Former Dean of Business School Shares His Insights on Leadership

Former Dean of Henley Business School, Chris Bones was the speaker at this week’s The Salon breakfast meeting at The Relais sharing his thoughts on leadership.

Chris is currently Chair of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and his career has taken him across the corporate, political and academic worlds. He is an expert and author in the field of leadership and won the Management Book of the Year Prize in 2012 for his analysis of leadership in business in relation to the financial crisis: The Cult of the Leader.  He was appointed to the Expert Panel of the Criminal Legal Aid Review in 2021 and is now a member of the Criminal Legal Aid Advisory Board.

After his introduction by Grace Leo, owner of The Relais, he told the audience he was also awarded a Professor of Creativity & Leadership by Manchester University in 2018.  He said, “I called my Mum like you do to tell her that I’d been made a Professor.  She asked what for and so I told her and her reply was that sounds like bull****!)”

Chris explained what he thinks makes an effective leader, he said, “You need to realise you’ll never quite get what you want, you need to read the room carefully in meetings (watch out for the nodding dogs) and you need to navigate your way through but mostly importantly other people deliver and you don’t.  You need everyone to buy into the vision and know what people need from you to deliver.”

“People need to encouraged to innovate” said Chris but sometimes things can go wrong.  Chris then told two stories about his time working for Cadbury.  The first was a very inappropriate Flake TV advert that nearly went on air until Chris pulled it the night before costing the company thousands and offering his resignation to the CEO.  The CEO agreed that Chris had made the right decision.  The other was a schools’ promotion where schools could claim sports kit by saving Cadbury wrappers.  One of the national newspapers picked this up and ran with the story you need to eat 160 bars of chocolate to get a free football.  Chris commented, “Chocolate, sport and kids’ health don’t really mix.”

Talking about taking risk in business, Chris said, “In risk there are no unknown, unknowns (i.e. those things that might happen but you can’t predict).”

Showing the difference in business leadership today, Chris then drew a matrix timeline starting in 1913 when people had plenty of time to do research from resources available back then.  He commented, “Between 1992-2000 we started living in a world faster than we can learn because of technology.  We need to enable people to find the answer. We need the right people, at the right time, in the right place.” The criteria for success Chris believes is understanding the real issues and the cost, time and quality associated with these.

Understanding your employees and how to work with them is key too as a leader.  Chris said, “You should spend less time on the ‘Champions’ that understand your vision and more time on your ‘Potential Champions’ who can help with the ‘Opponents’.  You need to spell things out clearly (I know it’s not a very British thing to do) and I know many struggle with this.” He then told a funny story about the difference between him and his wife dealings with their cleaner to show an example of this.

The next Salon event is on 22 February from 6.o0pm when General Sir Gordon Messenger, one of the country’s most decorated military officers will be talking about the in-depth investigation he led into the leadership and management of the NHS – a very topical subject.

If you would like to attend, please email



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