It was indeed a great honor and a privilege to have been entrusted with the task of accompanying Mr. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who was speaking with young men and women from GEMS schools on the topic of leadership.
It was with a keen sense of anticipation that I arrived bright and early at The Kempinski to receive JLP. Before too long I found myself being asked a few questions by a most imposing figure with a military bearing and, upon having answered his questions to his satisfaction, found myself embarked upon a journey of discovery.
Tall, patrician and erudite Mr. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton is a man who wears many hats. He had recently relinquished his role as the Principal
Private Secretary, also known as Chief of Staff, to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. In that role he had not only been the person at the helm of the planning behind the Royal Wedding but also groomed the young princes as well as Catherine as they took upon themselves a public role. A former Etonian, JLP was commissioned as an officer in the Irish Guards and had served with distinction in the Special Air Service.
So here we were gliding on a smooth as silk, state of the art road built upon the golden sands of Dubai to the venue in the back of a stately American car. JLP broke any ice there might have been by waxing eloquent about the meeting between Major-General Wellesley, before he became the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Nelson. This, he informed me with a twinkle in his eye, was their only meeting and that too by mere accident! His rendition of that extraordinary meeting between his country’s two greatest military heroes was most captivating. He said, “It has always been one of my favorite imaginings to have been a fly on the wall on that day and in that place.”
Wellesley walked in full of confidence into the waiting room of the Colonial Office and came upon Nelson who was waiting to meet Lord Castlereagh, Secretary for War and the Colonies. The Duke, then Sir Arthur Wellesley, had just returned from his glorious campaign in India; but his fame had not yet become well-known in England. Nelson was on the verge of leaving for the Battle of Trafalgar. No one knew that this was the last time that Nelson would be in London and the rest, as they say, is history!
Wellesley, the youngest Major General in the British Army, caught Nelson’s eye and Nelson engaged him in conversation! At first Wellesley was unimpressed by Nelson’s ‘vain and silly’ conversation. At one point the topic turned to Sir Robert Calder’s recent action, and Wellesley reportedly remarked “This measure of success won’t do nowadays—for your Lordship has taught the public to expect something more brilliant”. Apparently, this prompted Nelson to leave the room to discover Wellesley’s identity. When Nelson returned with the knowledge of whom he had been conversing with, he seemed a changed man and there followed a sea change in the tenor of their conversation. Wellington is reported to have said upon reflection “The most interesting conversation of my life!”
By all accounts, during their long wait Wellesley saw enough to be satisfied that Nelson ‘really was a superior man’. “It was this very sense of Nelson’s human frailties, combined with his heroic endeavors that made him such a popular hero.” It is ironic that this encounter of the soon-to-be martyred naval hero and his natural successor was occasioned by pure chance. They were both leaders who made their mark on the course of events and yet their way of leadership was poles apart!
JLP emphasized that leadership is not about barking orders as if one is on parade in the manner of an Army Sargent Major. It is about using a low voice – about being soft-spoken. When followers come upon a situation in which an authority figure who usually speaks in a soft and even tone raises their pitch a tad they jump to obey. On the other hand, when leaders who are seen to shout all the time try to emphasize the gravity of a situation, people are so used to this being their ordinary everyday way of being addressed that there is nothing beyond the ordinary in their response!
Good leadership begins with good manners — with being polite. A good leader must not only care but show that they care. Leaders must show it to ones subordinates and possess a genuine humility. Above all anyone who is responsible for others should always be polite and pleasant.
Leadership is about integrity. A good leader must always be conscious of the moral and ethical implications of ones actions. Being a leader involves being highly concerned about old world values like honor, courage, conviction and honesty. Effective leaders they lead by example. They should also look out for the people they are responsible for as it earns them respect and admiration from their followers.
From this enlightening immersion one learned that a leader is not someone who wields power but rather guides others in the right direction whilst motivating and supporting them along the way. It was an interaction to be treasured and one learned about the characteristics of a strong leader, which he suggested included character, communication and courage.
After the presentation when I mentioned how wonderful his sharing was he said, “I’m glad you found my short presentation on leadership of interest too. These things are always so subjective, and one can only really base what one says on personal experience of what seems to work and what doesn’t. What you have heard is really what I have found has helped me over my life, and I hope it may be of some use and purpose for the wonderful students I met today.
One was privileged to learn invaluable tips about leadership and interact with someone who had been entrusted to groom no less than those who stood to inherit the Crown of England and to be the future of the Royal family in the modern world! The takeaway was no less a reward than a King’s ransom and made all the more valuable by the fact that this learning about leadership was from the very best.