If you could invite three leaders to dinner…

What if you could invite three leaders – any three, from any era – to dinner? Recently I was part of a leadership forum with a Bible College class and the three of us on the panel were asked a question along those lines.

Here are the three I came up with:

  1. Moses
  2. Warren Bennis
  3. Sir Alex Ferguson

A word or two about each.

  • Moses was probably one of the greatest leaders of all time, held in high regard by people who look to the biblical tradition – whether Jewish or Christian. A couple of members of IMD business school in Lausanne have written about him, suggesting that there is room within the sphere of business and management for studying leadership through the framework of stories like that of Moses and other spiritual leaders. It’s not so much leadership technique I’d like to talk to him about over dinner; I’d like to hear him talk about the middle forty years of his life – his exile years – and what impact they had on him. My guess is that they were years of stripping when a self-confident would-be leader became a reluctant leader.
  • Warren Bennis was a professor of leadership. Among his writing on leadership was a book whose original title (I wish they hadn’t changed it) was Geeks and Geezers. In it, he and his colleague, Robert Thomas, explore two sets of leaders, separated by a generation. One of their findings was that all of the leaders they researched had undergone at least one intense, transformative experience. The term they used was ‘crucible’. That concept has fed into my own research project in which I am exploring the leadership journeys of a number of Christian leaders.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson was a highly successful football manager. I don’t think I need to be a Manchester United supporter to acknowledge his reputation. The Harvard Business review published an analysis of Ferguson’s methods and a discussion around them would make for a worthwhile conversation for any leader. You can read the headlines here. They include such things as ‘starting with the foundation’ and ‘never stop adapting.’ It would be interesting to explore his view on the power of encouragement. For the man renowned for giving the ‘hairdryer treatment’ is on record with this:

For a player—for any human being—there is nothing better than hearing “Well done.” Those are the two best words ever invented.

What about you? Who would you invite?

PS – what would you feed them?

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