Years ago, accused of being less than consultative with the trade unions while turning round the fortunes of Jaguar, John Egan famously replied: 'When you're the pilot of a plane in a nosedive, no-one expects you to ask the passengers how to pull it out.' Who better to chair the Institute of Management's leadership project, which called in think-tank Demos to conduct a survey on leadership in UK firms. And guess what? It's not all it might be.
Launching the findings of the report at a breakfast meeting, Sir John started well with an off-the-cuff quip about the earliness of the hour. He launched into a script written by someone else. Here we go, I thought, another plodding performance. Fortunately, Sir John quickly spotted it for what it was - full of 'print speak' such as 'in today's dynamic environment ...' No-one actually speaks like that, so why do speechwriters insist on writing such drivel? Sir John injected some passion by departing extempore several times, fixing his audience firmly in his sights at key points.
The survey found that what was needed was more leadership skills and less pots-and-pans type management. Interestingly, when the results were discussed with army officers at Sandhurst they confessed they'd been putting leadership first for decades, only recently starting on management skills. British business, it seems, does the reverse.
Key moment: 25% of companies surveyed actually have a leadership development policy in place.
Key lesson: When presented with a badly written script, go off-the-cuff, delivering with passion and eye contact.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth?