The Rise to Power

LAST night I attended the first of our 2016 On Leadership dinners with Tim Collins OBE, a retired Northern Irish military officer in the British Army.

Tim is best known for his role in the Iraq War in 2003 and his inspirational eve of battle speech – a copy of which apparently hung in the White House’s Oval Office.

Tim’s speech was genuinely rousing.

He spoke about many issues leaders face and touched on ‘The Prince’, the work by Niccolò Machiavelli. In the book, Machiavelli discusses cruelty and clemency and whether it is better to be loved or feared as a leader.

It states "Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with."

Shortly followed by "Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be …"

This generated an interesting conversation at the table; would we prefer to be loved or feared as leaders, and the pros and cons of both.

Tim then went on to highlight Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke’s interesting value matrix to categorise his officer corps:

  • Smart & Lazy: I make them my commanders because they make the right thing happen but find the easiest way to accomplish the mission.
  • Smart & Energetic: I make them my general staff officers because they make intelligent plans that make the right things happen.
  • Dumb & Lazy: There are menial tasks that require an officer to perform that they can accomplish and they follow orders without causing much harm.
  • Dumb & Energetic: These are dangerous and must be eliminated. They cause thing to happen but the wrong things so cause trouble.

Tim was completely engaging throughout his presentation, he captivated the audience with his complete honesty and the delegates at my table felt they thought about leadership in a completely different way as a result.

It was great that, at the end of the night, we all received a signed copy of his book ‘Rules of Engagement’ which I started the minute I got home and I’m sure others did the same.