The importance of leadership

By Julian Rathbone, head of charities - Liverpool

Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s fascinating account of a lifetime spent exploring the globe captivated an audience of over 200 guests at the Rathbones-LCVS | United Way charity symposium in the magnificent Council Chamber at Liverpool Town Hall on 7 October 2014.

After leading many expeditions, in which he and his colleagues broke countless records and raised over £16m for charities as well as conducting important scientific experiments, he was the very best person to address the theme of ‘Leadership – pushing the boundaries’.

Described by the Guinness Book of Records as “the greatest living explorer”, Sir Ranulph alternately provoked shock with photos of the extreme physical effects of polar exploration and great laughter with his dead-pan, but extremely amusing, stories of how he and his colleagues coped with the extreme challenges of exploring earth’s last frontiers.

It is impossible to relate such a fascinating hour in a few paragraphs, but Sir Ranulph identified some key leadership skills. One is to select people with the right motivation as skills can be taught, but commitment cannot. He had often come close to giving up, but had been driven on by his faith and a desire not to disappoint his grandfather and his father, who was killed in the Second World War shortly before he was born.

He also said it was sometimes necessary to be a dictator as your experience gives you the authority to take decisions, but at other times one has to be democratic. He cited the Arab saying that “God gave you two ears and one tongue, so it is better to listen than to talk.” Asked if the humour so evident in his talk had helped in leading expeditions, he said that it was often very hard to summon it up at times of extreme hunger or discomfort.

His Tansglobe Expedition between 1979 and 1982 was the first and last to circumnavigate the world through both poles. He and his colleague, Charles Burton, were the first men to reach both poles. It is difficult to believe that when Sir Ranulph first crossed the Antarctic, it was still completely unknown to man and hadn’t even been mapped by satellites.

Max Steinberg CBE, CEO of Liverpool Vision, the mayor’s agency to promote business in Liverpool which organised the recent highly-successful International Festival of Business, preceded Sir Ranulph with a thoughtful speech about the need for charities to show entrepreneurship, leadership and bold-thinking. With the pressure on central and local government finances likely to intensify after the election, Max said charities would require a clear vision; strong connections with service users and funding bodies; and the ability to celebrate successes. The last of these would demonstrate the value they create from donations, raising their profiles as well as additional funds for the future.

After being welcomed to the Town Hall by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Erica Kemp, the afternoon started with an overview by Rathbones’ chief investment officer, Julian Chillingworth, of Liverpool’s great philanthropists, such as William Rathbone VI, Emma Holt and Lord and Lady Leverhulme. He argued that we should celebrate their modern-day equivalents in the US and UK, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, J.K. Rowling and Sir Ronald Cohen.


Julian then reviewed the issues facing global investors as the Federal Reserve ends its quantitative easing (QE) programme and interest rates start to rise here and in the US. This monetary tightening contrasts with the eurozone, where the European Central Bank is under pressure to use QE, and the radical package of measures that the Japanese government has introduced to stimulate its economy. With such divergence, he believes country selection will play a bigger part in investment success in 2015 than for some years.

The afternoon was very ably chaired by Jenny Stewart, CEO of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and a trustee of St Joseph’s Hospice Association. Rathbones is very grateful to Jenny for her involvement and to our co-hosts LCVS | United Way, under its new CEO, Tony Okotie. Finally, we would like to thank our guests who made the event so worthwhile. We hope they enjoyed meeting old and new friends in the charity sector over drinks and canapés afterwards.

This is a true record of Ranulph Fiennes speech at Liverpool Town Hall, 7 October 2014.

Julian Rathbone is an Investment Director at Rathbone Investment Management and head of the charities team in Liverpool. To contact Julian, please telephone 0151 236 6666.

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