The Very Model of a Modern General

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,

I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical

From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,

What makes Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major General modern is his immense learning. He is acquainted with all kinds of knowledge (and a self-importance that goes with that).

On October 28th 2014, Brigadier General Greville Bibby gave the first Armed Force lecture on the meaning of leadership and responsibility for the Centre. What made him ‘modern’ was something quite different. First, he saw leadership as focused in the core values of the forces, and central to this was service to society. Second, he saw leadership as involving humility, which meant avoiding the bubble of self- elevation- precisely what prevents a leader from seeing people under his or her nose. Third, he saw leadership as involving dialogue, and this could include mutual challenge. Fourth, he saw leadership as involving care, and this meant emotional as well as intellectual engagement.

This came together in a rich and integrated narrative which was about knowing people and responding to them. Theory and ‘knowledge’ was servant to that.

All of this challenges business. Does business serve society? If so, how? Why is leadership practice often individualised, focusing on the elevated view of the CEO? How is leadership in business challenged? Where are the examples of dialogue? How far does leadership in business focus on care?

It also challenges business schools. Is good leadership based in theory or value?

Simon Robinson

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