The speaker at the next Personnel Today HR Directors Club breakfast briefing will be colonel (retired) Tim Collins OBE.
Best known for his inspirational eve-of-battle speech to the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment in the Iraq War in 2003 – including the now legendary “If you are ferocious in battle, remember to be magnanimous in victory” – Collins (pictured) is an authority on motivation and getting the best from your people. His speech won high praise in a personal letter from Prince Charles, while president George W Bush is understood to have requested a copy for the wall of the Oval Office.
Known as ‘Nails’ to his men for his unflinching determination and strong character, Collins retired from the Army in 2004, and is now an author and broadcaster. He recently published his first book Rules of Engagement, an account of his time in command.
Here, Personnel Today quizzes Collins on leadership and what other elements of military life can be successfully translated to the business arena.
What makes a great leader?
A great leader is one who is able to achieve collective success through the efforts of their followers. Focus and communication are the greatest talents of a leader. A leader values their workforce, and is valued by them.
Is popularity important to being a leader?
Niccolo Machiavelli in his 1513 book The Prince asked whether it was better to be loved or feared – and decided it was best to be both. He concluded that you should rely only on those things you have control over. You have no control over your popularity. The real aim is to be respected and administer justice and fairness in all things. If you are fair and just to your workforce, you may also be popular, but you will succeed.
What similarities are there between commanding troops and running a company?
It is similar in that it requires many of the same disciplines and organisational skills, with a focus on product through an efficient and content workforce.
How did your soldiers react to your speech in the Iraq war?
As always, they did exactly as they were told.
What other elements of military life can be translated into the boardroom?
Respect up and downwards is a facet of military life lacking in much of today’s business life. Businesses, like peacetime armies, are also often led by those who have no idea of where they and the business need to go.
Are there parallels in the Army of process and systems stifling leadership? How do you set leaders free?
When process takes precedence over product, the result is failure. Understanding is the key to success and comes from training, experience and intuition. Poor training will destroy productivity. Above all, leaders need to understand what it is they are trying to achieve, and then tell the workforce.