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Attention! Lessons on leadership from the US Army

While writing my own book “Space: how small leaders become big leaders” I have been reading a lot of literature on leadership. This weekend I came across the US Army’s Leadership Manual, which is incredibly impressive.

Military Leadership

It covers the values, character and competencies that underlie army leadership but has relevance way beyond the military. In the foreword the US Army Chief of Staff writes:

“It is critical that Army leaders be agile, multiskilled pentathletes who have strong moral character, broad knowledge, and keen intellect. They must display these attributes and leader competencies bound by the concept of the Warrior Ethos. Leaders must be committed to lifelong learning to remain relevant and ready during a career of service to the Nation.”

If you are a leader in any organisation, or just interested in leadership per se then it is well worth a read.

You can find a pdf of it here. It also led me to see if there was an equivalent for the British military, which there is, in this Sandhurst document, which is also worth looking at.

The best business books for your Christmas stocking

Christmas stocking

I have just suggested some reading to an advertising executive that I am coaching. It made me to think about the business books I’d most recommend for anyone wanting to become a better business leader. One of the advantages of writing your own book (Space: how small leaders become big leaders which you can read about here) is that it forces you to read a lot. In the last year I’ve come across 3 books that really stand out. Buy them for yourself, or as an inspiring present for someone else. So, here, in no particular order, are my top 3 business books for you to consider adding to your Christmas stocking:


Buy here


Buy here

Good to Great

Buy here

Let me know what you think of these or suggest your own favourites via twitter @derekdraper

Space – how small leaders become big leaders

I am very excited to be devoting some serious time over the next few months to working on my latest book, which is provisionally entitled “Space – how small leaders become big leaders“. It is inspired by my work at YSC helping business leaders create the conditions where they can perform to their maximum potential, but do so in a way that is sustainable and fulfilling. It’s basic thesis is that in order to achieve great things people need to create space in order to reflect, refresh and rejuvenate. Yet the demands of the modern world are such that space is squeezed out of our lives. It is incredibly hard to push back against this pressure but vital to do so if we are to grow, excel and be truly happy.


As well as examining what we mean by space, especially the notion of “potential space” from the work of D W Winnicott, the book looks at the five key areas that every good leader must focus on. These fortuitously align to:






These capabilities are underpinned / intertwined with three more personal characteristics:

  • Values
  • Drive
  • Style

In each of these crucial areas, a leader must first create space in order to deliver at an exceptional level. This involves developing deep insight into oneself and others, focussing ruthlessly on your goals, and learning some very practical methods to constantly free yourself from the demands of the world and control your own destiny.

The focus of the book is on the corporate leaders who I assess, coach and help develop every day in my work. But it’s insights apply more widely: to leaders in the third sector, more junior managers, entrepreneurs, and, ultimately, anyone trying to get something done in collaboration with others. It contains 10 “case histories” including those of “Tom, the manager made of glass”, “Siobhan, whose heart belonged to a combine harvester” and “Jonathan, the executive who never asked about the dogs”. There are dozens more vignettes inspired from actual but anonymised/adapted coaching sessions, and I also include the key diagrammatic models that I regularly use in conversation with business leaders that offer simple practical help to anyone looking to create more space for themselves, their ideas and their work.

The book will be published in early 2016. If you have any thoughts about this topic, please tweet me @derekdraper.

Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro

I have been thinking about friends a lot in the last few days. Partly because I had a birthday party last Saturday, and was able to see, together in a room, a good few of my friends collected over 30 years of life. Some I met decades ago, some just this past year. I have also been doing some work with one of my coachees at YSC on the importance of making time for friends in the midst of our frantic professional lives. It’s prompted me to dig out a talk I gave at the ICA a few years ago and rework it a bit. Let me know what you think.


(This post is dedicated to my BFF Henry, who couldn’t make my party because he now lives abroad but who I miss a lot).

A Powerful prayer for all of us…

I was just clearing out a few things and came across this. Its an old poem or prayer, inspired by a Norman crucifix dated 1632. However, its power doesn’t come from the fact that its a Christian prayer, but from the powerful idea within it. In one interpretation it is Christ speaking, and he is “your life”. Another interpretation makes it as powerful to people of any religion, or none. That the subject is literal – your life. In other words, all of the wonderful things we have within us, the better parts of ourselves, that we often squander or pay no attention to. Despite enjoying going to church, I prefer the latter interpretation. Anyway, it speaks better for itself.

Old stone cross


I am the great sun, but you do not see me,

I am your husband, but you turn away.

I am the captive, but you do not free me,

I am the captain but you will not obey.


I am the truth, but you will not believe me,

I am the city where you will not stay.

I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,

I am that God to whom you will not pray.


I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,

I am your lover whom you will betray.

I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,

I am the holy dove whom you will slay.


I am your life, but if you will not name me,

Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.


Charles Causley

From a Normandy crucifix of 1632

Photo courtesy of:

Five Years Ago This Week – Remember Jade?

Occasionally on this blog I shall delve back into history and take another look at something interesting I was involved with in years gone by. I’ve chosen the first one pretty much at random, although I wanted to start with something moving and I think you’ll find this is. It’s an interview I did with Jade Goody for Now Magazine just a few months before she discovered she had what would turn out to be terminal cervical cancer. I think its worth re-reading not just because Jade became such a prominent – indeed archetypal – early 21st Century celebrity but because it illustrates something that is very true in all of the therapy work I do today – that what happens to us as children can have a huge impact on our happiness as adults. Here’s the full interview that I wrote up. RIP Jade.

Is there a third, hidden, factor in human motivation?

While recently undertaking some thinking for an advertising agency I started to develop an idea about an important factor in human motivations. Traditional advertising planning concerns itself, rightly, with the rational and the emotional. But is there a third factor at play? I think there is and that initial concept, outlined in this short presentation has led me to start researching and writing my third book, provisionally entitled “Primal Intelligence – The Secret Ancient Keys to Who You Are and What You Do”.

Have a look at the slides and see what you think. I’ve also started posting relevant articles etc. in my magazine Primal Intelligence.

Mental health costs – but can we expand support without spending more?

Mental health has been in the news again due to a speech by Ed Miliband. It is a cross party issue, though, and the subject is explored in detail today by Neil O’Brien of the (Tory inclined) think tank Policy Exchange. The massive costs of mental illness, measured not just financially but in immeasurable human misery are undisputed. Almost everyone would agree we should be doing more. But how do we square that with the need to spend less on public services? A few years ago I wrote a chapter in a book on the future of the NHS which offered one possible solution. You can read it here. Let me know what you think…


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