May 03 2019| Values | Leadership | Interview

Interview with Major General Paul Nanson CBE

Commandant Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

by Phil Eyre Founder

Leaders’ second high-impact leadership conference, which takes place in Guernsey next month, will focus on ‘Horizon thinking’ and aims to shine a spotlight on leadership excellence.

We spoke to guest speaker Major General Paul Nanson CBE, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and world-renowned for his excellence in leadership development, about serving to lead, building trust and empowering others.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I have tried to lead as I was taught at Sandhurst. ‘Serve to Lead.’ I like to build an honest relationship with my people based on mutual trust and through the power of example.

Who would you call an inspirational leader and what about them inspires you?

General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs.

I served under him in Afghanistan. He was, and is, a strategic leader who has never lost the ability to interact with those under his command – at all levels. 

He has time for everyone; and that rare ability to make you feel special – that your actions, no matter how small and tactical, are making a genuine difference.

As you reflect on your career so far, is there a consistent theme in your leadership that you’ve drawn upon to overcome challenges?

First by being myself! Too many people try and become something they are not. When the going gets tough, they get found out. 

Second, by being honest, both with my men or my superiors. Bad news never gets better with age.

How do you switch your thinking and action between transactional and transformational leadership; between those situations that require an immediate response and those with a mid-term and long-term horizon?

I am a massive fan of ‘elasticity;’ the ability to flick between mission command and mission control.

Sometimes the situation demands a hands-off style, so it’s important to empower those under you until it hurts!

Sometimes the situation is so complicated that people need direction. ‘Complicated’ might be a time constraint so people need to be told to take action! The elasticity bit comes with experience and that is the art of leadership.  

Do you think anyone can be a leader?

I don’t believe you are born a leader.

I do believe that, if an individual has intelligence, character and a will to succeed, then they can be developed into a leader.

How do you think the principles of army leadership translate into civilian life?

I think our principles are right for us and are proven and tested over generations.

There are some that translate well into civilian life and others that do not. I think it depends on the context. Some military leaders are too arrogant in their approach; assuming Army leadership will fix all - not so.

There are many leadership lessons we can learn from the civilian sector. I will talk about three areas of Army leadership that I think do translate across into the civilian world. I hope we can have the discussion.

Major General Paul Nanson CBE will be speaking at our Leadership Conference on Thursday 20 June.

This much-anticipated event will present a diverse range of topics that touch on the issues organisational leaders face and explore how leadership excellence can be achieved.

For more information and to reserve a ticket click here.

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has sophisticated expertise in psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with, and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company in Guernsey, Collins Stewart (CI) Limited, now Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Phil has served on the boards of three charities, including BMS World Mission, a UK charity with over 80 employees and a global reach. Phil also ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and served as a non-executive director for Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil is a member of the NED Forum and the Institute of Directors.

Next Article