Be more Crumble – lessons in leadership

May 23, 2020

Crumble is not a lawyer.

She is not “C-Suite experienced”.

Neither is she a “dynamic, commercial, self-starting Executive with a track-record of transformational achievement”.

She is a four-year old cockerpoo. Her daily routine is simple and pretty much the same every day. She wakes up, has a wee in the back garden, has breakfast, naps, goes for a walk, naps, goes for a wee in the back garden, naps, has supper, goes for a walk, naps, goes for a wee in the back garden and goes to bed.

In four years however I have learnt more about leadership from her than any chief executive I have ever worked with.

My friend, and one of the most brilliant and important commentators on leadership in Britain today, Ciaran Fenton, would observe how Crumble passionately adheres to the “Feel – Need – Do” model. She expresses her feelings precisely, with a clear, simple communication strategy. She is always specific about her needs. There is no fudging, no ambiguity nor any dissembling. And she always follows up with actions that respect her needs and feelings.

Her “EQ”, as Ciaran would observe pithily, is “through the roof – one-hundred feckin’ percent!”

Another dear friend, Kay Scorah, noted with me recently how lockdown had given more space for emotions to be felt and noticed. In the same way we have all noticed birdsong without the noise of traffic, so in a stripped back world, we are perhaps a little more conscious of how we feel.

Kay’s work in this area of building empathy, and therefore of building understanding and consensus through an awareness of what is happening in the moment, is both beautiful and profound. To be successful leaders must be able to share emotion and be aware of the emotions of others. Not to be needy, but to be authentic. Not to overwhelm others, but to be truly present with them.

Crumble has an extraordinary capacity to always stay in the moment – whatever has passed, whatever is to come she will be with you, stay with you and allow you to be your true self.

I am privileged to regularly work with and admire one of the most empowering presenters I have ever heard on leadership theory. He is Justin Featherstone MC and to be with this humble, gentle and softly spoken man is part of the realisation that leadership is all about caring for others. Caring so that others may be the best version of themselves they can be on any given day in any given situation. In his work Justin emphasises how leadership is being part of the team (not apart) and how fitting in, being generous, kind and loving matter, even in the seemingly brutalising environments in which soldiers work.

Caring for others should be a visceral experience not something synthesised into slogans.

To see Crumble effortlessly look after the emotional needs of her pack, fitting in, being generous and unconditional in her affection, is in its small way humbling too. She asks for nothing except the opportunity to be her best with you.

Ray Berg is the Managing Partner of Osborne Clarke. Ray and his colleagues have been a wonderful source of encouragement support for our programmes, and personally to me too. In many respects he offers a leadership style that draws on all these things I have mentioned already, but he is also more than these things. Ray is generous and kind and thoughtful, but he is also his own man, authentic and vulnerable. He has not mimicked anyone but has not been selfish either.

There is also one other thing to observe, Ray is constantly exploring boundaries and challenging accepted norms, but never grumpily if it does not happen at first.

In her way too Crumble with a lightness of touch and a glint in her eye will push at all accepted norms (mostly around where she can sleep and what she can eat) but never with anything other than a gentleness that is in the end harder to resist than if she growled her way through the day.

My final leadership lesson from Crumble is also exemplified by another of our wonderful faculty who we have the privilege to work with and call a friend. Fiona Laird is a theatre director, voice coach, artist, writer and musician. She has a phenomenal expertise and works with extraordinarily gifted people who are at the very top of their worlds, and yet she is also generous and kind to everyone who asks for her help.

Delegates who come to our programmes are perhaps unlikely to also appear at the National Theatre or at the RSC, but Fiona will give each of them the same care as she would a significant acting talent.

To wear your expertise so lightly, but to honour it so profoundly is the mark of a beautiful leader.

Crumble also has a phenomenal expertise. Her nose is one of nature’s most accurate and complex sniffing devices. Crumble has gifts we cannot imagine, but she will use her gifts every day and in every situation. What a wonderful thing to be so devoid of ego and selfishness that the gifts one could bring to the world are offered to it so unconditionally.

In my life every day I try to be more like Ciaran, to be more like Kay, and Justin and Ray. I hope to aspire to be more like Fiona too, and of course to be more like Crumble.

We should all be more Crumble.

Take care

Paul x

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