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December 28, 2020

Leading by Personal Example: Lieutenant General Robert Baxter CBE and Jonathan Bowman-Perks: Inspiring leadership interview

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Leadership is not something that is ‘done’ by one person to a group, but rather a complex ecosystem of: context, the leader, the led and the mission.

Lieutenant General Robert Baxter CBE DSc FIET FBCS CITP has had the pleasure and privilege of over 40 years’ service in the Regular and Reserve Armed Forces of the UK leading young men and women in organisations from around 30 strong to over 10,000.
Leadership approaches have varied from the ‘follow me’, through traditional hierarchical command and control to rather more nuanced approaches of ‘nudge’ and influence. The opportunity to observe the approach to leadership of much more senior people at close quarters has proved invaluable.

He has no time for those who rant, lack humour and do not possess a thirst to improve their professional competence – he wants no affected dilettantes. His key observation is that leadership is not something that is ‘done’ by one person to a group but rather a complex ecosystem of context, the leader, the led and the mission: John Adair would have recognised this.

The prize goes to the leader who is acutely aware and has the flexibility of mind to adjust. This is well described in Stan McChrystal’s latest book, Leaders, Myth and Reality, with some fascinating case studies.Robert is currently Director Defence and Security at Chapel Associates where he advises Tech Startup leaders.

In the early part of my career I worked with and acquired a deep respect for Robert – for his wisdom and advice when he was the squadron commander of the UK’s 24 Airmobile Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron working with a highly innovative Brigade Commander who was testing the boundaries of what was possible in a new military concept. 16 Air Assault Brigade has now taken on that mantle. We both worked fro Brigadier John Griffin a former SAS officer who was Commanding Officer of 2nd Division HQ & Signal Regiment.

He was one of the most senior serving Royal Signals Officers during my career and ended as one of the Assistant Chiefs of Defence Staff. A man with great insight and wisdom. He recognised and learnt from his mistakes.

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