Leadership: valleys and wilderness years

Surprisingly when we delve into history and into the lives of influential leaders you start to discover that often, but not always, they have been through ‘hard times’ or ‘wilderness years’.

I perceive that these can be formative times where vision and call to a certain career or vocation is deepened and strengthened. It can also be a time where character is honed and refined.

Below are some examples of leaders who appear to have gone through valleys and wilderness experiences:

Winston Churchill – had political wilderness years between 1929 and 1939, where he found himself without a position in government – out of power and out of favour – career was over. He spent these years writing books , traveling, and painting. In this time he became a voice in opposition to Hilter and a call for rearmament. This in the end brought him back to leadership at a level greater than before and it seems with greater competency.

Steve Jobs – founder of Apple computers was ousted from the company for 10 years. In this wilderness time he founded NeXT and headed up Pixar and learnt new skills in the process. These were later utilised when he returned to Apple, taking it forward to greater success.

Abraham Lincoln – had a brief position in politics then resumed his profession as a lawyer between 1849 and 1856, which was a time of wilderness for him away from his political ambitions and career. A quote from a biographer reads, ‘he entered his wilderness years a man in pieces and emerged on the other end a coherent steady figure’.

Joseph – from the bible was a man who was changed in his wilderness years, which lasted over 10 years as a slave and later a prisoner. He emerged a humble man who led and saved Egypt and the surrounding nations from famine and destitution with his wisdom and insight.

William Wilberforce – was elected an MP in 1780 and became a voice against slavery in 1789 but was unsuccessful in passing bills in government against the slave trade until 1807. These intervening years were difficult living continuously in defeat, which must have felt like a dark valley – a wilderness at times. He learnt perseverance and the need to strategise, and gained the reward of success in the end.

Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on this topic.

Hope you have a good month



“The nation will find it very hard to look up to the leaders who are keeping their ears to the ground.”

Sir Winston Churchill

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Abraham Lincoln

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Leadership: types and styles

Why are we looking at leadership types and styles?

Well a leader’s style of approach can have a positive or detrimental effect on a team’s or an organisation’s dynamics and therefore it’s success or performance. It seems that different leadership styles are needed for different situations or scenarios – horses for courses. For instance within the armed forces a certain leadership style is needed and practised, which would not be very effective within a volunteer organisation !

Here below we have the 3 main types:

  1. Authoritarian (Autocratic) – leader who adopts the authoritarian style dictates policy and procedure, and directs the work done by the people without looking for any meaningful input from them.
  2. Participative (Democratic) – leader offers guidance to the people, asks for their input in decision making but retains final say.
  3. Delegative (Laissez-Faire) – leader is hands-off and offers little guidance to the people and leaves decision making to them, will provide the necessary tools and resources to complete a project and will take responsibility for the group’s decisions and actions, but power is basically handed over to the people.

Here we have leadership broken down into 13 types:

  1. Visionary – one who has a clear picture of potential innovation and can develop a strategy to attain it, influencing others to adopt your vision.
  2. Transformational – one who is a role model for motivating innovation in others.
  3. Autocratic – one who retains authority and prefers to be the one who makes all decisions.
  4. Transactional – one who gives instructions offering rewards or penalties based on the results
  5. Coach-style – one who encourages collaboration.
  6. Strategic – one who challenges rigid assumptions encourage people to express alternative points of view.
  7. Democratic – also known as shared leadership – one who allows people to take a more participative role in decision making.
  8. Bureaucratic – one who allocates specific duties and requires adherence to a set of rules.
  9. Laissez-faire – also known as delegative leadership – one who limits the amount of guidance to people and allows them to fulfill their duties in their own way. (see above in main types)
  10. Charismatic – one who values individuals and listens to their concerns but leads by motivating.
  11. Supportive – one who delegates but supports people in their work.
  12. Servant – one who grows and develops people while also accountable to those above them.
  13. Situational – one who understands all leadership styles and is flexible enough to draw on whichever style best fits a situation.

Do you recognise yourself in one or more of these styles? Sometimes it is good to understand your style or one you can take on and adopt for certain situations to ensure the best outcome of your leadership responsibilty.

Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on this topic.

Hope you have a good month



“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Proverbs 29:18 – Bible

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Leadership: Business leaders at the top of their game

I don’t know about you but I need people to emulate, inspire and learn from to push me forward and to grow in the area of leadership. There are many and varied forms of leadership but this month I wish to focus on commercial or business leadership, and those who inspire us.

I believe good leadership is imperative to our world, and lends itself to more peaceful, enjoyable and productive environments. It is sometimes hard though, to define Good or Bad leadership, but when you are introduced to it you soon realise which one you are under !

Here below are some great business leaders with ‘words of wisdom’. People who have grown businesses exponentially, who have that talent and personality mix to lead others very successfully:

Sir Martin Sorrell, ‘the creative leader’ Founder and CEO of WPP and now S44 Capital,

3 takeaways from an interview: (1) Edit the noise down to what really matters. (2) Act with intention. Be in a hurry. (3) Develop an interest in what other people have to say.

Sir Richard Branson CEO and Founder of Virgin, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” 

Steve Jobs CEO and Co-founder of Apple, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.” And “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future“.

Mary Barra CEO of General Motors, “If we win the hearts and minds of employees, we’re going to have better business success.”

Warren Buffett – Berkshire Hathaway Chairperson and CEO,

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

Satya Nadella – Microsoft CEO, “The one thing that I would say defines me is I love to learn. I get excited about new things. I buy more books than I read or finish.”

Jeff Bezos Founder, Chairman & CEO of Amazon, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

Mark Zuckerburg Co-Founder & CEO of Facebook, “A simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.”

Sir John Timpson, CEO and Chairman of Timpson, “The best way to run a business is to trust your colleagues with the freedom to do their job in the way they know best.”

Hope this has been inspiring, and that you have a good month

All the best


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Leadership: nature or nurture?

Can good leadership be taught directly or caught by osmosis?

Or are we born with leadership genes?

Or is it a combination of both?

In today’s society we need good leaders. Studies show ‘80% of people do not trust their boss’. A terrible indictment. Eventually employees leave their jobs, where they don’t respect their boss. Good leadership is imperative to employee retention and creating long term organisational success.

Management training companies will endeavour of course to push the belief that everyone can lead, and that deficiencies found can be rectified. Only attribute needed is the desire to lead.

Scientific studies reveal good leaders have the following traits: ambitious, curious, sociable and people of integrity. A high IQ is often accepted as necessary but studies show the correlation is very small < 5% compared to the other traits.

Personality traits effective for leadership are impacted by genetics, which means some are born with a stronger disposition to leadership. Evidently if parents are leaders there is a 24 – 33% chance their offspring will be in leadership positions too. Some say though that openness to education, critical thinking, and developing intellectually can produce leadership qualities as well.

Cambridge University carried out research on this topic calling on a sample of identical & non identical twins to take psychometric tests. Results showed slight variation between the two types but in essence 48 – 59% of leadership traits are passed down through genetics – surprising result !

University College London concluded from their studies, ‘What determines whether an individual occupies a leadership position is the complex product of genetic and environmental influences’ – well put I thought.

In conclusion to this research, I am leaning towards the belief, that good leaders usually have certain personality traits, that are inherited genetically (nature) and observed in others growing up (nurture), and these are further fostered and developed in adulthood through formal education, training, coaching and experience (further nurture).

What have you discovered on this subject ? Please comment below

Hope you have enjoyed the blog

All the best



“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”

General Montgomery

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Leadership: men and women of Vision

One characteristic I have noticed throughout history is that leaders are often visionaries. Examples are many and varied and below are just a few examples pulled out of the hat that have inspired generations.

Steve Jobs was very much a visionary. His ‘vision’ of products inspired other people to be innovative and driven. He saw how the Apple computer operating system should be ‘open’, and later the look of Apple Mac user interface, and in our present day the capabilities of the iphone. He was able to ‘see’ where technology needed to go, to meet the future needs of the user.

Sir Winston Churchill from a young age, around 12, had a vision that he was going to lead Britain. In the 1930s he ‘saw’ the rise of Nazism in Germany and spoke against it and predicted another world war and the need to prepare. Amazingly he rose to top leadership after a few failures in politics and from a low success rate in academia.

Florence Nightingale had a vision to help care for injured soldiers within hospitals, who at the time lay in the fields of battle to die of their wounds. This vision was the foundation of modern nursing.

Moses from the Bible was given ‘vision’ from heaven to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, to a new land of their own, living in freedom. The nation of Israel was born out of this vision and remains to this day.

Queen Elizabeth I – inherited the reign of a bankrupt, religiously divided, and vulnerable nation in 1558. Her vision for peace and stability for England was realised along with prosperity and strength of position within Europe.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision for ‘Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ for black and white people alike. Following peaceful protests and rallies, society was changed. This vision even today is rolling out across America and the world.

We all have spheres of influence and leadership at one level or another.

This blog begs the question, ‘What is my vision? What do I want to usher in?’

Hope you have a good month

All the best


(Please feel free to comment below)


“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Sir Winston Churchill

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Leadership: Perseverance under Pressure

“Failure is not an option, we are not going to loose any men in space on my watch … “ those immortal words ring with authority and determination as it’s discovered NASA’s Apollo 13 mission to the moon is in trouble. Technical issues ensue and the mission is aborted. New task now is to get the three men home safely. Good leadership under pressure was vital and his colleagues listened. Technical issues over CO2 levels rising were overcome. Angle of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere was eventually secured. All the men were saved. A demonstration of great leadership in our world today.

Churchill is another example of great leadership under pressure, rallying Britain to never surrender, to never give up ! The situation looked hopeless but his speeches and ‘face like flint’ leadership stirred up hope and perseverance in a nation.

Eddison on a lighter note, the inventor of the electric light bulb, showed perseverance under pressure in the race to produce a light bulb that would last more than 10 seconds! He famously quoted, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work !”

Abraham Lincoln failed eight times at various moments in his career to gain political positions, but never gave up. Eventually success came his way and he went on to become one of America’s greatest Presidents.

Perseverance is a key characteristic in a good leader and often needed in pressure situations.

Please feel free to use the comment section below to add your own findings and stories regarding good leadership and what we can all learn.

Hope you have a good month

All the best


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Leadership: Vernon Johns – forerunner to Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1948 Dr Vernon Johns, a straight talking man, became pastor & leader of the Dexter Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama – predecessor to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The church helped instigate the civil rights movement in America in the 1950s.

Vernon Johns previous to this post had been pastor of many churches upsetting congregations by preaching freedom & equality for black people. His motto that he inherited from his father was, ‘when you see a good fight – get in it’.

His ‘fight’ was to turn people from a state of appeasement towards oppressors to standing up against injustice. The congregation of the Baptist church eventually turned to his way of thinking in a climate of persecution and trouble as he courageously challenged the status quo. He was later dismissed by the elders who found him a ‘trouble maker’ and ‘rocking the boat’. The seeds for equality & freedom though had already been sown.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. aged 26 carried on where Vernon Johns had left off, leading the church and peaceful non-violent protests, the first being the ‘bus system boycott’ which after 381 days removed segregation within buses. Further protests followed culminating in the ‘great march to freedom rally’ in 1963 changing the direction of America.

Although Vernon Johns is an unsung hero his legacy is no less important of that of Martin Luther King Jr. He paved the way, prepared the ground, for a different type of leader who was to follow, who shared the same vision, and was able to take the cause to a new level gathering people into a movement.

History shows us leadership comes in different forms, purposes and prominence. All have their place, and can be appreciated and celebrated for their benefit to us.

If you wish to know more please click on link for the Vernon Johns story: https://youtu.be/yD1ZJ1tG_fM

Hope you have a good month

All the best


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Shackleton – Success under failure

In late 1914 Ernest Shackleton and a team of 27 men sail towards the South Pole to be the first to cross the Antartic continent but unfortunately the expedition became a failure very early on as the ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea north of Antartica. They remained there for 14 months drifting with the ice flow completely frozen in. The ship broke up and sank in October 1915 due to the pressure from the ice. They managed to salvage some provisions and three life boats. They camped on the ice and then managed to sail 100 miles north to Elephant Island on three 23ft boats in gale force winds and 50ft high waves to this uninhabited desolate island navigating with a sextant and charts.

Shackleton then with 5 other men sail in a 23ft open boat against all odds for 16 days 800 miles north to South Georgia Island where there is a Whaling Station – the nearest inhabited island. The weather and conditions were extreme – gale force winds, high waves, strong currents, -20 degrees C. The captain was only able to take 1 sighting of the sun with his sextant to determine their position, the rest was done on ‘dead reckoning’ – an outstanding achievement ! May 1916 they managed to enter a tiny bay and land the boat safely – even the main pin that held the rudder then fell out – a miracle they made it !

The whaling station is on the other side of the island, and so Shackleton then leads a perilous expedition without a map with two others to cross over the mountainous island to reach the whaling station on May 20th 1916. He then takes three attempts to sail to Elephant Island over 3 months to rescue the other 22 men left there.

Under Shackleton’s incredible leadership they remained as a team with hope and motivation and survived against all odds.

Someone quoted at the time “Scott would give you scientific leadership, Amundsen (Norwegian explorer 1st to South Pole) would give you swift & efficient travel leadership, but Shackleton would give you leadership in a desperate and hopeless situation”.

Who or what strengthened Shackleton to do what he did? In the early 1900s in Britain many believed in the God of the bible – but did Shackleton draw on Him? There is one entry in his private diary that indicates that he may well have done, and through him a miracle that was to unfold.

Hope you have a happy & prosperous 2021

All the best,


Addendum: Shackleton never achieved any of his goals. He lost the race to the South Pole and failed to cross the Antartic continent. He died aged 47 from a heart attack in 1922 on an expedition, yet leaves us with an amazing example of outstanding leadership.

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Twistocaloric Cooling – new refrigeration technology

One fifth of global electricity consumption is from air conditioning and is a significant contributor to global warming. A more environmentally friendly development from the University of Texas has emerged and is based on twisting and untwisting fibres. The method known as ‘twistocaloric cooling’ or ‘elastocaloric cooling’ works by twisting a yarn or fibre causing an increase in it’s temperature which is used to heat a surrounding flowing liquid such as water. Untwisting causes the temperature to decrease therefore cooling a surrounding flowing liquid.

The team at Texas University have already successfully demonstrated twist-based refrigeration with materials ranging from rubber to fishing line to nickel titanium wire – results are published in the journal ‘Science’. (One of which is up to 16.4 degrees C of cooling).

Dr Ray Baughman at Texas University predicts Twist Fridges will be smaller and lighter than the cooling units used in traditional fridges. Efficiency is also better at 67% compared with 60% of today’s units.

This technology is very much welcomed as it is more efficient using less electricity, and does not employ refrigerants, of which both effect global warming.

Hope you have a good month

All the best


Quotation corner:

“In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windscreen.”

Warren Buffett

“Some couples go over their budgets very carefully every month. Others just go over them.”

Katherine Mansfield

ps  If you have enjoyed the blog please forward to those who might be interested, many thanks in advance, Mike

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Effectiveness of Cloth Masks against respiratory infections

Cloth masks have been used in healthcare and community settings to protect the wearer from respiratory infections for many years around the world.

Masks have two functions: firstly to prevent transmission of respiratory infections from infected person (source) to another (recipient), and secondly in the contra direction as a barrier to acquiring an infection.

The filtration effectiveness and performance of cloth masks is generally inferior than that of medical masks and respirators; however, cloth masks may provide some protection if well designed and used correctly.

The best cloth masks are those that use multilayer cloth, designed to fit snuggly around the face and are made of water-resistant fabric with a high number of threads and fine weave. Ill fitting masks can reduce effectiveness by up to 60%.

Cloth masks should be washed daily and after high-exposure use, by using soap and hot water or other appropriate methods to maintain good filtration.

There is a need for further research in improving the engineering design of cloth masks to enhance their filtration and fit, and also further investigation into the various methods for effective decontamination.

Reference article from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report Vol 26 No10 October 2020.

Hope you have a good month and stay safe through these unprecedented times

All the best,


Quotation corner:

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

General George S. Patton

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow

Mark Twain

ps  If you have enjoyed the blog please forward to those who might be interested, many thanks in advance, Mike

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