What’s on at the 2018 Centre for Army Leadership Conference
On Thursday the 8th of November around 800 leaders from the three armed services, the Civil Service, business, academia and international sport will be coming together at Sandhurst. Hosted by the Centre for Army Leadership, it will be the British Army’s 2018 leadership conference. Last year the Centre’s conference looked at leaders and moral courage. You can download a free copy of the proceedings to get a feel for the event, which included Lord Ian Blair and Jack Straw as speakers. This year the panel of international speakers will be discussing leadership and change. It is another impressive line-up.
The event was so popular last year that all the tickets sold out well in advance. This year the several-hundred tickets reserved for MOD delegates have long gone. Fortunately, there are still places available for non-MOD delegates. The tickets have gone so quickly because leading through change is a perennial problem.
It is fair to say that we do not like change; too often it is done to us rather than done by us. For leaders part of the solution is making sure that, for as many people as possible, the team are in the driving seats, not in the back holding on for dear life. Although leading their team through change can be the toughest challenge for a leader, sometimes it is at the heart of what we have to do.
As Peter Drucker said:
Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. Peter Drucker, Management Challenges for the 21st Century (1999)
If change is the norm, then it’s the leader’s job to help the team through that change – to show them the way. Drucker added:
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.
That’s what the speaker at the Centre’s 2018 leadership conference will try to do – show leaders how to act with today’s logic, not yesterday’s. Whether you’re dealing with recruiting, military operations, training or even your business’s response to BREXIT, we’re all in a time of change.
And – bottom line up front – the Centre is offering discounted tickets to subscribers of this site.
Leading Through Unthinkable Times
Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon are the first speakers. Gowing will be a recognisable name and face to those who’ve watched BBC news over the last two decades. Famously anchoring the BBC coverage for the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks, he’s moved from TV broadcasting to researching leadership and change.
He and Chris Langdon have spent the last three years studying why leaders are struggling in the age of constant change. Their research is based on peer-reviewed data from hundreds of hours of interviews with leaders, both established and members of the next generation. This included interviewing the current Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Nick Carter, for his views on managing and leading change.
Their superb book, Thinking the Unthinkable: A New Imperative for Leadership in the Digital Age, was published this year and they have been travelling the world explaining its finding since March.
The book is no checklist for leading through change, and Gowing won’t offer delegates any answers. But their book, (and talk), will highlight how some of the world’s leaders, established and upcoming, view change and the unthinkable events that disrupt their businesses.
How Small Changes and Make a Big Difference
Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur and internet businesswoman. But she is be best known to leadership students for her TED talks about leadership and challenge which have been viewed over 6 million times. I heard her talk a few years ago in London. Her message – that we remain deliberately blind to changes that might rock our cosy world – is compelling.
Her leadership and organizational books include Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious – the FT ‘best business book of the decade’ and, most recently, Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. Margaret’s insight into how leaders can galvanise change in organisations without uprooting the organisation will be excellent.
She’s all about how the accumulation of small, everyday thoughts and habits generate and sustain culture: how changes in the way we of speak, listen, think and see are small steps that can mark the beginning of big changes.
From Business Office to Cabinet Office
If you think changing your company – business or military – is hard, then think about how hard it would be to change the Civil Service. That’s been John Manzoni’s task as PUS to the Cabinet Office and CEO of the Civil Service.
But John isn’t a mandarin. He’s a businessman who’s been brought into the Civil Service to push an agenda of efficiency and business-mindedness. Although he’s a Civil Servant, he’ll also be the biggest heavy-weight businessman speaking at the conference.
After 30 years in oil and gas, including four years as the President and Chief Exec of Talisman Energy and four years on the board of BP, he’s seen private sector change first hand. He’s also dealt with failure. He left BP after the Texas City Refinery exploded in 2005, killing 15 people and injured more than 170.
The disaster taught Manzoni the importance of linking specialists and generalists together; the importance of linking experience with logical decision making. From his perspective, delivery requires experience, so a delivery organisation needs to focus on experience-building. It will be interesting to hear his view on how leaders develop their teams to deal with change.
Turning The Ship Around
The final speaker, David Marquet – and his book Turn The Ship Around – will be familiar to leadership students.
David was a US Naval submarine commander on the USS Santa Fe. On the submarine he implemented a change to the way leaders interacted with their subordinate. He insisted that his team, rather than asking his permission to act, simply told him what they intended to do and allowed him to interject if he disagreed.
In effect, he passed psychological control from the leader to the followers. It empowered the crew and allowed them to react quickly to change. The idea is so simple, yet influential, that I wrote a short article on the book (and accompanying video) here.
His message is about changing the leadership culture. But it is also about getting followers to take charge and get into the driving seat – essential for leading them through change.
David is now a business change consultant and works for major worldwide companies on improving their business leadership culture. He does not often speak in the UK. This will be a genuinely rare opportunity to hear him speak about his experiences.
How to be there
In all, the event looks to be superb. Full disclosure: I’ve been offered a free ticket to the event, but that hasn’t changed the views I’ve expressed here. I genuinely looking forward to a unique event that focusses on the lessons of change leadership.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve asked the Centre for Army Leadership for a discounted ticket rate for subscribers to the site. If you who want to take one of the last few tickets you can get them at 10% off the full price.
If you aren’t already subscribed (in which case you’ve already been sent the link) you can subscribe here and you should get an email within 24 hours with the discount details.