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Battling with Business

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In this podcast, Gareth Tennant, a former Royal Marines Officer, and Chris Kitchener, a veteran of the software development world, explore ideas and concepts around teams and teamwork, leaders and leadership, and all things in between. It’s a discussion between a former military commander and a business manager, comparing and contrasting their experiences as they attempt to work out what makes teams, leaders, and businesses tick.


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In this podcast, Gareth Tennant, a former Royal Marines Officer, and Chris Kitchener, a veteran of the software development world, explore ideas and concepts around teams and teamwork, leaders and leadership, and all things in between. It’s a discussion between a former military commander and a business manager, comparing and contrasting their experiences as they attempt to work out what makes teams, leaders, and businesses tick.



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Episode 74 - Coalitions & Partnerships

In this episode of "Battling with Business," Chris and Gareth delve into the concepts of coalitions and partnerships, starting with clear definitions and distinctions between the two. They explore the formation of these alliances, examining whether they arise from deliberate choices or situational necessities. The hosts then navigate the complexities of managing strategies when multiple stakeholders, each with unique motivations and objectives, are involved. An interesting historical anecdote is shared about Canada and Denmark engaging in a war while both were allies and NATO members, illustrating the nuances of such relationships. The discussion shifts to the benefits of coalitions in problem-solving, emphasising the value of diverse perspectives. Gareth shares insights from his experience working with other NATO members, highlighting the collaboration between the Royal Marines and the United States Marine Corps. In their concluding discussion, Chris and Gareth compare democracies and autocracies, ultimately arguing that despite the inherent messiness of democratic systems, they offer a strategic advantage. This advantage stems from shared values and collaborative problem-solving within their coalitions and partnerships.


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Episode 73 - Influencers #12 - Admiral Jackie Fisher

In this Influencers episode of "Battling with Business," Chris and Gareth delve into the fascinating life and lasting effect of Admiral John 'Jackie' Fisher on the Royal Navy, The United Kingdom, and the World. They explore how Fisher's leadership, despite its toxic traits, led to significant positive outcomes. This raises interesting questions about what we view a good leadership and where the balance between self-belief and arrogance. The discussion explores Jackie Fisher's role in the industrial modernisation of the Royal Navy and highlights the challenges of balancing radical modernisation with preserving valuable, hard-learned experiences. Additionally, Chris and Gareth draw parallels between Fisher's era and the current geopolitical climate, comparing the threats posed by the Central Powers in the run-up to the First World War with Russia's resurgence today. Through this historical lens, they offer insights into how leadership and strategic decisions from the past can inform contemporary global dynamics. Admiral John 'Jackie' Fisher (1841-1920) was a seminal figure in the Royal Navy, known for his transformative impact on naval warfare. Born in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), Fisher joined the Royal Navy at a young age and quickly rose through the ranks due to his strategic acumen and innovative thinking. Fisher is best known for his radical modernisation of the Royal Navy. As First Sea Lord, he initiated a comprehensive overhaul of naval forces, advocating for the decommissioning of obsolete ships and the construction of new, advanced vessels. This so-called ‘Dreadnought Revolution’ was perhaps his most notable achievement. The Dreadnought was groundbreaking, with superior speed, armament, and armour, rendering all previous battleships obsolete and sparking a global naval arms race. In addition, his advocacy for Submarines, Battlecruisers, and the use of sea mines recognising their potential to change naval warfare. His support led to significant advancements in these areas, further enhancing the Royal Navy's capabilities. Fisher's leadership style was marked by his bold, sometimes abrasive personality. He was known for his fierce determination and willingness to challenge the status quo, traits that both drove his successes and stirred controversy. Despite his often toxic leadership traits, including a propensity for conflict with colleagues, Fisher's vision and reforms were instrumental in maintaining British naval supremacy during a crucial period. Fisher's impact on naval strategy and ship design had lasting effects on global naval power dynamics. His emphasis on innovation and modernization set the standard for future naval developments. His work ensured that the Royal Navy remained a dominant force leading up to and during World War I, influencing naval tactics and shipbuilding practices worldwide. In summary, Admiral John 'Jackie' Fisher was a transformative figure whose aggressive modernization efforts and forward-thinking strategies reshaped the Royal Navy and left an indelible mark on naval history.


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Episode 72 - Harnessing emergence Part 2

Podcast Episode Summary: Emergence in Strategy and Innovation (Part 2) In this second episode of our two-part series on the concept of emergence, Chris and Gareth delve into how emergence impacts strategy and innovation. The episode begins with a recap of our previous discussion, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of the need for a clear purpose that aligns with an organisation’s vision. This alignment is crucial because, in an emergent strategy, the mission may evolve and change over time. Chris outlines three key disadvantages of an emergent strategy: Gareth then examines the Iraq War, illustrating how strategic incoherence contributed to its failure. Despite these challenges, the episode highlights several advantages of emergent strategies: Join us as we navigate the complexities of emergent strategies, balancing their drawbacks with their potential for fostering innovation and resilience.


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Episode 71 - Harnessing the power of emergence

"Often in complexity, there isn't a right answer. You are not trying to find efficiency, you're trying to find effectiveness!" In this week's episode, Chris and Gareth delve into the concept of emergence and its profound impact on strategy and innovation. The discussion begins with trying to find a definition of emergence, explaining how complex systems and patterns arise from relatively simple interactions. They explore the pivotal role of creativity in driving innovation, highlighting how self-organising teams can effectively foster innovative solutions when aligned with clear goals. Real-world examples from the commercial sector illustrate these points: IKEA's use of self-collection warehouses, Amazon's API-based infrastructure, and Pfizer's serendipitous discovery of Viagra demonstrate how emergent strategies can be leveraged effectively. The conversation then shifts to historical and military contexts, examining the German Blitzkrieg and its connection to emergent strategy and the principles of Mission Command. The hosts argue that necessity often drives emergence, a theme they further explore by discussing the current Ukrainian operations in response to the Russian invasion. Through these diverse examples, Chris and Gareth provide a comprehensive look at how emergence shapes strategy and innovation, both in business and in critical real-world situations.


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Episode 8 - Adaptive Teams and Pirates

In this episode, Chris interviews Gareth about his time conducting counter-piracy operations and uses this as a way of exploring what makes teams adaptable when faced with uncertainty and when under pressure.


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Episode 70 - The problem with miltary procurement

In this week's podcast episode, hosts Chris and Gareth delve into the intricacies of military procurement, particularly focusing on why the British military faces significant challenges in this area compared to managing complex operations overseas. Gareth sheds light on the complexities of large procurement programmes, which involve managing risks, multiple stakeholders, future predictions, and financial considerations. They introduce the DLOD framework for programme management, providing a structured approach to tackling these challenges. The conversation delves into the cultural and political dimensions of procurement, highlighting the various hurdles that need to be overcome. They explore the balance between solving problems quickly and achieving a satisfactory outcome, discussing the concept of 'good enough' solutions. Drawing on operational examples, they illustrate why commercial off-the-shelf solutions often outperform bespoke ones. The discussion further evolves to examine innovation cycles and the importance of fostering a culture that promotes agility while remaining aligned with the organisation's strategic goals. Throughout the episode, Chris and Gareth offer insights and practical examples, shedding light on the complexities and nuances of military procurement and programme management.


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Episode 69 - Influencers #11 - Brigadier Billy Mitchell

In this episode of "Battling with Business," Chris and Gareth explore Brigadier Billy Mitchell, a controversial figure in the history of US airpower and naval warfare. As part of their "Influencer episodes" series, they analyse Mitchell's pioneering yet often contentious approach to military innovation and how his vision for airpower shaped modern warfare. The hosts discuss Mitchell's experiences during the First World War, which led him to believe that a future Great Power War was likely and that airpower would play a critical role. Mitchell's advocacy for airpower resulted in significant clashes with military and political leaders, culminating in a court martial and eventual demotion. Chris and Gareth examine Mitchell's bold approach, focusing on his advocacy for bombing trials on large naval battleships. They discuss the resulting political backlash, the challenges posed by leadership, and the role of hubris in stalling military progress. Through these discussions, they question whether Mitchell's experiences offer parallels to modern issues, such as the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and consider the fine line between a visionary and a crank. Overall, the episode offers valuable insights into how innovation and change can face resistance, especially within traditional institutions. The story of Brigadier Billy Mitchell becomes a reflection on the importance of vision in driving progress, despite opposition, and what it takes to challenge the status quo. Chris and Gareth conclude by considering how today's military and business leaders can learn from Mitchell's journey and whether his legacy resonates with current trends in warfare and technology.


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Episode 68 - Political Leadership and innovation with Rob Murray

In this week's episode, Chris and Gareth sit down with Rob Murray, a seasoned expert in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, who has held significant roles including former head of innovation for NATO, lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, and now Chief Innovation Officer at Saab, as well as a non-residential member of the Atlantic Council. The discussion delves into the complexities of political leadership within NATO, focusing on the unique challenges that arise when consensus-based decision-making is crucial. Rob Murray shares insights on the balance between slow, deliberate compromise and quick, decisive action. He argues that while consensus-driven processes can be time-consuming, they often lead to more comprehensive and robust outcomes due to the diversity of thought involved. The conversation also explores strategies for managing risk and fostering positive change in uncertain and complex environments. Rob provides an example from his time with the NATO Innovation Fund, illustrating how bureaucratic and culturally risk-averse organizations can be encouraged to embrace new approaches and innovative thinking to address contemporary challenges. Listeners will gain valuable insights into the nuances of leadership and innovation within international defense organisations, as well as practical examples of driving change in traditional settings. Finally, we chatted about de-centralisation of decision-making and how this , whilst ugly and inefficient may well be a better way of driving innovative thought and more quickly finding the right approach to solving problems than a centralised authority that whilst being may efficient, is very likely to be less effective. Listeners will gain valuable insights into the nuances of leadership and innovation within international defense organizations, as well as practical examples of driving change in traditional settings.


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Episode 67 - Strategy part II - Why strategy goes wrong!

In this week's instalment of "Battling with Business," hosts Chris and Gareth delve deep into the intricate world of strategy, continuing their two-part series with an insightful exploration of why strategies often veer off course. Through candid discussion, they dissect six common pitfalls that plague strategic planning, shedding light on the underlying causes and offering invaluable insights for listeners navigating the complex terrain of business strategy. Policy Over Analysis: The episode kicks off by dissecting the tendency for organisations to be driven more by policy than rigorous analysis. Chris and Gareth emphasise the importance of data-driven decision-making over relying solely on predetermined policies, highlighting the risks of overlooking critical insights that could inform a more effective strategy. Nebulousness and Lack of Impact: A key stumbling block explored is the danger of crafting strategies that are too nebulous, ultimately failing to make a tangible impact. Through real-world examples, the hosts illustrate how vague objectives can lead to confusion and inertia within organisations, undermining the very essence of strategic planning. Excessive Precision and Ignoring Uncertainty: Building on this, the discussion shifts to the perils of excessive precision in strategy formulation, which often neglects to account for inherent uncertainties. Chris and Gareth underscore the importance of embracing flexibility and adaptability in strategic approaches, advocating for a more nuanced understanding of uncertainty in decision-making processes. Zeitgeist vs. Genuine Need: Another critical pitfall examined is the tendency to be swayed by prevailing trends or the zeitgeist rather than addressing genuine organisational needs. By dissecting the implications of such misalignment, the hosts underscore the importance of grounding strategic initiatives in a thorough understanding of internal dynamics and long-term objectives. Impenetrable Language: The episode also tackles the issue of using overly complex or impenetrable language in strategic communications, which can alienate stakeholders and hinder effective implementation. Chris and Gareth advocate for clarity and simplicity in articulating strategic objectives, emphasising the power of clear communication in driving organisational alignment. Lack of Engagement and Relatability: Finally, the hosts explore the danger of crafting strategies that fail to engage and resonate with key stakeholders, ultimately falling short in their ability to inspire action. Through anecdotes and practical tips, Chris and Gareth highlight the importance of fostering a sense of ownership and buy-in among team members, ensuring that strategic initiatives are embraced and championed at all levels of the organisation. By dissecting these common pitfalls with clarity and candour, Chris and Gareth equip listeners with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the complexities of strategic planning more effectively, empowering them to steer their organisations toward greater success in an ever-evolving business landscape.


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Episode 66 - Getting strategy right- Strategy Part I - Getting strategy right ?

In this week's installment of 'Battling with Business,' Chris and Gareth embark on a journey through the labyrinth of strategic planning in the first of two episodes all about Strategy right. They kick off by dissecting the fundamental disparity between strategy and tactics, laying the groundwork for understanding the strategic landscape. Diving deeper, they highlight a pivotal aspect often overlooked: the intrinsic relationship between strategy and uncertainty. Emphasising that a strategic plan transcends a mere roadmap, they illuminate the necessity of embracing uncertainty as a cornerstone of effective strategising. The duo advocates for a dynamic approach, stressing the importance of continual evaluation and feedback loops. They underscore the agility required to pivot strategies in response to emerging insights, underscoring the adage that no plan survives first contact with reality. Moreover, Chris and Gareth underscore the imperative of organisational alignment, echoing earlier discussions on 'mission command.' They elucidate how effective communication and shared understanding of strategic objectives permeate throughout the organisational hierarchy, fostering a cohesive and responsive environment. In essence, 'Getting Strategy Right' is a masterclass in navigating the intricate terrain of strategic planning, offering invaluable insights to listeners seeking to chart their course amidst the tumultuous seas of business.


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Episode 65 - Influencers #10 - Taylor Swift

In the latest episode of "Battling with Business," hosts Chris and Gareth delve into the captivating world of Taylor Swift, dissecting her immense influence and the multifaceted power she commands across various spheres. Taylor Swift, a global icon, serves as a case study for understanding contemporary leadership, followership, management, and culture. The hosts navigate through the layers of Swift's influence, from her economic impact to her social, political, and financial sway. They explore how Swift leverages her brand and harnesses the loyalty of her fan base to amplify her voice and effect change. A central question emerges: Does Taylor Swift represent a paradigmatic shift in power dynamics, signaling the ascendancy of social influencers and celebrities over traditional institutions? Chris and Gareth engage in a thought-provoking discussion, pondering the implications of Swift's influence on the broader landscape of business and society. Listeners are treated to an insightful exploration of the mechanisms behind Swift's power and the broader implications for contemporary business and culture. As the episode unfolds, it becomes evident that understanding figures like Taylor Swift is essential for navigating the evolving terrain of influence and power in the digital age. Moreover, the hosts ponder whether Swift's ascent to power signifies a broader societal shift. They explore the evolving dynamics wherein traditional institutions cede ground to influential figures like Swift, who leverage their platform to shape narratives and drive change. This prompts reflection on the increasing dominance of social influencers and celebrities in steering societal discourse and consumer behavior. Through their insightful discussion, Chris and Gareth unpack the lessons that business leaders can glean from Taylor Swift's journey. From her strategic branding to her adept management of fan engagement, Swift serves as a compelling case study in effective leadership, followership, management, and culture. In essence, the episode offers a compelling exploration of Taylor Swift's influence, prompting listeners to consider the evolving landscape of power dynamics in the modern era, where the sway of traditional institutions is being challenged by the rise of influential individuals and social icons.


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Episode 64 - How to be a fighter pilot with Paul Tremeling

In episode 64 of "Battling with Business," hosts Chris and Gareth dive into the exhilarating world of fast jets with special guest Paul Tremelling, a former Royal Navy Harrier and F18A Super Hornet Pilot and author of the acclaimed book 'How to be a Fighter Pilot.' The conversation delves deep into the intricate balance between leadership, risk management, and mission success within the high-stakes realm of fast jet operations. In Pauls's case, made harder still by the fact that the runway is tiny and bobbing about in the middle of the ocean. Drawing from his extensive experience, Paul sheds light on the unique leadership challenges inherent in fast jet missions, where maintaining optimal safety standards is paramount while simultaneously pushing the boundaries to achieve strategic objectives in dynamic and high-risk environments. A central theme of the discussion is the apparent dichotomy between the meticulous checklist culture of flying, which emphasizes caution and precision, and the perceived need for pilots to embody a 'maverick' spirit, daring to 'push the envelope' to accomplish mission goals. Through insightful anecdotes and analysis, the hosts along with Paul explore how effective leadership navigates this delicate balance, fostering a culture that encourages innovation and calculated risk-taking while prioritising safety above all else (although not always the safety of the pilot!) Moreover, the conversation delves into the nuanced distinction between arrogance and confidence in fast jet operations, highlighting how the fighter pilot community holds its members accountable through honesty, rigorous postmortems, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. Paul shares valuable insights into the importance of fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, where pilots challenge each other to grow and evolve, ultimately enhancing the collective effectiveness of the team. Overall, this episode offers listeners a captivating glimpse into the world of fast jet operations, illuminating the leadership principles and risk management strategies that drive success in one of the most demanding and exhilarating arenas of modern warfare.


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Episode 63 - The Value of sales and sales training with Tom Mallens

Whilst Chris was away on a business trip, Gareth sits down with Tom Mallens, a seasoned Sales Training Director at Sandler, a global Sales and management training company, to delve into the intricacies of sales, training, and organisational success. The conversation begins with an exploration of the fundamental role that sales play within any organisation, emphasising its critical function in revenue generation and business growth. Tom shares insights gleaned from years of experience in sales training, highlighting the immense value that well-executed training programs can bring to sales teams and the broader organisation. He emphasises the importance of continuous learning and development in honing sales skills and adapting to an ever-evolving marketplace. A key theme of the discussion revolves around measuring success in sales training initiatives and broader business. Tom and Gareth explore various metrics and KPIs that can effectively gauge the impact of training efforts, stressing the need for a holistic approach that goes beyond mere sales numbers to encompass factors like customer satisfaction and long-term relationship building. Beyond sales-specific topics, Tom and Gareth touch upon the broader organisational dynamics, emphasising the need to break down silos and foster collaboration across departments. They discuss how a culture of openness and cross-functional communication can lead to greater efficiency, innovation, and ultimately, business success. Throughout the podcast, Tom shares practical tips and strategies not only relevant to sales professionals but applicable to individuals in all functions within organisations. Whether it's the importance of active listening, effective communication, or the art of negotiation, the insights offered in this episode resonate across diverse roles and industries. Listeners will come away with a wealth of actionable advice and inspiration to elevate their performance and contribute to their organization's growth and success, regardless of their specific role or function.


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Episode 62 - The five dysfunctions of management books

In this latest episode, Chris and Gareth build on their recent exploration of the book 5 Dysfunctions of a team and delve into the world of management books more generally. They navigate the dual nature of these books, highlighting their invaluable insights while cautioning against the trap of blind adherence. Chris and Gareth astutely observe how some individuals treat these books as infallible gospel, expecting instant transformation for themselves and their teams. The conversation unfolds to emphasise the importance of embracing diverse perspectives and engaging with a variety of management literature. Gareth draws parallels to military training, where soldiers learn principles that require real-world practice and adaptation for mastery. This analogy underscores the idea that management principles are not one-size-fits-all solutions but tools to be honed through experience and context. In the latter part of the episode, they explore the inherent power of storytelling in conveying management lessons effectively. They advocate for critical thinking as essential for navigating the vast landscape of management literature, encouraging listeners to strike a balance between experimentation and discernment when implementing new ideas in light of evolving information. Overall, the episode serves as a compelling exploration of the nuanced relationship between management books, practical application, and the pursuit of continuous improvement in leadership and team dynamics.


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Episode 61 - Influencers #9 - Carl von Clausewitz

In this insightful podcast episode, Chris and Gareth embark on a journey through the seminal work "On War" by Carl von Clausewitz. Gareth, having delved deep into the book, guides Chris and listeners through its profound insights and enduring relevance. The episode commences with Gareth shedding light on the origins of the book and delving into Clausewitz's life, providing valuable context for understanding the author's perspective. As they delve into the discussion, they highlight the often-overlooked aspect that many people discuss Clausewitz without having read his primary text, revealing a gap in understanding and building on myths, misconceptions, and other historians' interpretations. A focal point of the discussion is the concept of the "Centre of Gravity," introduced by Gareth. Is this concept central to Clausewitz's theories? This sparks a fascinating dialogue on strategic thinking and military doctrine, transcending its military origins to find application in various fields including business, leadership, and strategy. In the latter part of the episode, Gareth introduces each of the eight books comprising "On War." Through insightful analysis, he extracts key takeaways and emphasizes their enduring relevance in contemporary conflicts and broader contexts such as business and leadership. Each book serves as a wellspring of wisdom, offering valuable lessons applicable to navigating the complexities of modern-day challenges. As Chris and Gareth unravel the layers of Clausewitz's masterpiece, listeners are treated to a profound exploration of strategy, leadership, and the essence of conflict, underscoring the timeless wisdom encapsulated within "On War" and its significance in shaping our understanding of human endeavors.


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Bonus Episode #3 - TBD Tech Conference Speech - Why I'm a Cynical Optimist

This Bonus Episode is a speech Gareth recently gave at the wonderful tech conference, Technolog, Behaviour, Data (TBD). The theme of this year's conference was 'Facias' and so Gareth decided to talk about hiding behind the faceless sacity of social media. The speech was called 'Why I'm a Cynical Optimist.'


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Episode 60 - We've read 'The Five Dysfunctions of a Team' so you don't have to

In this week's episode, Chris discusses a book that he has just re-read (for the fifth time!) in preparation for his team off-site meeting. The book is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. This is one of those management books that should be on all aspiring leaders' and managers' bookshelves. Chris explains the concept of this parable-style book in which a dysfunctional executive team is taken on a journey to redemption by a new CEO brought in to fix the organisation. Chris and Gareth explore the concepts and lessons from the book and discuss their own experiences and insights as they go. Gareth, as usual, uses his military experience from the Royal Marines to find explore the similarities and contrasts between the civilian and military approaches to building teams, executing strategy, and driving change.


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Episode 59 - Small team Leadership with Waitman Beorn Part II

In the second part of our discussion with Waitman Wade Beorn, a veteran of the first squadron of the 10th United States Cavalry Regiment, we learn more about his time as an M1 Abrahams commander and we reflect further on the skills required to successfully lead small teams. We explore with Waitman how he and the other members of the team adjusted to each other's personalities as well as addressing the critically important lesson of not eating Peaches in a tank! We then look at the challenges and opportunities around developing team members and how the military doesn’t have the luxury of firing people. We also question whether leadership really is rocket science or simply a set of simple ideas that need to be consistently executed day after day along with the pros and cons of the real-time feedback loop you get within small teams. And finally, we consider whether officers really do eat last and why that might be?


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Episode 58 - Leadership lessons from a tank commander with Waitman Beorn

In this week’s episode we welcome back Waitman Wade Beorn, this time not wearing a historian’s hat, but instead a very natty stetson reflecting his time as a US Army Cavalry officer, commanding an M1 Abraham main battle tank. We explore with him the complexities of commanding a small team whilst also having to manage a much broader and fast-paced battle space outside of his small metal box with tracks. We also investigate the challenges that an officer fresh from training faces, when stepping into his tank with his new team for the first time. We also discuss what makes a small team truly effective, and how Waitman adjusted and developed his leadership style in this confined world. As always, we delve into the surprising and unsurprising cross-over between the civilian and military world and explore how commanding a tank crew isn’t a different as one might imagine from leading teams in any kind of business.


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Episode 57 - Influencers #7 - Elon Musk

In the latest of our Influencers episodes, Chris and Gareth discuss one of the most influential people of our time, Elon Musk. A hugely successful serial entrepreneur who has shifted the whole world’s view on many of the most prescient issues. From normalising the adoption of electric cars, to greatly reducing the cost of space travel by orders of magnitude, he is such an infamous public figure, that not only was the inspiration for the character of Tony Stark in Disney’s Marvel series, but he appeared alongside him in a cameo role in Iron Man 2. Not one to shy away from controversy, he famously smoked cannabis live on the Joe Rogan Podcast and has used his own x platform as a mouthpiece to voice his often-provocative views. He has his loyal supporters and his detractors who decry his often caviller approaches. Is there anything we can learn from this? Can we distill the brilliance from the chaotic? Or is Elon Musk successful because of his flaws? Chris and Gareth take time to understand the journey he’s been on and try to make sense of the man and the legend. Drawing conclusions and assessments about management styles and the power of clear if not audacious goals. Exploring the difference between having a business strategy and simply being driven by a need to change the world.