Fugue for my Father

I am at an age when peers,colleagues,friends and family are passing away more often it seems and both my parents and mother in law and several other people I know have passed away recently.This is the time of life to be enjoyed and as one’s own mortality becomes one,then a piquant frisson is added to life which makes for a much more  interesting time.

Interestingly though, I have noticed particularly with people who are old and have lived a full life, whether that be happy or not, that  towards the end  there comes upon them a peace and realisation that their end is imminent and in fact in several conversations now with people close to me they have said “I just want to go now,I am tired” 

I never really understood this, the first time I heard it from my mother in law who I loved very dearly, probably because I was still too young, but my last or one of the last conversations I had with my father shortly before he died was on this theme. Although it was hard to lose him it also made it so much more bearable and when I was privileged to speak the eulogy at his funeral I wrote these words for him which I hope will bring comfort to others at the end of their loved ones lives.   

Let me go gently, into this long sweet sleep,

I am ready and there is no need for you to weep.

Let me go, gently from this mortal coil,

For I am ready and will be cushioned softly by welcoming soil.

Let me go, gently, and I will always see,

All those I have loved and we will always be,

Together,now and in the years ahead.

Let me go gently and always remember me and words of love,

I have said.

In memory of Noel Cuthbert Gardener O’Brien. 1925-2010 An Anglo-Indian gentleman.

Ethics and the responsibility of leadership

Personal Ethics is now the most  prominent aspect of leadership for all,not just those who are hierarchically influential but all people who profess to be leaders and in that I include, parents,teachers,social leaders, politicians, business entrepreneurs and actually any individual who “impacts or influences another person” (Ferguson,The  Living Leader 2006).

The social media now affords any person the opportunity to question those who lead, quite rightly in my opinion and makes it difficult for anyone in public life to hide their indiscretions from those they lead. Ethics will come more and more to the fore, whoever you are and are ambitiously seeking to further one’s own career in whatever field of our new agora.Many in power are unsure how to deal with this new phenomenen, let us be sure that the old ways of doing things has now passed and “emotionally intelligent leadership” based on self awareness,self management,social awareness and maintaining effective relationships is paramount in order to be successful in the modern global information age. 

Hence the questioning of established practices  afforded by the revelations of #wikileaks, # MP’s expenses, #hackgate, #Arab Spring,# UK-Saudi bribes, #Werrity-Liam Fox and #The Monarchy’s slipshod dealings with the country’s minority groups. No longer can the institutions hide from us the truth.

A new ethical age is upon us all.

The Ethical Dimension of Personal Leadershipv2

The Ethical Dimension of Personal Leadership

For a fuller description and explanation of this model contact www.2bld.co.uk

English Summer

English Summer

When swallows swoop and dive,cross azure skies,

and golden orb sheds shafts of warm light to kiss,

green still leaves in strawberry field.

Then English summer is full here.

As I languidly lay myself on carpets green

the more to soak myself in nature’s gift

of cossetted warmth and human burrow.

Then what is seen?

This wonderful country, that is my country,

spendidly nurturing me and mine.

So,what more should I desire?

but gorgeous isolation in nature’s field

of small creatures and rustling leaves.

For, have I not peeled the greatest time

from this firmament, that is mine?


Tod O’Brien 2007


The Evolution of the Monarchy (or not as the case may be)

Let me state right at the beginning I am not a republican or an anti-royalist and in fact have served Queen and Country very proudly in both the Army and Police Service for over 35 years.However I have some real concerns about the development of the relationship between Monarchy and public. I am pleased to see a more engaging presence from the younger royals and there is no doubt they are making moves in the right direction including marrying “commoners”. (Dont you just hate that expression, harking back to a bygone age of deference and inequality). So this is definitely not an anti-royalist rant and I firmly believe that the good they do in terms of overseas business and prestige is enormous. Whoever the transient incumbents of whatever superpower comes to UK on a state visit you can bet your bottom dollar that the state banquet, if afforded to them is the highlight of the whole trip.

My concerns are the lack of transparency that is afforded to monarchy by the laws to which The Queen gives Royal Assent.I find this position untenable.To explain further.

I noted recently, that august institution “The Queen’s Bodyguard” which is staffed on a voluntary basis by ex-soldiers from the ranks, is all white all male and all of a certain age and has always been so. AnecdotallyI have been told that in order to serve one has to be invited i.e. it is all done by word of mouth and that only recently has it been opened up to ex-soldiers outside of the Household Division.

I then made some enquiries with The Lord Chamberlains office who have the responsibility for staffing the “Bodyguard”. My correspondence with Mr Jonathan Spencer CVO is interesting to say the least.He states in writing that:-

1. The Bodyguard is a military unit and recruitment is handled by the Military Secretary’s Branch in MOD.

2. The Lord Chamberlain’s office conducts final interviews for the posts in the Bodyguard. (therefore has a final say on the ultimate demography of the organisation.)

3. On appointment members of the Bodyguard fill a Royal Household Honorary post.

4. The Royal Household complies with the principles of the Equality Act but is not defined as a public body. This of course means they do not have to comply with the general duties or specific duties of the Act. The duties which apply to all public services and the law to which the Queen has given Royal Assent in the parliament of her people.This includes eliminating unlawful discrimination,advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between different groups.Incidentally this can be effectively achieved by conducting Equality Impact Assessments to ensure these things are happening practically on a day to day basis.

5. It should also be noted that the Lord Chamberlain’s office are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and so do not have to give details of the demography of any of their staff organisations.

There has never been one Black or Minority Ethnic member of the Bodyguard in it’s entire history since 1485, neither has there ever been a female member and there has certainly never been a female black member of the Bodyguard. Anecdotally since I have raised these questions with the Lord Chamberlain’s office the “unofficial” website now has the recruitment criteria displayed on it’s home page.Interesting?

It is clear from my anecdotal evidence that there is no positive move to recruit either women or people from a Black and Minority Ethnic background.In this day and age this is a disgrace and clearly is not congruent with the law of our country. It is time to end this discrimination now and the only person who can end it is our Sovereign.

Incidentally I wrote to Her Royal Highness The Queen about this subject on 10th August 2011 – To date there has been no reply. 

Stripped Down Leadership

The amount of information and knowledge about leadership is now phenomenal and many people profess in writing  books and via social media to have the answer as to what effective leadership really is.So what is it.

I would like to strip it down to it’s bare essentials and build upon that in future articles.This may not be the definitive answer but in my experience as a soldier,businessman,police officer and father and husband the ability to apply one’s own principles in life is key to success. 

When asked by participants in my learning environments to consider a great leader and then define their qualities of leadership,lots of superlatives are captured, often filling two whole flip charts.Some of those words are passionate,understanding,a great listener,approachable and lots, lots more as you can imagine.Then when I ask them to say whether those leadership qualities apply to task or people skills,the answer is overwhelmingly people.

I would like to offer you three definitions of my own.

Transactional Leadership-is “the allocation of resources to task” – this is extremely important after all the ability of the leader to maximise the effective use of all resources to achieve the task and I include Human Resources in that equation is crucial.

Transformational Leadership– is “managing people through change” -is also extremely important, as the one inevitability in life along with taxes and death (  Benjamin Franklin 1706-90) is change.

Leadership – is therefore “inspiring people to willingly strive for common goals” and is a combination of doing both well.So why inspire? – I suggest that people who are inspired, own their own behaviour and require less coercion to achieve, they understand what is required to get things done and they will also inspire those around them.

Why common goals?  – I suggest that people do not always achieve the things they wish to achieve but in the striving lays an unquenchability of spirit that recognises how much has been achieved and learnt even in the face of adversity and what may appear to be a failure.This prompts the individual to ask themselves the question. How could I have done that better and what can I do to help others to do better next time ?

I shall build upon these themes in future posts and would welcome your feedback.