 20, 2010


Jonathan Powell created the new role of Chief of Staff for Tony Blair’s administration and was then appointed to the post. He gave a BBC interview to plug his book, The New Machiavelli

Powell was interviewed on BBC five live [by Phil Williams, October 20th, 2010]. He claimed that a Chief of Staff  ‘joining-up’ role can be found in most parliamentary democracies. He sees the role as very much that of serving as a leader’s utterly devoted and trusted creature.  In the interview he revealed that Alistair Campbell called Powell Blair’s Butler, a fine echo of the concept of a valet for whom no great man is a hero.

Machiavelli and the Milibands

Following the wisdom of Machiavelli, that first management consultant, Powell believes that Blair should have sacked Brown early as an obvious potent threat to his power. Brown should have been obsequious until his time came to seize power. Later in the interview, he drew on Machiavelli to justify the departure of David Miliband (his own preferred leader of the Labour party) by his brother Ed as a good political outcome. He cited two other early decisive actions of EM of which Machiavelli would have approved. Powell is a true believer of the big Mach.

Powell’s formidable intellect and self-confidence shines though both his delivery and the coherence of its content. Blair introduces him in his memoirs as ‘brilliant …with a lightening ability to absorb information.’

The New Mach rules?

So there is little doubt that Jonathan Powell has a powerful intellect and is someone who has embraced Machiavelli’s ideas as loyally as he embraced the New Leadership agenda.  I re-read The Prince from time to time.  It is a gripping document which brings to life some of the bloodthirsty culture of 15th Century Florence.  [Machiavelli served as ambassador for Florence to Cesare Borgia, and used Borgia as a case example of leadership of his time.]

On the other hand, serious commentators still debate whether the work was intended as a satire on the implications of undiluted pragmatism applied to the pursuit and retention of power.


The New Machiavelli

Tom Clark reviews The New Machiavelli in The Guardian

377718 will be a lucky number for a LWD subscriber

October 20, 2010

Lucky Number

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

Sometime in early December, Leaders We Deserve will celebrate its 100,000th visitor of the year. The hit will be registered as the 377,718th since the blog started, four years ago

Your ingenious editorial team at LWD has come up with an idea to celebrate the 100,000th hit of 2010, and offers a prize to the visitor who notifies us in the following way:

How to enter

Keep an eye on the ‘total hits’ number on the LWD homepage in the next few weeks, as it approaches the prize-winning number of 377, 718. Send a comment to LWD using this post with a suggestion of ‘how to improve Leaders We Deserve’ .

We will be monitoring the comments carefully (hoping the magic number will not be passed too quickly).

The prize will be awarded to the subscriber whose comment is judged to have been closest to hit number 377,718.

The prize winner will be acknowledged in an update to this page, and will be awarded after scrutiny by a panel of subscribers of LWD of the candidate comments. The panellists will not be eligible for the award.

The Prize

The prize will be a copy of Dilemmas of Leadership by Rickards and Clark published by Routledge, and sent to the address nominated by the prize-winner.

Why did business leaders write a letter to the Telegraph?

October 18, 2010

In advance of the Government spending review this week, thirty five business leaders write an open letter published in the Daily Telegraph. Why?

At times, an event triggers curiosity. A letter to the Daily Telegraph today [Monday 18th October, 2010] is one such example. The letter received widespread attention even before it was published. It was trailed as being ‘on the eve of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review’.

The context

As UK subscribers will confirm, The Daily Telegraph is the medium of choice for supporters of mainstream Conservatism here. Stories are likely to offer support for Government policy.

Let’s assume that the timing of the letter is significant. Why should the business leaders give such public support? Many but not all are well-known supporters of the Government. It’s not difficult to generate possible explanations, most of them inter-related.

The conspiracy explanation

‘Big business is in cahoots with Cameron and Osborne to create a compliant work force permitting low wages and more wealth to the wealthy and powerful’

The ‘you scratch my back’ explanation

A version of the conspiracy theory in which business interests see benefits to a friendly relationship with the Government

The lobbying explanation

Private sector business leaders seek to add a ‘no compromise’ voice to help the Prime Minister and Chancellor overcome internal pressures to dilue their proposed plans.

The bottom-line explanation

The leaders are acting in the best interests of their shareholders in creating organisational profits

The Governance explanation

The more nuanced view that a Corporation acts with regards to ‘multiple bottom lines’ (An idea proposed a long time ago by Peter Drucker) and have reached a consensus in the interests of ‘stakeholders’.

There are almost certainly other explanations. It may even be possible that such ‘action direct’ seemed a good idea at the time that agreement was reached by these powerful industrial leaders. But in the absence of more reliable information, it is hard to feel that there is one convincing explanation. Except, perhaps, that a powerful tranche of private sector business approves broadly of the much-leaked plans for Government spending.

Ed Miliband seeks help from a psychic psephologist

October 18, 2010

The scene: A fairground. A well-dressed young man in unsuitable business clothing for the muddy terrain stealthily approaches the booth of the famous Mystic Meg.

He appears to be slightly agitated…

MM: Come in, come in, young master Ed, I were expecting you. Don’t be shy now with Mystic Meg. I can see this is another first for you. You trying to be calm on the outside and control your nerves, but you can’t quite. Meg sees a lot, even before consulting her sacred pebbles. What you want is to find out what David is thinking, what he’s planning.

EM: Well, I haven’t had much time to chat with my brother recently, although I still love him very much indeed…

MM [impatiently]: Not that David, my young roseate princeling. The other David. Although you must go on being your brother’s keeper. You wouldn’t want him to take care of you would you? Laugh out loud I says you don’t. I’m talking about Playground Dave. Head of the Big Socks gang. You did well last time you clashed with him, but listen to Mystic Meg. He didn’t know what to expect last time. And you had one or two little tricks which stung him a bit. But you are going to have lots more playground battles with Dave and his gang.

EM: [Bravely] Thank you Meg. That’s really important for me to remember. I know our next meeting will be really important too. I keep thinking about it. Almost all the time. I’ve got to get my first moves prepared, haven’t I? There’s so many things to choose from. And the Big Socks are pretty divided aren’t they?

MM: Ho Hum. You’re right there m’dearie. Of course they are. Side-Kick Nick and his little gang. But you want to win them over to your side don’t you? So you don’t want to be making any nasty comments about Nick and his boys do you?

EM: [Plaintively]. So many things to think about.

MM: One thing at a time young fellow. One thing at a time. Ask, and I’ll see what the sacred pebbles say is in store for you.

EM: Well there is one thing…

MM: Ask away, young leader.

EM: Well, people have started calling me names. They are saying I look like a cuddly Panda. What should I do about that?

MM: That’s a three-pebble problem, right enough it is. Now just you sit right there, Master Ed and try some of these delicious bamboo shoots. I got them in fresh when I foresaw you were coming to see me.

Next Week

What happened when Ed confronts Dave in the playground for a second time.

Leadership Lessons from the Chilean Miners of Camp Hope

October 14, 2010

The rescue of thirty three Chilean miners provides the basis of the greatest leadership story of the century. Four leadership lessons suggest themselves

October 2010.

My first thoughts [October 14th 5am]

I watched all through the night. The miners have already become heroes. It brought back childhood memories of mining in South Wales. Miners squashed in metal cages. But my flashbacks are bound up in tragedies like Abervan. Even these brave men who prevailed will get flashbacks. A great victory for the human spirit, but we must not assume it is without human costs

Abervan was a mining tragedy which occurred above ground. A land-slide from the nearby coal-tip engulfed a primary school and its occupants. The Chilean story could have become one more tragic mining accident. Instead it became what one commentator called the ‘feel-good story of the century’. Maybe that will be how it gets told, a benign Tsunami of good-will sweeping around the world. It’s hard to find powerful leadership stories based on such unconfined positive feelings. Even this joyful outcome triggered those darker feelings I expressed above.

Leadership Lessons

The leadership lessons are the more potent because of the unusual and extreme nature of the events leading up the rescue of the miners.

Lesson No 1: There was no super-hero as saviour

Whatever angle the movies make of it, there was no single super-hero who attracts all attention. Among the thirty-three entombed miners several had necessary and overlapping leadership roles. The circumstances required a more distributed leadership. Maybe one man could have been a dominant influence in sustaining morale and social cohesion, and in shaping survival decisions and behaviours. It just didn’t work out that way.

Lesson No 2: Politicians take the lime-light and credit roughly according to status

A half-mile above the miners, President Pinera behaved ‘like a leader should’. He was there the most visible symbol of his country, particularly across the 69th and 70th days of the drama as the rescue attempt drew to completion. His ministers who had been involved on a day-to-day basis had his visible place on-stage, but clearly in a subordinate role [Mining Minister Laurence Golborne and Health Minister Jaime Manalich]. President Pinera had to symbolise the concerns, determination, and even patriotism of a nation. He largely succeeded and appears to have been rewarded with a burst of popularity. [Leadership students: what might have happened if The President was less visible than Minister Golborne?]

Lesson No 3: Leaders emerged

The senior supervisor could have been the ‘super-hero’ or even the common-enemy of an emergent figure. Luis Urzua,was regarded as the first leader who had helped the men survive the first 17 days before rescue teams made contact. His reward, another symbolic one, was the honour of becoming the last miner to be rescued.

Other leaders emerged. If Urzua showed technical competence, the extravert Mario Sepulveda, showed charismatic skills in front of the videos made by the miners. He brought a bag of stones from the mine as souvenirs and is tipped for a media career (despite his not totally-convincing assertions that he is ‘just an ordinary miner’). Then there was Jose Henriquez, an evangelical preacher who had the job of keeping up his colleagues’ spirits. And (maybe a lesson in itself) the rescue workers who dared to test the fragile recovery system and join the miners before each could be hauled to safety.

Lesson No 4: The Spirit of Camp Hope

One journalist suggested that the spirit of the impromptu tented village – Camp Hope – which sprung up at the site of the accident kept of the pressure on the politicians, and even on the multiplicity of rescuers. Political activists would subscribe to this view. But it is harder to tease out how and when such forces make a difference.

Sufficient unto the day …

That’s enough first thoughts. Students will find all the theories they need from their textbooks. I’m sure the case will warrant far deeper analysis.

Footnote [December 2010]

The miners were feted around the world. They appeared together at Old Trafford at a vital football match between Manchester United and Arsenal. It seems that coach Sir Alex Ferguson used their example to help inpsire his players prior to the game [TV address after the game by MUFC Chairman Martin Gill]

Liverpool up for sale – but who owns the club?

October 12, 2010

Liverpool football club is up for sale. But the dramatic story has an unusual twist to it. Who actually owns the club?

The developing story moves today [September 12th 2010] to the High Court for a partial answer. The putative owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, [H&G as we will designate them in this post] are in dispute with their own legally instituted board.

American sports entrepreneurs H& G bought the club in March 2007, in a deal which results in debts to the Royal Bank of Scotland of £240m. H&G are blocking the proposed sale of the club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) for some £300m. A Board of Directors has responsibility to its shareholders, which usually means in practice that the will of the shareholding owners prevails. Which makes this a very interesting business case.

So what’s the problem?

Well, the usual principles become more complicated if the club is massively in debt. Liverpool is massively in debt to its bankers. Repayments of its loan are due this week. The club will have trouble repaying the loan. So it does not take too great a leap of imagination to suggest that in one sense the bank ‘owns’ the club. Not ‘owns’ legally, but at very least owns the right to exert influence. With or without any major shareholding.

The bank’s influence

The influence of the bank was shown in the terms of its financial dealing last year when it demanded (and got) the appointment of a ‘neutral’ chairman and a board structure which removed absolute power from the owners The need for such financing illustrated the weakness of the H&G position (comparable in principle the arrangements surrounding the Glazer takeover of Liverpool’s deadly rivals in debt, Manchester United.

Opportunities for a sale

The circumstances were ripe for a takeover. But the ripeness also permitted opportunities for further entrepreneurial actions, timed to take advantage of the uncertainties. The board indicated willingness to accept one of the offers, by New England Sports Ventures (NESV). The owners attempted a few weeks ago [September 2010) to sack the members of its ‘own’ board. consisting of the ‘neutral’ clairman Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre who had gone against the wishes of their American owners.

Confusion reigns

On the brink of the court hearing, and the deadline for repaying the bank loan, confusion reigns. The possibility the FA deducting points from Liverpool’s league tally has appeared to be a possible deal-breaker for NESV. There is even a second would-be buyer, Peter Lim, claiming he had been unfairly discounted by the board.

What has become clear is that the question “…but who actually owns Liverpool Football Club?” is not a straightforward one to answer. Also clear is that the Football Association’s ‘Fit and Proper Person’ criterion for club ownership will have another urgent test of its credibility in the months ahead.

A more interesting question for students of leadership: what advice would you offer the Football Association through lessons learned from the case of the board which rebelled against the owners of the organization?

And stop press

Sporting Intelligence reports high court ruling in favour of RBS and Liverpool

From the Theatre of Dreams to Brazil on a Magic Red Carpet

October 10, 2010

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 016

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

As the Manchester Business School brochure put it

“Brazil was chosen by Manchester Business School as the base for its South American operations. Sao Paulo, where the majority of South American workshops will be held, is the largest financial centre in Brazil, and is the 10th richest city in the world.”

It was fitting that for the very first MBS workshop in Sao Paulo in September 2010, the topic was Global Events and Leadership. This is the front-end of the Global MBA from MBS. The tutors arrived with a Case Study on Manchester United Football Club, and its so-called Theatre of Dreams. They even arrived on a plane with the evocative name of The Magic Red Carpet.

Election fever?

It is an exaggeration to say that Sao Paulo was gripped with election fever when we arrived [September 10th, 2010]. Paulistas have a lot of other things besides politics to occupy them. But as everywhere else around the world, a relatively small number of student activists can make a lot of noise. And in Brazil you can add 100% to the decibels per student. The national election had its own regional flavour. I particularly liked the marginal candidates, a few with distinct chance of getting elected as a result of TV exposure and the voting system.

Our partners in Brazil are the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV), one of the leading and largest distance learning institutions of Latin America. Their well-equipped campus and staff provided great help in the inevitable start-up challenges facing any new venture. FGV classrooms are equipped with state of the art communications technology. But it was comforting to note that there is still scope for ‘chalk and talk’ alongside wireless and web-access facilities.

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 002

Originally uploaded by t.rickards

My personal view is that students who sign up for a new programme are likely to be particularly willing to try out new ideas and be entrepreneurial. That was certainly the case in Sao Paulo (and as a matter of fact also in Miami, our next global post of call). There were business people who had founded and were already running successful businesses of international reach. There were also senior executives from private and public organizations. While the temptation to revert to Portuguese for project-work was understandable, the presentations confirmed that the levels of English were more than those required.

The Global Events and Leadership (GEL) module starts the new Global MBA with a two-day workshop. Teams work on different cases each dealing with an issue of global interest. The MBS tutors provide an experience of the Manchester Method. The process essentially is one which holds to the principle that some learning can only be obtained through experience. This means that explaining the method without that experience is very difficult. So I won’t try to give a complete account of it. Let’s just say that the approach falls under the wider umbrella of experiential learning. Students become personally involved in a case so as to revise their own deeper understanding and beliefs.

The project teams all successfully passed this first assessed part of their MBA. As part of the course, information was collected on the team dynamics, leadership and performance of each team. A data-base is being set up to examine similarities and differences of teams from the eight centres around the world offering the MBS MBA programmes.

A Magical experience

For the tutors. the journey ended on the magical red carpet bound for Miami and then back to Manchester. It could hardly have been a more fitting mode of transport.

Cameron Live: Personal impressions

October 6, 2010

David Cameron’s speech live at the Conservative Conference

2.48 Gentle start

2.50 D.C. started by recalled waking after two hours sleep on day of election day in May, knowing the country needed leadership. Recognized he could work with Nick Clegg. Steady defense of the coalition. Long list of achievements already. Quite convincingly delivered. Poor Gordon Brown relied on long lists not to support an argument but to make one.

2.59 Still a low-key presentation. And another long list, this time of Labour party failures. Worked again. Just a hint it was a bit of rhetoric.

3.08 Spirit of working together (wait for Big Society mention). Jokes seem a bit thin (last of three jokes of the £1 donation from a little girl fom her tooth-fairy money). ‘From Big Govt to Big Society’ [15.11]. To his audience (in and out of the hall) claims the moral high ground over the feckless untrustworthy socialists.

3.13 “There is no alternative” to our cuts policy ..thanks to George Osborne … Credit rating is [best] mark of trust. [T.R.: but trust in institutions differs from trust in a leader].

3.17 Attacks labour. Tempo and emotional shift. Returns to tough issues of cuts.

3.19 Explains (defends) the Benefits Cuts controversy.

3.23 Back to the Big Society. Success through ‘wealth creators… not the tycoon … we must build an entrepreneurial society’ [will he mention the Nobel Prize winners?].

3.26 You banks have to replay the favour by lending to small businesses. Our special weapon is [who will he mention?] Eric Pickles. Eric is a major catalyst of The Big Society. I rather think I agree with much of what he says but the delivery is now too directed to the converted and relies on “The Common Enemy”. It is a vision, but not working for me.

3.32 Policing. State has to punish, but far more involvement needed from people power to improve inefficiencies. [Is there a rather puzzled mood around the hall? Not the usual number of orchestrated burst of applause. Not a lot to choose in its impact with the Ed Miliband speech. Say 6.5/10? He’s going to need a great finish].

3.39 Oh, he has finished. So 6.5/10

So before I get my first impressions influenced by the various evaluations of others here they are: A good performer but a low-key performance.

For what it’s worth

For what it’s worth, the BBC’s John Pinaar [Five Live Drive] later also summed up the speech as ‘about 6.5 out of 10’.