Mike Ashley to run for leader of the Conservative party

June 8, 2016

shirtless-newcastle-fan.jpg

It is rumoured that self-made billionaire Mike Ashley is to run as leader of the Conservative party. The plan was put in place after secret meetings with Donald Trump, Lord Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell earlier this year

Mr Ashley’s chances of becoming leader of the Conservative party was rated as “a good bet at 1000-1” a figure now famous for the odds available at the start of the season for Leicester City Football Club winning the league. Now, after his effortless intellectual bettering of the Commons Select Committee this week [7th June, 2016] the odds are likely to drop even further.

Getting a safe seat

He is, at present, ineligible to stand, but  a safe seat in Parliament has been identified from a short-list of current MPs who are in danger of being deselected, declared insane, or imprisoned for various criminal offences.

The Press Magnet

Sociologist Tony Scrivener of Urmston University says that Mr Ashley has the characteristics needed to get to the top in politics.

“He has a track record of success in business. He is seen as not a member of the ruling elite. He is a ‘press magnet’, a larger than life charismatic personality, not afraid to take on the establishment. He will build on what he will call his triumph over parliamentary attempts to lock him in Big Ben for contempt.

His physical bulk, and his macho image also work for him, often appearing in the style of President Putin, stripped to the waist surrounded by adoring fans at Newcastle, the club he owns.”

Abolitionist firebrand

He intends to bring in advisors to help in his plans, which include the abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, as ‘wastes of time and space’, the creation of five million zero-hours jobs, and winning the World Cup with the English football team.

The Ashley team

We have not been able to confirm the names of the advisors, but they are believed to include a top BBC football pundit who once worked for Mr Ashley, and possibly the Portuguese media specialist Hose Nourinho, to strengthen his PR department.

The Queen is safe

He intends to preserve the monarchy until after the demise of the Queen, but after her departure he is believed to  favour of an elected head of state who knows a bit about business.

My Pal Donald

He believes he will turn the criticisms about his own business affairs to his advantage. In this, he is being advised by someone he refers to as “my boony pal Donald”.

Other parts on his brilliant vision include the purchase of The Sun from another of his close friends, Rupert Murdoch, and holding mass rallies at Newcastle United Football Club. During each of these,  he will descend in a massive balloon bedecked in the club’s famous Black and White colours. [The balloon that is, not Mr Ashley], who will emerge, shirtless, displaying his Putinsque Six Pack, to the thunderous chords of Local Hero.

Stop Press

I have been unable to confirm [8th June, 2016] that Mr Ashley is about to join the Remain campaign to add his formidable communication skills in a last desperate attempt to win over supporters swayed by the brilliant rhetoric of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and particularly Michael Gove.

 


Does Simon Cowell lack the X Factor? Seven Questions for Students of Leadership

December 29, 2011

Simon Cowell

Here’s a test which may be fun to try out on your under-graduate business students. Even if the challenge is too easy for discerning subscribers to Leaders We Deserve, you may like to pose it to a family member or friend

At very least it could add to one of those discussions around the TV beginning ‘That Simon Cowell might think he’s smart but…’

A Management Today article

Management Today helped themselves to this piece of marketing from a news agency.

IFF Research, which has sent the following over to us. According to the findings of its SME [Small Medium enterprize] Omnibus, just 5% of small business owners would choose Simon Cowell to be a consultant to their business.

Beard enthusiast Richard Branson raised few eyebrows by topping the list of the most desirable celebrity business consultant, with 34% opting for him – while 30% said they’d prefer the no-nonsense ministrations of professional finger pointer Lord Alan Sugar. Below them came Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas, whose recent attempts to save the high street don’t seem to have garnered much love from business owners (she only got 5% of the vote), and Karren Brady who with another 5% of votes, is clearly getting into her role as Sugar’s sidekick on the Apprentice. Bringing up the rear were Cowell, who obviously doesn’t have the X Factor when it comes to popularity contests, and ‘city superwoman’ Nicola Horlick, with just 1%.

What’s slightly depressing is that just 20% of business owners picked women – even though Brady (for example) became the youngest-ever managing director of a UK plc at the age of just 23, while, having juggled six children and the running of an investment fund, Horlick could certainly show Branson a thing or two when it comes to multi-tasking. Sugar, on the other hand, has managed to build a reputation on crushing the hopes of young business wannabes. Which suggests, as IFF MD Mark Speed points out, that ‘there is more to be done if women are to be on an equal footing with men’.

The Leadership Challenge

The piece got me thinking about why the survey was carried out, and whether the results have much credibility. The best use for it I could think of was a way of encouraging ‘map-testing’ for students. So here’s my undergraduate test based on the news item.

Test the credibility of the survey along the following lines:

[1] What choices do you think were offered to the respondents to the survey?
[2] What proportion of respondents do you think were women?
[3] How might the answer to [2] influence the survey results?
[4] What proportions of respondents might have heard of each of the various candidates evaluated?
[5] How might the answer to [4] influence the survey results?
[6] What might explain Richard Branson’s popularity?
[7] Why might IFF Research have carried out this survey


Battle of Ideas: Picking on the Apprentice

October 19, 2008

Alan Sugar acts out the leadership myth

Alan Sugar acts out the leadership myth


Creative leaders are idea warriors. Which is why many will be found engaging in the debate on bullying at work organized by The Institute of Ideas

The Fourth annual Battle of Ideas will involve over 1500 participants including strands on bullying at work, biomedicine, the family and (inevitably for election week).

The bullying at work session has marketed itself as Picking on the Apprentice. Leaderswedeserve has had a few points to make in the past on the television program. Like ourselves, The Institute of Ideas is more interested in hitch-hiking on the over-publicized programme to get at a far wider wider range of issues.

The bullying event will examine the recent case when a Marks & Spencer employee was fired for whistle blowing. And the example of Jason Toal, a black fireman bullied by colleagues who hurled racist taunts at him and allegedly soaked him with water and binned his paper work.

Other sessions will explore whether management consultancy and the professionals are in need of a stronger moral compass in the interests of the community, and (if that appeal is not enough) for their own post-credit crunch survival.

Political correctness running sane

Many people have developed a kneejerk reaction to describe their feekings of frustration and anger under the catch-all phrase political correctness gone mad. It might be interesting to trace the origins of this.

I have no doubt that themes within the Battle of Ideas will attract the inevitable media take of political correctness running mad . Which is OK. It is a comfort to think that debate offers a chance to develop more balanced views, and more importantly to act accordingly. On balance I’d say that is political correctness operating in a socially healthy way.

Acknowledgement: The Institute of ideas for the press release which prompted this post


The Reinvention of Apprenticeship: Alan Sugar’s Variation

April 25, 2008


Apprenticeship has ancient origins, and has reinvented itself as time goes by. Alan Sugar’s celebrity version for the BBC is a recent modification. Its viability as a leadership development approach is examined

I have expressed reservations about The Apprentice in earlier posts. It seems unlikely that many more series will be commissioned.
Nevertheless, it has had enough social impact to warrant some critical attention not as entertainment, but as a possible template for leadership development.

I decided to dig a little deeper into the history of apprenticeship, and compare its dynamics with other approaches for identifying and developing potential leaders.

A short history of the apprenticeship model

Historical studies sometimes only hint at the justified reputation that apprenticeship was often exploitative and one of the targets of social revolutionaries.

Since time immemorial, people have been transferring skills from one generation to another in some form of apprenticeship. Four thousand years ago, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi provided that artisans teach their crafts to youth. The records of Egypt, Greece, and Rome from earliest times reveal that skills were still being passed on in this fashion. When youth in olden days achieved the status of craft workers, they became important members of society. Their prestige in England [sic] centuries ago is reflected in a dialog from the Red Book of Hergest, a 14th-century Welsh [sic] Bardic manuscript:

“Open the door! “I will not open it. “Wherefore not? “The knife is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and there is revelry in Arthur’s Hall; and none may enter therein but the son of a King of a privileged country, or a craftsman bringing his craft.”

An excellent historical review from the 1920s traces the origins in England to the 11th –century. It cites Ricart’s Kalendar (I like that) from the 14th century thus:

It is said that any man having an apprentice may sell or devise his said apprentice in the same manner as his chattel

The article further notes that

Subsequent legal cases tested the principle which eventually became accepted as the right more precisely to dispose of the office or apprenticeship not the apprentice as a chattel.

Phew. That’s a relief.

Sitting with Nellie

Wasn’t that a bit like the 20th century approach fondly remembered as Sitting with Nellie?

Turns out the origins of the term still defeat blog surfers. I remember it in the context of apprentice training in Northern engineering and textiles organizations. Steve Holden reports that the widely-used phrase can also be found in the USA, where he links the term to the apprenticeship model, but also suggests its value for 21st Century work requirements the open-source world.

Another insightful summary comes from the Institute of Physics

Organisational knowledge creation takes place when knowledge acquisition is managed to form a continuous cycle. This happens particularly effectively in self-organised teams, where members share tacit knowledge and talking brings it to the surface. They exchange thoughts and experiment with new methods and ideas; they initiate problem-solving routines and manage and repair the social context within which they work. Concepts are refined and redefined and then shared with other staff, developing and emerging in more concrete, explicit form through an iterative process of trial and error.
Knowledge can then be transmitted by a process of internalising, of learning-by-doing so that tacit knowledge spreads within the company. The distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge helps to explain why, up to a point, “sitting by Nellie” (now an unfashionable concept) can work where “translating learning to the workplace” from training often does not.

The Apprenticeship Model Revisited

The Apprenticeship model is not without merit. We might agree with the Knowledge Management argument that it is a version of Sitting with Nellie which works ‘where “translating learning to the workplace” from training often does not’.

The self-referential frenzy whipped up by the BBC during The Apprentice run involves increasing number of interviews with ‘losers’ and even panels voting on ‘Was Sir Alan right to fire ….?’ thus keeping the story going from day to day.

These exercises are a bit too voyeuristic for me, and arre anyway open to a more detailed cultural analysis than I have time to make. (Anyone out there interested?).

My impression is of a number of captivated cult-members who make sense of a deeply meaningful experience in terms of a close encounter with a charismatic cult leader.

The robust feedback meted out by the all-powerful Sir Alan is accommodated by his devoted acolytes. If you belief in the virtues of a swift sharp shock as a trigger to learning, the process arguably ‘works’, and a reflective and introspective process of self-learning occurs. It appears to be, at least in the short-term, a developmental experience.

We might reasonably consider if there are longer-term impacts of such experiences on the self-image and social identity of participants. Cary Cooper carried out one of numerous subsequent studies of the impact of such social shock doctrines in his PhD, many years ago. I can’t remember the detailed results, but in general Cooper found, as have workers since, that the impact of developmental leadership programmes on individuals is difficult to assess for longer-term consequences (See Rickards & Clark, 2005).

It’s only a game, isn’t it?

Yes, The Apprentice is obviously entertainment, and hardly intended to offer a leadership role model. However, if the antics of Sir Alan make him the best known among Britain’s business leaders, and if he also is involved in a business development institution, there is at least justification in examining the consequences for public perceptions of business.

Beyond the Apprenticeship Model

But what other models of leadership development offer something aspired to as conversion of tacit knowledge into personal development? Labels abound: Action Learning; Group Relations Training; 360 degree feedback; Communities of learning; Experiential learning; Mentorship; Appreciative Enquiry; The Manchester Method.

What they share is a pedagogically justifiable rationale. Providing individuals with some direct feedback is part of it. (Remember the gentle irony of Bob Newhart’s driving instructor, a wondrous take on the teacher who ducks out of providing honest advice). No one can accuse Sir Alan of failing to give direct feedback.

Sir Alan’s shock-treatment may yet be treated as a wake-up call to those advocating alternative approaches … So let me be direct. Sir Alan, it’s become too tacky, you’ve been captured by the process of becoming a celebrity. I can’t fire you, and there may still be time to get out of the pantomime before someone else does. Walk out of the house. Or am I mixing up my celebrity reality metaphors?

Notes:

In preparing the post I was reminded of the work of Graeme Salaman.
and studies by his Open University colleague John Story for concerns about unreflective exercise of organizational power