General Sir Nick Parker on leadership

A great treat and high insight last night as General Sir Nick Parker, Commander Land Forces, guest of the Green Ribbon Club, our History society, talks on Leadership. For Nick the audience is unusual as, touchingly, it includes his wife, mother and father, who aren’t normally there when he gives talks. He bases his reflections on an initial discussion of the leadership qualities a platoon commander requires (as much being the safety catch on his platoon as telling them what to do, integrity, being trusted, courage), before moving on to base his talk on three vignettes from his own career. Sierra Leone, where, leading the joint task force, he had a complex role working with the President (innate sense of timing, being willing to act quickly and then beg forgiveness rather than ask permission, diplomacy but with a hard edge). Then to Afghanistan, where he was Deputy Commander, working with David Petraeus (be physically fit, bring credibility, will power and cultural understanding). Finally, as the person in charge of security in the Olympics (encouraging from behind but prepared to step up and act decisively, be manipulative if necessary and have a well developed EQ). As well as giving us a fascinating framework to help us understand how great leaders in history have operated, it is a wonderfully thought-provoking talk for anyone in the room who finds themselves leading (which all teachers do) or musing both on how they conduct themselves now and how they might shape their careers (as many students do). Nick, with an endearing lightness of touch not usually associated with such high office, leaves us in no doubt that leadership is an essential oil and a wonderfully satisfying way of fulfilling the common good.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.