Fulfilling a long-standing commitment to a leadership charity of which he is a trustee, General Sir Richard Dannatt last night gave the Windsor Leadership Trust Annual Lecture, entitled "Leadership in Turbulent Times". He broke with the tradition that the lecture be given under the Chatham House Rule and spoke and took questions on the record.
Sir Richard first gave his reflections on leadership, referring to the importance of the trio of team, task and the individual. Although inevitably using military language and examples, his clear exposition of the need for clarity of mission and the exercise of moral courage reached out to the diverse audience. He made explicit reference to his own personal faith and asserted that faith in something - although not necessarily a religious belief - is often vital for a leader.
The lecture alone would have more than satisfied under normal circumstances, but everyone wanted more from the man of the moment. Step forward Martyn Lewis (former BBC journalist and now a successful businessman) who proceeded to question Sir Richard and chair a wider discussion.
Lewis's opening question asked Sir Richard when he had started discussions with David Cameron, what had been offered and when and, crucially, whether he was already considering a move into the political arena whilst still leading the Army.
A seasoned politician would have deflected some of the question but Sir Richard was clear that his straight style was not going to change. "I don't know David Cameron well," he revealed, before going on to explain that DC called him while he was on a fishing holiday in Scotland in the last couple of weeks and that he took the call whilst standing in the river "quite deep and with a long line out".
Responding to a direct question about why he felt the need to enter the political arena, Sir Richard was clear. "The defence of our realm, the safety of our citizens and the welfare of our armed forces" was oft repeated as he explained that he views the current situation, especially in Afghanistan, as too important for him to feel comfortable taking on the role as a commentator, admitting that he hopes that a more executive role will offer the opportunity to make things happen.
Sir Richard's strong moral code and track record of speaking his mind will lead, on occasion, to challenging conversations with his new political colleagues. He has already said he won't give DC an easy ride when he thinks he's wrong. And former military colleagues will undoubtedly find it awkward to manage the uncharted territory of so senior an officer sitting in a suit with politicians when he was so recently in uniform with them. But Sir Richard as a Minister in a future Conservative administration is a very real possibility - he says that is what he anticipates will happen should DC become Prime Minister. Such significant challenges are not beyond the man who spoke last evening and, if others also rise to the challenge, the reward will be a contribution from a man of experience and absolute integrity who is dedicated to the service of his country.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Dannatt Explains Why He Said Yes to Cameron
Last night, a friend of mine attended a lecture by Sir Richard Dannatt, and thought you might like to share some of his thoughts...