Pasties, Porkies and Petrol Panic

March 31, 2012

The political story of the week in the UK is the proposed strike of tanker drivers and the public reaction at the petrol pumps. But for a while, it jostled with the budget backlash triggered by the tax imposed on pre-warmed food in the budget

The two stories when taken together illustrate the dilemmas facing political leaders when attempting to ward off adverse publicity.


The pasty story begun with questioning of the chancellor George Osborne about his proposal in the budget to add tax to takeaway preheated foods. This issue was personalized by a question at a Parliamentary committee hearing. It challenged the feasibility of imposing VAT on a cooked product according to its temperature ‘relative to ambient’ [i.e. whether it had cooled down]. But it also implied that he was too posh to understand popular eating habits and therefor to help run the country. This continues the opposition attack about the Prime Minister and Chancellor being out of touch with the needs of public.

Mr Osborne stepped cautiously between dismissing the question as a joke, and trying to deal with its potential for political damage. But a day later [March 28th 2012] the Prime Minister David Cameron made a calculated effort to address the issue. He was, he noted, an enthusiastic consumer of such snacks. But with the ad-man’s instinct for vivid speech, he created a narrative in which he fondly remembered his last such pasty. Unfortunately for him and his advisors, the background research had managed to identify a company location that had gone bust at the time of the alleged pasty-snacking. The story and inevitable clichéd headlines (such as mine) took off.

Don’t panic

How not to be a leader. In England, the concept of inept leadership is captured in the classic TV series Dad’s Army. The bungling officer Captain Mainwaring is mimicked by the even more gloriously inept Corporal Jones who spreads panic in each episode accompanied by his catch-phrase ‘don’t panic’.

Enter Corporal Maude

Francis Maude for the Government addressed the tanker strike’s consequences but seems to have triggered panic buying at the pumps.

The Corporal Jones theme was widely deployed in the media, with Francis Maude lampooned as Corporal Jones. Here’s BBC correspondent Nick Robinson:
Ministers risk looking like Corporal Jones in TV’s Dad’s Army as their insistence that there is no need to panic about the possibility of an impending strike by tanker drivers looks like, well, panic.

It’s clear that Francis Maude went more than a little off-piste when he suggested motorists might consider filling up a “jerry can” and putting it in the garage, as well as filling up their tank.

However, it’s also clear that the government has had a strategy since the weekend – and well before the Tory funding allegations emerged – of encouraging stories which might persuade car drivers to stock up with petrol.

Tory folklore recalls that one reason Mrs Thatcher defeated the miners’ strikes of 1984 was because she had made contingency plans and built up coal stocks outside the mines.

Leadership Lessons

The news on Friday [30th April 2012] was that the proposed strike had been postponed. However, panic at the pumps continued into Saturday, with reports of bizarre and dangerous attempts to obtain and store petrol. An unsurprising leadership lesson: it is much easier to start a public panic than end one.

The remarkable Mr Galloway triumphs in Bradford West by-election

March 31, 2012

The charismatic politician George Galloway wins a remarkable by-election for his tiny Respect party in Bradford. His success resists simple analysis. A charismatic leadership style, campaigning focus, and voter disaffection with the major parties all appear to have contributed. Political clan politics, or Bradree, was also cited by members of the Muslim community

A BBC report stated the political statistics. Mr Galloway won the by-election by a staggering 10,140 votes, overturning a Labour majority of over 5,000 votes in the 2010 general election. The result came after a week in which the Government had suffered a series of PR blunders. The news turned the political spotlight away from the coalition, and back on the Labour opposition, and on Ed Milliband’s leadership credentials.

The celebrity candidate

The Guardian claimed to be the only newspaper at the by-election count:

Those who voted for Galloway tended to have a number of things in common. They were either a first-time voter or a disaffected Labourite, and all wanted to congratulate him on his robust stance against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many said they watched him on Press TV, the English language Iranian-controlled channel until it was taken off air by the government earlier this year. .

More still had watched YouTube clips of Galloway ripping into his detractors, whether in front of the US senate in 2005 or in a classically adversarial interview with Sky News about Gaza. Galloway proudly refers to these as his “greatest hits”. Only a handful recognised him primarily from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, when he dressed in a red unitard and pretended to be [actress] Rula Lenska’s pussy cat.


The Guardian also offered a diagnosis of the defection of the Muslim vote from the Muslim labour candidate:

A common theme on the stump was frustration at clan politics in Bradford, known by the Urdu word Bradree or Biradiri, meaning brotherhood or family, which here has become a byword for exclusivity.

Many felt that too many important decisions were taken in Bradford by a small number of Pakistanis who came from Mirpur, a small town in Kashmir, who had carved up the most important Labour party positions between them over the years.

The Labour candidate in the byelection seemed to fit into that mould. Imran Hussain, a 34-year-old barrister from Bradford with Mirpur heritage, was following in his father’s footsteps when he became involved in the local Labour party, rising two years ago to become deputy leader of the city council.

Great Expectations

Voters appear to have been swept up in George Galloway’s rhetoric. The result was hugely influenced by Labour defections and by first-time voters from the Muslim community. But there must have been a further contribution from the votes of defectors from all other political parties as well.

To be continued

That’s better. Amazon updates its information on Dilemmas of Leadership

March 30, 2012

Updated materials from the Dilemmas of Leadership textbook can now be found on the Amazon website

Read on to find the connection with the image, which shows a scene from Cruft’s dog show

You might say this post is a publicity pitch for Amazon’s services. Or you might consider it a self-interested advertising pitch, or the author’s cry of gratification. Whatever, I can report that from today [March 30th 2012] a data search for Dilemmas of Leadership on Amazon will reveal information about the new edition which was published towards the end of 2011.

The old words behind the new cover

From time to time over the last three months, as newly published authors do, I would return to the Amazon website to see whether it has updated the pages announcing the 2nd edition of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Over that period of months, I remained disappointed to find the Amazon image was of the cover of the new edition but with the text inside from the older version of the book.

Portrait of the author as an old dog learning new tricks

The extended period waiting did not diminish the sense of frustration or motivation to return to the site time and again. Today I felt those extended efforts had been rewarded at last.

In dog training, this is referred to as the process of behavioural shaping through the gratification afforded by periods of extended play…


The first image shows a border Collie assessing a group of judges at the UK’s annual doggiefest at Crufts. It has some connections with the main story, but mainly it’s there because I like the unconscious irony in the picture which is from Real Dog Training, Scotland and was taken in 1996.

The second image shows the book cover behind which Amazon sneaked in text from the earlier edition of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Amanda Staveley: “If not the architect a big piece of the architecture” of Abu Dhabi RBS deal

March 28, 2012

Amanda Staveley is a global networking superstar. Her latest role has been a broker of a proposed deal to sell-off part of the UK Government’s investment in The Royal Bank of Scotland to Abu Dhabi

LWD has followed the high-flying career of Amanda Staveley for some time. Our post [Sept 2008] on her networking activities has been one of the most visited, although its author suspects that its popularity may owe more to its image of Ms Staveley than to its textual information:

Her network of significant contacts in The Middle East had involved her earlier in the year in the negotiations by Dubai International Capital for purchase of shares that would lead to a takeover at Liverpool Football Club. In this she had been working on behalf of Sheikh Maktoum. This deal was to fall though, but shortly afterwards, she was hired by Thaksin Shinawatra, the beleaguered Chairman of Manchester City Football Club, who was looking for a buyer for the club. Early reports gave prominence to the charismatic figure of Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim and his audacious public claims for turning Manchester City into the biggest and richest football club in the world.

The RBS share sale

This week, [March 27th 2012] a news story broke internationally concerning the speculation about the sell-off of shares held by the UK government in The Royal Bank of Scotland. The Wall Street Journal described it as follows:

Amanda Staveley, a British banker renowned for deal-making with Arab Gulf power players, is advising Abu Dhabi on its potential purchase of a stake in the U.K. government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS), according to [an unnamed source].

Staveley already helped broker a deal that saw Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, participate in a £7 billion fundraising for the U.K. bank Barclays in 2008. Given her past success, Staveley is likely to be an important figure in the RBS deal. [The unnamed source said] “If she’s not the architect, she’ll be a big piece of the architecture.”

The negotiations between Abu Dhabi and the U.K. Treasury and U.K. Financial Investments PLC, or UKFI, which was created to hold the government’s stake in RBS, were unlikely to produce a deal for some time. “Talks have been going on for many months, but if something were to happen it would take several [more] months.”
It remains unclear which entity or entities in Abu Dhabi might hold a stake in RBS should the deal go through, the said. What percentage of the bank Abu Dhabi would buy or how much money it would spend were also open-ended, and the “discussions are likely around what needs to be invested in the business.”


The image above of Amanda Staveley was obtained from The Sebamban Website

Lei Feng is a Chinese role model and an example of servant leadership

March 27, 2012

March 5th is “Learn from Lei Feng Day”. A self-sacrificing soldier, Lei is celebrated in China as a role model of selflessness and modesty. Similarities with Servant Leadership are noted

Many LWD subscribers will be unaware of the story of Lei Feng and the esteem he is held in China. Lei’s fame arises from the days of Mao when he became a popular icon for the ideal soldier as ordinary hero. His fame remains today although the State now is opening up debate on such historical stories, for example through social media sites.

The Chinese social media site Sina Weibo is now providing an English language service

Sina Weibo correspondents were quoted extensively in a “China Daily article on Lei Feng recently [March 5th 2012] on the 49th anniversary of his death.

“While Lei Feng’s name still resonates in China and elsewhere, some begin to wonder whether the spirit of the Good Samaritan is still relevant in an age of intense materialistic pursuit and whether the image of helping grandmas cross the road is somewhat outdated.”

@Guaiguaideayuan Radio host at Zaozhuang Station:

There is nothing wrong with Lei Feng Spirit. It’s not the fault of those “Lei Fengs” (those who follow Lei’s example) that the spirit is now challenged and even doubted by some. It’s the reality and people’s perception of the reality: we want more from the others and from the society, and when the desires can’t be fully satisfied, we blamed something or somebody [other than ourselves].

@Wenxinfoshan Sina Weibo user

Today the new definition for Lei Feng Spirit should be as follows: 1. Try to do good, no matter how small it is; 2, try to be responsible; 3, try to be independent and do regular self-introspection; 4, try to put yourself in the others’ shoes, as often as possible; 5, and try to persevere in everything you do.

Global values and ordinary heroes

Western readers tend to reject stories from the time of Mao as State propaganda. There is even debate about the very existence of Lei Feng as portrayed officially. We can liken this to Western ‘ordinary heroes’ such as Robin Hood whose existence is challenged but whose story is accepted and romanticised.

Xinghuaqi, the biographer of Lei Feng puts it this way:

We promote Lei Feng Spirit because Lei Feng is an “ordinary” hero. His “heroics” were done in his daily life, and we can do the same if we wish. His spirit isn’t about communism or socialism – nothing ideological – but about the basic human nature. If everyone could follow Lei Feng’s path, the community will become much healthier.

The similarity to the work of Robert Greenleaf on servant leadership is clear. According to Dilemmas of Leadership, [p 190] servant leadership is essentially about “the development of followers into morally responsible and autonomous leaders”. This idea cuts across 20th century leadership “maps” which place emphasis on “the fallacy of the industrial paradigm” [p 239] and subsequent ethical dilemmas.

Glaxo new build decision defies laws of time and space. Or have I misread the story?

March 23, 2012

Tudor Rickards

The day after the Budget, Glaxo announces plans to build a new factory in Ulverston, England, influenced by financial changes favourable to the industry. The timing seems to defeat principles of business decision-making processes until we look more closely at the story

The Mail outlined the background to the decision which will create 1000 jobs in England and Scotland in the pharmaceutical industry

Britain’s £10billion pharmaceutical industry was given a welcome boost yesterday as drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline announced plans to create 1,000 jobs. The company, which employs 15,000 UK workers, confirmed it is pumping £500million into its manufacturing sites. This includes building a new factory at Ulverston, Cumbria – the firm’s first in 40 years. GSK’s move was influenced by tax cuts in the Budget on money invested in research and development. Sir Andrew Witty, GSK’s chief executive, said the introduction of a ‘patent box’, which cuts corporation tax rates on profits from UK innovations, fuelled the decision.

As well as building the new factory, it will inject £100million into Scottish sites at Irvine and Montrose, and £80million at its site in Ware, Hertfordshire, to boost capacity for inhalers and at Barnard Castle, County Durham, for skin-care products.

A lightning fast reaction?

Good news for Britain. But how was the company able to make the announcement within hours of the budget announcement? Perhaps in part because as the article continued:

Sir Andrew, who is part of the Prime Minister’s business advisory group, said: ‘The patent box has transformed the way in which we view the UK as a location for new investments.’

First new build for forty years

The BBC reporting threw more light on the developing story

Glaxo made its announcement after Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in the Budget on Wednesday that the government would go-ahead with the introduction a so-called patent box.
These allow corporations to pay a lower rate of tax on profits generated from UK-owned intellectual property.

“The introduction of the patent box has transformed the way in which we view the UK as a location for new investments, ensuring that the medicines of the future will not only be discovered, but can also continue to be made here in Britain,” said Glaxo chief executive Sir Andrew Witty. “Consequently, we can confirm that we will build GSK’s first new UK factory for almost 40 years.”

A little more history

Tucked away at the end of the BBC article was a little more history of the way the decision was reached. Glaxo said last year that it would build a new facility at one of four potential sites in the UK if a patent box, [the favourable change in intellectual property taxation] first proposed by the Labour government in 2009, was brought in.

News breaks quickly but may have been a while in the making

So maybe the decision reported as if it followed the announcement in the budget was actually the public announcement of a carefully planned business strategy. It would have involved quite a bit of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Something old, something new?

Another fact not mentioned in the current news story: Glaxo has a great deal of local knowledge of Ulverston. The image (from the company website) is of the plant built there in 1948.

Chaleo Yoovidhya, Red Bull magnate, dies aged 89

March 20, 2012

Chaleo Yoovidhya, the inventor of the Red Bull energy drink, started his business career with a product for keeping his long-distance drivers awake

The creator of Red Bull, who became one of the world’s richest men thanks to the success of the fizzy, caffeine-laden drink, died yesterday [17th March, 2012] in Bangkok of natural causes. Chaleo Yoovidhya was 89.

His career acquired wings

Chaleo’s entrepreneurial career acquired wings and soared to success. In that respect it was symbolised in the subsequent cartoon-like advertising of his famous energy product, Red Bull.

Wired in

A source close to LWD talks of the significance of the product for her business associates: “Some of them seem wired into a diet of Red Bull, chocolate and coffee” she told LWD

Chaelo’s origins

The Thai billionaire came from poor origins in the northern province of Phichit, moving to Bangkok in search of work. Showing entrepreneurial flair, he found work as a salesman before starting his own pharmaceuticals company which appears to have drawn on Eastern and Western pharmaceutical knowledge.

Career outline

The Independent outlined his career:

One of his products was a tonic drink aimed at keeping factory workers and truck drivers awake through long shifts. Called Krating Daeng – Thai for Red Bull – the mixture of water, sugar, caffeine, taurine, inositol and B vitamins provided the inspiration for what is now the world’s biggest-selling energy drink.

The Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz discovered Krating Daeng on a sales trip to Asia in 1982. According to the company’s website, He tracked down Mr Yoovidhya and the two men became business partners, setting up the Red Bull company two years later in an attempt to take the Thai drink to an international market. In 1987, Red Bull was launched in Austria. Twenty-five years on, it is sold in more than 79 countries.

Thanks to the soaring sales of the drink, Mr Yoovidhya became the world’s 205th richest man, with a fortune of £5bn.
Showing no lack of energy himself, he married twice, and had 11 children, five from his first wife and six from his second. Today, [18th March 2012] Mr Yoovidhya’s family will start a week-long series of traditional Buddhist rites at a monastery west of Bangkok.

Entrepreneurial innovation

The trajectory of the innovation is a familiar one in stories of entrepreneurial success. The entrepreneur draws on local knowledge of market needs, and learns of the pharmaceutical properties of local products. He applies his knowhow to address a corporate need (keeping his truckers alert). He accepts the offer of an international partnership showing business flair.

It is not a trajectory that is easily replicated from the laboratories of the global pharmaceutical giants.


To for image of Mr Yoovidhya and local biographic knowledge.