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April 2010

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  April 2010

This month we start with a leadership biography of Timur from Victoria Yates. He was a fascinating character, who followed in the footsteps of Genghis Khan - a fearsome warrior, one of the greatest empire builders of all time - yet he also found time to be a patron of the Arts. A truly polarizing and awe-inspiring individual.

The first article is a summary of the recent Oxford Scenarios published by Saïd Business School, in a post-crash project led by Angela Wilkinson. It sets out  two quite different future scenarios - "Growth" and "Health" and their implications. There is a link to download the full report (well worth doing ...).

The second article is from Dan Elash, on "Saving Your Job in Tough Economic Times" - as ever, timely and practical advice from Dan.

And the book review from Mick is on  "The Woman Who Saved Children", a biography of Save the Children founder Eglantyne Jebb, written by Clare Mulley. Eglantyne is a fascinating character - one of the 20th century's great change agents - yet she is not exactly a household name. It is a book worth reading ...

Also let me remind you that "mick's leadership blog" has been majorly upgraded, with lots of new content adding to the archives,  dozens of links to material I find useful and much easier navigation. It's also on Facebook... and you can find me on twitter as "mickyates". Please give the blog a whirl - and leave comments and feedback - click here!

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In This Issue
The Oxford Scenarios: Beyond the Financial Crisis - Angela Wilkinson
Saving Your Job in Tough Economic Times - Dan Elash
The Woman Who Saved Children, by Clare Mulley - review by Mick Yates
Featured Leader - Timur by Victoria Yates

The Oxford Scenarios: Beyond the Financial Crisis - Angela Wilkinson


This item is a little different to most we carry in the newsletter. as we were quite taken with work at the Saïd Business School, Oxford, on future scenarios post the recent "crash".The project is led by Angela Wilkinson, Director of Scenario Planning and Futures Research, and colleagues at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society.

"A new set of Oxford scenarios aims to look beyond the current financial crisis to a deeper reflection about risk, uncertainty and the way we manage our world.

Using the current financial crisis as a starting point, The Oxford Scenarios: Beyond the Financial Crisis, examines the underlying assumptions and worldviews that have allowed the current situation to unfold.

These two scenarios, Growth and Health, aim to encourage the world to remain open to a change of mind about the nature of the problems it faces and the range of decisions and actions that are available.

The first path "Growth" is characterized by familiar financial assumptions and tools but with a greater degree of oversight and transparency, accompanied by a shift in regulatory structures and culture.

Growth sees the financial crisis as a unique problem. This scenario explores what might happen when the system is put back on track. In Growth, national governments focus on restoring capital liquidity and trust in the financial system and making the invisible hand more visible. In this story, systemic risks are anticipated, wider externalities are priced, and certain debts are managed. Growth explores whether a greener growth path and a more risk-controlled financial system might paradoxically lead to other systems becoming brittle.

By developing two possible stories of how the world can move past the credit crunch and forward into the future, these scenarios aim to spur new ways of thinking and a new approach to the actions that are taken in the present.

The second path "Health" is based on a profound shift of emphasis from financial opportunities to the health of the financial system as a whole and its interdependency with other systems. Taken together, the two scenarios present a toolset or framework for developing a greater understanding of systemic risk.

Health sees the financial crisis as the 'canary in the mind' of twentieth century approaches to risk and risk management. It explores what might happen if the financial system is managed as part of a wider ecology, or system. This story raises the prospects of greater systemic resilience and a slower growth world. Health highlights how coping with complexity in a more interdependent world requires rethinking and transformation-of systems, institutions, and many taken-for-granted concepts.

According to Angela, "We do not claim that these are the only possible scenarios or that they predict the future. We simply offer them as platforms for discussion - as unfinished business in a still unfolding conversation about a messy and evolving situation that will shape the future, for better or for worse."

The scenarios are being made available online under a Creative Commons licenceto encourage others to participate in this ongoing discussion."

Download the scenarios

Saving Your Job In Tough Economic Times, from Dan Elash

Downturns, layoffs, and right-sizing are words that strike fear in the hearts of many people currently employed. In work places around the country workers are rightfully preoccupied with the threat of losing their jobs. While there is no single solution that will work in any individual case, there are things that you can do to improve your situation. It is a fallacy to think that you are powerless; to believe that what you do and how you do it doesn't contribute mightily to the quality of your future. Bad things can happen to good people, of course. While life may not be fair you shouldn't rest until you've done all that you can do to ensure your future. Let the action steps listed below guide you toward better job security.

The Action Steps:

Understand your company's vision for itself. Understand the implicit and explicit promises that your company makes to its customers. Talk to your boss. Understand what the company is saying about itself to its customers and to the marketplace in general. Read the company's literature. When you truly understand these concepts, get with the program. Look to align your daily work priorities with those goals. Ask yourself how everything that you do is furthering the company's objectives. If you don't know, find out or change your ways.

Lose your sense of entitlement. It used to be that having a job today was a good guarantee that you'd have that job tomorrow. That time has passed. That thinking is obsolete. Many workers, particularly older workers, are comfortable with the way "we've always done things." They resist change or make grudging accommodations to new initiatives. They often sit back and wait for things to fail. Companies tend to see those workers as barriers to progress. Their foot-dragging is seen as a negative and people who do that do so at their peril. While it is natural to fall into comfortable routines, you must realize that things are just moving too fast to indulge yourself. Yesterday's formula for success can easily be tomorrow's recipe for failure as competitors change and customers' choices and expectations expand. Go to work every day and earn the right to be there tomorrow.

Learn today's technology. Smart phones, the Internet, social networking sites, text messaging, file sharing and the like are not the fads of children. They are the necessities for doing business and making a profit in the modern world of business. E-mail is not a passing fad. You don't have to learn the names of the top ten Indy bands, but you had better learn how people today chose to use technology to talk, think, and collaborate or you'll simply be left in a backwater swamp of irrelevance. A worker who isn't continuing to learn adds little to the company's efforts and is valued accordingly.

Recognize that having experience doesn't mean that you are wise. It simply means that you've had the opportunity to become wise. One year's worth of experience repeated twenty-five or thirty time is worthless. Too many older workers sit back cynically and observe change rather than opting to help make it happen. They watch for things to go wrong rather than working to ensure the success of the effort. If you want to stay valuable to your company, make a commitment to life-long learning. That doesn't have to mean going back to school and taking classes, although it could. More often it involves reading, listening, asking questions, doing internet searches. Everything you need to know is out there somewhere, but you've got to go and find it. You cannot rest on your laurels and be safe. You have to act independently and proactively to seek knowledge. Seek feedback from your supervisor, from HR, or from those in the organization whom you feel are going in the right direction. Then follow it. Of course, it means more work when you are already tired, but these are not times to be lazy.

If you want to be a valuable contributor, make sure that you contribute at work. Work should be a "No Coasting Zone." Teach what you know. Help new employees fit in or learn the culture. Be a model of cooperation and collaboration. Don't worry as much about who gets the credit as you do about the quality of the overall work. Attack your work with passion. Audition for your job every day. If your job means something to you, act like it does. Leave no doubt as to your commitment to the overall success of the company. Many older workers still feel that it is best to "keep your head down," or "to stay invisible." Those are the people who are often left on the fringe of the organization. Make the people around you more successful. Help them out. Lend a hand. Make your boss successful without being self-important. No one wants to lose a vital member of the team.

Read the rest of Dan's article ...

Organization"It is the children who pay the highest price for our short sighted economic policy, our political blunders, our wars"
Eglantyne Jebb

"All wars are waged against children"

Eglantyne Jebb

"The Woman Who Saved Children" by Clare Mulley - review by Mick Yates

As I've also written a short biography of Eglantyne's life from the perspective of her leadership ability, I approached this volume with particular interest.

In fact, Clare Mulley does a great job, and the book is an enthralling read. It is a well researched and interesting biography about one of a great social change agents of the 20th century. Yet few people today even know Eglantyne's name.

Eglantyne had a very sheltered and rather privileged (albeit intellectually stimulating) upbringing. She was challenged to think for herself, in a liberal family environment where "doing the right thing" was the rule. Yet she always had a rather independent streak. An earlier biography refers to her as the "Rebel Daughter of A Country House". 

As Mulley points out, Eglantyne got involved in many activities - writing, newsletters, good causes and more - and it sometimes feels that she couldn't really make her mind up on things.Yet she went on to found Save the Children, now the world's largest independent body serving the interests of children across the globe. And she secured the agreement of the League of Nations to a declaration of Children's Rights which later became the United Nations "Convention on the Rights of the Child" - the UN charter agreed by more Countries than any other.

Along the way Eglantyne defied public opinion (even getting arrested for publc disorder - although she managed to get a donation from a judge), helped develop many of the scientific methods aid agencies use today, and overcame generally poor health. Eglantyne founded Save the Children with her sister Dorothy Buxton in response to the famine in Austria after the First World War. The launch of the campaign to raise money for children in "enemy" countries - especially when there was still such obvious need at home - was courageous. She won huge public support, as well as the backing of celebrities such as George Bernard Shaw. She wrote "I have no enemies under the age of seven".

Mulley meticulously researches Eglantyne's life, with real depth using a wide range of original source material. Yet she has written a book that reads rather like a novel. It is the story of a young woman searching for a cause, and in some ways also searching for her own soul. In her younger life, Eglantyne rarely gave the impression that she had an over-arching personal cause and, although at one time she was a teacher, it seems that she was not exactly a fan of children.

"The value of my work is nil," she wrote. "I have none of the qualities of a teacher."

Eglantyne's impact on children's rights is undeniable, and Mulley does her story proud. Still, I found the personal side of Eglantyne's story the most fascinating. She was deeply in love with Marcus, yet he walked away from her. And then Eglantyne had an increasingly intense affair with Margaret, the beautiful young sister of Maynard Keynes, the economist. "Intense" relationships between women were a generally accepted part of society (unlike male homosexual relationships), and it seems clear that Eglantyne never really found a true love who would stay with her.

If I have a critique of Mulley's book, it would be that I would have like to have seen more exploration of exactly how Eglantyne set up and inspired Save the Children - the high street stores, the scientific approach to field development programs and the sheer professionalism of the activity. In so many ways Save the Children has defined the modern NGO, and that all started with Eglantyne.

Even so, check out the book - you'll enjoy it.

Read the original review ...

by Victoria Yates


Timur was born on the 8th of April 1336 in Kesh (the Green City) in Transoxiana, modern day Uzbekistan, thirty-six miles south of Samarkand, a cultural center of the time. He was a member of the Barlas, a Turkized Mongol tribe that represented the remnants of Genghis Khan's Mongol hordes. The Mongols lost power in Transoxiana when Timur was 10, and under the Emir's (warlord's) reign, Timur developed into an aggressive individual, honing his skills in riding and fighting. His primary activity was soldiering, being put at the head of a small army. The Emir's assassination when Timur was 22 was followed two years later by the return to power of the Mongols, and with it Timur subordinated himself and his army to Mongol governance.

In 1364 he formed a coalition with the grandson, Hussein, of the murdered Emir and attempted to overthrow the new rulers, beating them and forcing a retreat. But the Mongols returned in 1365, beating the pair in the Battle of Mud. Timur was forced to retreat. However the returning Mongols encountered resistance in Samarkand in the form of Islamic rebels, the Serbedar, who took control of the city for a year. When Timur returned he feigned friendship with the group until he had regained enough power within the city to have them executed.

Recognising the necessity for a stable base of support from home, Timur cultivated a feeling of good will amongst his subjects, even offering to help with his own wealth. This quickly saw him solidify his position as the most respected person in Samarkand. Hussein on the other hand was known for his meanness, imposing harsh taxes and paying little attention to his subjects. On the death of Timur's wife (Hussein's sister) the tie between the pair was severed, and Timur began hostilities. After a brief truce in which the pair expelled another Mongol incursion, Timur won support from the people and the influential leaders of the region, beating Hussein but granting him passage for a trip to Mecca. Instead, whilst attempting to escape, Hussein was killed by a former general.

By 1370 Timur was the most powerful man in Transoxiana, founding the Timurid Empire. He modelled his army after his ancestor Genghis Khan although it was composed less of horsemen and more of foot soldiers drawn from settled groups. In an attempt to further secure his position, Timur had those close to Hussein executed, with his widows and children "divided up" between Timur and his followers.  Timur improved the capital, Samarkand, making improvements to the walls and market places and creating great gardens and palaces that made the city a magnificent and prosperous source of envy for others.  At home, he was a true patron of the arts.

However, seeing himself as the new Genghis Khan, Timur didn't remain settled but choose instead to conquer. Interestingly he never claimed the title of Khan, remaining Emir. He and his army sought to plunder, and first headed east, ravaging the land and forcing subjection to Timur's rule as he went. By 1380 he occupied an area of Eastern China.  Next, his army moved west of Samarkand, overrunning Herat. The stiff resistance the army met in the southern expansion into Sistan led to Timur making an example of the city of Zarendj. Here he massacred men, women, and children, and had everything burned that he and his army could not carry away. His bloody incursions continued, massacring 2000 slaves in the northern city of Sabzavar, and turning their bodies into components in a sculpture.

One of the most formidable of Timur's opponents was another descendant of Genghis Khan. After having been a refugee in Timur's court, Tokhtamysh became ruler of the Golden Horde. He quarrelled with Timur over the possession of Khwarizm and Azerbaijan, but still got his support against the Russians. In 1382 Tokhtamysh and the Golden Horde invaded and burned Moscow. It was in 1385 that he finally turned against Timur and invaded Azerbaijan.

The battles between the two warrior's armies were vast and dangerous. Sarai, Tokhtamysh's capital, was destroyed by Timur's forces and the Golden Horde's (Silk Road) economy was eventually broken. The conflict lasted until 1395 with the battle at the Terek River. Tokhtamysh's power was broken for good, and Mongol unity in the region was permanently shattered.

In 1386 Timur made it into modern-day Georgia where he waged war against Christians, and then the following year sought control in Armenia. Returning south, he conquered Isfahan, central Persia, a major cultural hub in the Muslim world. The inhabitants rebelled, and reports say that between 70,000 and 100,000 people were killed and crops razed by Timur and his army.

By 1392 Timur choose to counter the continued instability in Persia by waging further wars there. He was also forced to return to prevent Tokhtamysh's invasion of Georgia, where he looted towns and set them alight before leaving. The continued revolts in Persia angered Timur who set out to destroy whole towns in an effort to create submission through terror.

From 1396 to '97 Timur stayed in Samarkand before using the excuse that Muslim leaders in India were being too tolerant of Hindus - so giving him a reason to take his army once again to war. He destroyed the Islamic kingdom around Delhi, using his trademark tactics to create devastation where he went. His loot from India included craftsmen, artists, as well as other physical goods. With this new wealth Timur set about building a new Mosque. It was the largest in central Asia but frequent earthquakes meant the building did not survive.

His next conquest was Syria where he occupied Damascus where he asked to see the graves of two of the Prophet's wives. Finding them in disrepair, he once again raged against Damascus, the city was looted and a fire started that would continue for days. It took the city years to recover from the attack. Instead of marching on Jerusalem, where a plague of locusts was being reported, Timur turned next on Baghdad in 1401, massacring 20,000 people.

Timur also sought war with the Ottomans, a vastly greater empire than his own and seen as a power for all Muslims against the Christians. Not wanting to be seen as starting a war with another Muslim power, Timur set out a list of outrageous demands to the Ottomans. In 1402 the forces clashed at Ankara where Timur, using superior strategy, prevailed. Fearing that his actions had in some way aided Christians, he sent message to the Christian Knights of Rhodes who ruled Smyrna (on the Mediterranean) that they must convert or pay tribute to him, both of which they refused believing their city to be unconquerable.  Timur and his army attacked and annihilated the entire population - men, women, and children, of the city, displaying their heads on a Pyramid.

Powers in the west had a growing interest in Timur who they felt could be of help in removing the Turks from the Holy Land. They sent friendly correspondence to Timur who was interested in promoting trade.  In 1404 Timur was preparing for his return to China, setting out a year later. He died en route, however, upon which point the army returned to Samarkand and had his body embalmed. His empire eventually disintegrated, but the people of Samarkand continued to see Timur as the great man of their people. His impact on central Asia made him a leader of great importance in the region, while Arab, Indian, and Persian accounts continued to vilify him.

An intelligent and brilliantly tactical warrior whose ruthlessness and ambition rivalled the most revered conquerors of any age made Timur a great leader of his people. He was the founder of the Timurid Empire  (1370-1405) and great great grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived until 1857 as the Mughal Empire of India. Yet he was also a patron of arts and learning, making him a fascinating mixture.

Whatever one's opinion of the man, national hero or violent tyrant, Timur was always successful in what he attempted to do, and he consistently gathered forces around him whose intense loyalty was a personal testament to his skills.

Read the original biography from Victoria
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