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How do you lead during a crisis? Here’s how… told by former Assistant to Head of the British Army. Here’s who… Jonathan Bowman-Perks MBE. He joined us and dozens of #NetworkMyClub members on our latest online meetup on Remo!

Jonathan spoke about:

  • His experience and tours in the military
  • Transition into business a leader in PwC, IBM and as Penna PLC’s MD of Board and Executive Coaching
  • Receiving an MBE for his services to leadership in training UN leaders who helped prevent the East Timor massacre.
  • Graduating from one of Harvard’s top leadership programmes
  • To now running his own company coaching business leaders.

In this Q+A with Network My Club Founder & Managing Director, Bradley Hatchett, Jonathan tells his story.

What was your pathway into the military?

My father was killed in the military when I was just 3 years old. He was my inspiration, I always wanted to be like him. I was awful at sea so decided to join the army!

I was awful at sea so decided to join the army!

I had a very good career in the military, but then decided to become an instructor at the military academy. Having been outstanding previously, I suddenly realised I was very average. It was a bit of a crisis for me. So, I reached out to other leaders and learnt an unbelievable amount. That was my calling to study leadership.

I reached out to other leaders and learnt an unbelievable amount. That was my calling to and study leadership.

Can you give us an example of a crisis encountered and how you’ve dealt with it?

Two come to mind. During the East Timor massacres, the Australians wanted to some help to put a brigade headquarters together. Being prepared, I was able to help them.

This can be translated into current circumstances. Be prepared for ‘SUB’s – sudden unexpected bombs. When things are going well, is the time to plan for the what if’s and but’s further down the line. Be ready to quickly switch. You may be moving quickly in one direction, but you need to be ready to change and keep the same pace in another direction. This is something you’ve all probably had to do this recently.

I reached out to other leaders and learnt an unbelievable amount. That was my calling to learn more and study leadership.

The second is the Falklands. I was 19 at the time and was still in training so wasn’t ready. Thank god I missed it. Many of my colleagues came back with PTSD and fatal injuries. The main thing we learnt from that is that they weren’t prepared.

Crisis brings unexpected leaders forward. Some who you might think are good when things are going well, look awful. In the current circumstances, look within your own organisation. Who has reacted well? Lift them up and give them the praise they deserve.  

In the current circumstances, look within your own organisation. Who has reacted well? Lift them up and give them the praise they deserve.

How did your transition to military to business world come about?

I’ve always been fascinated by business. I did an MBA through the open university to focus on what I really wanted to do: coaching business leaders and teams. I entered my first role at PWC during a crisis where redundancies were rife. Luckily, I survived. I found what that they needed and an answer to their problem.

The route to the answer can often be followed like this: find new clients, establish their pain point and give them above and beyond excellent service.

What are the main principles you’re able to apply from military to business?

Think strategically. Are you paid to be busy or paid to think? You’re paid to think! What is the new normal now? Embrace that and change. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you the answer. You have to be much more agile.

Think strategically. Are you paid to be busy or to think? You’re paid to think!

Have more humanity and humility during these times. You see much more of people’s homes, children running about or dogs barking. This is a time where you can create real human connections.

Lastly, do you care? Showing that you care during this time by having real connections with people will really forge a deeper connection.

How did the Harvard leadership programme come about and what did it involve?

The greatest lesson I learnt was about the incomplete leader in the complete team. Remember you’re never the complete product. I’m certainly not, I’ve made hundreds of mistakes. You need to get a good team of people around you.

Which is more important when going a leadership role, experience or attitude?

Knowledge, skills and attitude (KSA). Knowledge and skills can be trained, but attitude is deep ridden. Always attitude.

What do you feel is the most common mistake made by people trying to lead in difficult times?

Good question. Probably a mistake I’ve made! I thought it was all about me. It doesn’t work at all. Surround yourself by good quality people then empower them. Empower them and ask them for help.

Over the course of the next week we will be releasing Jonathan’s Top Tips For Inspiring Leaders. Download the first four sections below.

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