Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman

That’s how John Julius Norwich characterises the early 1500s in his book Four Princes. The four were all born in the 1490s  and went on to shape Europe for centuries to come:

      • King Henry VIII ruled England. He broke from the Papacy of Rome, established the Church of England, created a superb administration and transformed the navy.
      • King Francis I ruled France. He was the Renaissance man. He brought Leonardo da Vinci from Italy to France. He transformed the Louvre from a medieval fortress to a vast Renaissance Palace. He made French, rather Latin, the official language of the country.
      • Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire. He created a single code of law, expanded the number of schools and was extremely tolerant. He gave artists professional status and encouraged every form of artistic creativity by attracted artists from all corners of Europe whether Muslim or Christian.
      • Holy Roman Emperor Charles V combined rule in Germany, Spain and parts of Italy to create a new heart of Europe. Under his rule, European rule expanded to the New World defeating the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. 

But these highlights mask the violence and divineness of religion that was unleashed during the period. Continue reading “Never Before Had Europe Been Overshadowed By Four Giants – Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman”

My 23 Favourite Podcast Episodes So Far This Year

I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Listening to them forms part of my daily routine and I get many of my insights from them. I typically list my favourite podcasts, but this time I thought I’d list some of my favourite specific episodes. These may give you a springboard to enjoy the rest of the episodes of those podcasts. So here they are for this year (episode name first, followed by podcast name): Continue reading “My 23 Favourite Podcast Episodes So Far This Year”

Why Most Teams Are Dysfunctional and How To Fix It (5 min read)

I’ve worked in so many teams over the years – sometimes as a team member and sometimes as the team leader. I’d love to say that these teams were super high-performing ones, but I’m afraid they were not.

How do I know this? Well, according to Patrick Lencioni, teams suffer from 5 dysfunctions: they lack trust, fear conflict, lack commitment to decisions, avoid holding each other to account and not paying attention to team results. In that light, I think most my teams have been dysfunctional even the ones I have lead.  Continue reading “Why Most Teams Are Dysfunctional and How To Fix It (5 min read)”

What Buffet, Bezos and Dimon Told Me About Being Successful

After my blog on What I Tell Young Researchers, a friend of mine suggested I add the annual shareholder letters of Warren Buffet * (Berkshire Hathaway), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan) to my recommended readings. I read their latest letters and my friend could not have been more right. This trio of leaders talk about bureaucracy, high standards and the dangers of debt: Continue reading “What Buffet, Bezos and Dimon Told Me About Being Successful”

The James Comey Book – Be Afraid, Very Afraid (6 min read)

James Comey, the former director of the FBI, recently published his account of working under the Trump administration in the book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership”. It’s the second high-profile book of the workings of the Trump administration – the other being Michael Wolf’s “Fire and Fury”. That was revealing in parts, and Comey’s book is also revealing, though not in the way many reviewers have focused on. Continue reading “The James Comey Book – Be Afraid, Very Afraid (6 min read)”

Are You Obedient To Authority? (3 min read)

The Set-Up

In a chilling experiment conducted in the early 1960s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram set out to understand why Nazi soldiers followed orders to murder millions. The set-up of the experiment was clever. Members of the public would act as a teacher and test another supposed member of the public, the learner, on simple word association tests. A scientist, the experimenter, would oversee this.

The teacher was told by the experimenter to impart successively larger electric shocks to the learner when they made errors – the voltage started at 15V and would go up to 450V. Continue reading “Are You Obedient To Authority? (3 min read)”

What Amazon’s Bezos Told Us In 1997

Remember 1997?  The year of Titanic, the first Harry Potter book and the best-selling Nokia  610. It was also the first year Jeff Bezos wrote a shareholder letter for his three-year old Amazon.com.

It makes fascinating reading. He talks about expanding staff from 158 to 614, having cash balances of $125mn and establishing strategic relationships with Yahoo, Netscape, GeoCities (I vaguely remember them), @Home (?) and Prodigy (?). He was especially proud of increasing sales from $16 million to $148 million. Continue reading “What Amazon’s Bezos Told Us In 1997”

How Men See Women Differently and Put Them Down At Work

55-year old Tom Cruise with 33-year old Sarah Wright

I’m a man, yet I’d like to think I see beyond gender, especially at work. Moreover, I have females in my family, so I’m “incentivised” to be fair. I’m sure many of the men recently engulfed in sexual harassment and abuse scandals form Harvey Weinstein to Roger Ailes probably told themselves that too. So, am I really as “unbiased” as I think I am?  Continue reading “How Men See Women Differently and Put Them Down At Work”

Enter the Way Of Bruce Lee (3 min read)

Growing up I loved Bruce Lee. His fighting skills, elegance and wit were unique. But beyond that, he showed that someone who looked different from the conventional superstar could become a global icon (a bit like Muhammad Ali). I wasn’t alone in thinking that. In a strange mash-up, the American rap scene took him up as an icon most notably with the American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Continue reading “Enter the Way Of Bruce Lee (3 min read)”

How Bankers Can Save the World (8 mins)

Purpose

What is the purpose of our life? We don’t often think of that question, especially when at work. Many of us will say that it is to be happy and healthy. Others may say to have a fun time. For me, it would have to be leaving the world in a better place than when I entered it. This would be at every level from family to work to community to the world. Another related question, then, is what is the biggest problem in the world? Some may say climate change, others income inequality, yet others war and terrorism. For me though, when I think about this I think is the lack trust that pervades our culture. Continue reading “How Bankers Can Save the World (8 mins)”