Leadership from London

This past week I spent in London learning a snippet of the history and studying examples of leadership through the ages, culminating in coronation day spent as “a commoner” immersed in the crowds lining the Mall.

As an Australian with a deep love of country, an obsession for equality and the strongly held value of fairness, I surprise myself with my intrigue for the tradition and ceremony. Am I getting old, or is this another opportunity to learn?

There was so much to take away from this visit, from observing the shifting roles within a group of 21-year-old Uni students, to the enduring tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, to the historical dedication to their cause by the Crusaders and the Knights Templar, to the current system of government and monarchy.

Here are a few take-aways:

  • Leaders are followers too
  • Leaders cannot lead alone – they seek counsel from those they trust
  • Violence and oppression is not necessary (it’s ancient and barbaric)
  • Give people a reason and they’ll give you their life
  • Leading by example has more impact than you realise
  • Leaders who admit their failings are stronger than those who hide them
  • People need to belong

Obviously, I won’t go into depth into all these here, but I will be including some of these lessons in a Technical Leaders Bootcamp coming soon. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in for yourself or your team. For this week I will explore one – Leaders cannot lead alone.

Why would we still be intrigued by the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to this day, when leadership styles and knowledge has come such a long way? It is not merely a fascination for battle stories and domination over the enemy, as the knights were united to ensure peace, not to fight a war. Rather it is the admiration of achieving something magical and mystical through unity, by elevating the knights to the king’s table; the table was round to signify the equality of the knights despite their wide range of nobility.  In colloquial terms we might say “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”.

In a modern company we could think of the round table not only as a board or an executive team, we might also think in terms of succession planning, mentoring and opportunities for more junior members to contribute. Who are the knights at your round table? Do you seek their counsel? Is there mutual trust?

Leadership is a journey of learning and practice. You might be seeking a seat at your employer’s round table or building a round table of your own. How would you put a metaphorical round table into practice?