When I was told that Major General Arthur Denaro CBE was going to be speaking at boot camp, I have to admit that I was doubtful that I would get much out of the experience. How could a tough-as nails Army General teach us softies from the marketing world anything worth knowing? I had visions of a man wearing full camo, screaming leadership clichés at us in between telling us to shut up, stop slouching and pay attention. The more I thought about it, the more it would make my palms sweat. I blame a particular army-trained schoolteacher for this – I still cry at the thought of quadratic equations.
I needn’t have worried. The General was a gentleman in every sense of the word and instantly gained our respect as he talked through his 35 years in the armed forces. He spoke of his troops with a humility and tenderness that touched every person in the room. Arthur’s slideshow showed him at the forefront of some of the major conflicts of the last thirty years, and every person that appeared on the projector alongside him was referred to by name and a story from the time they worked alongside each other – occasionally with brilliant Northern Irish accents (Arthur was in the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars).
- The General
It was a master class in leadership and everyone in the room knew it. When we weren’t laughing at some of the more humorous anecdotes you could hear a pin drop as we listened intently to his stories of the front line. Often they were difficult to hear, but I took away an understanding of the need for integrity, honesty and strong direction at all times. For a team to work it needs its own code and, as leaders, it is our responsibility to set the tone in regards to what will be accepted and what will not. In Arthur’s own words, leaders must be “warriors, not worriers” whether it’s in the field of battle or in the boardroom.
It’s been about a week since the second of our three boot camps, and Major General Denaro remains one of the highlights for me and I’m sure will stay with me as one of my favourite Marketing Academy memories. Instead of spending a glorious Sunday afternoon down the pub, I felt compelled to put pen to paper (well, fingertip to keyboard) and write my first ever blog about the experience. I’ve talked to several friends and colleagues about him and, even second-hand, his stories make an impact. Without having met them, Arthur has the ability to make people stop what they’re doing, shut up and pay attention. Just like I was afraid he would.