Book Review – Rise Above: Leadership Lessons from the RAF by John Jupp

First published, 2021

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I should state right from the off that my dad was in the RAF so it’s a world, and an attitude, that holds a certain importance to me. I did wonder, when I first saw this book, if it was indeed possible to transfer the camaraderie and teamwork, the trust, listening and dynamism of the RAF into any other business venture. But, do you know, it seems so.

As the youngest of the services, the RAF has seen enormous change over its 100 year history. One only needs to think about the advances in aircraft design, radar, air-to-air refuelling, and the complications of the political climate, to get a glimpse of how the ability to think on one’s feet and work together with a team is not just advantageous, it’s vital.

One of the most stirring lessons in this – grammatically stunning – book dealt with how important it is for a leader to listen to their people lower down the chain. I’ve sat on a couple of committees and this is a lesson that could make all the difference in any organisation. Of course, there are people who don’t know when they’ve made their point and will go on and on without achieving very much – I’ve been that person; I know how it goes. But I’ve also been the person making a reasoned statement, only to have my boss shut me down with, “I’ve had just about enough of you.” He achieved his aim. I stopped talking (albeit briefly).

There were some very good examples through the text, and some historical facts that kept it all moving at a good pace. By leading by example, bringing in the best people for the job, listening to their experience and advice, planning for problems, reacting to situations as they change, and pulling the whole thing together with a clear intent, it is possible to be a good leader, regardless of our job titles.

“… Park had one of his young pilots brought in front of him because that pilot had landed without putting his wheels down. The result, of course, was a seriously damaged precious aircraft that the RAF was badly in need of. Park ‘bollocked’ him. When done, Park took the young pilot to the bar a bought him a pint. The pilot, too, was a precious asset, who needed reassurance and to be in a place where he was capable of flying the next day. Look after your people and they will look after the organisation.”
p56-57, Chapter Three: Leaders Leaders Everywhere: Understanding the Multiple Leadership Contexts from Rise Above by John Jupp

If you’re in business, this is one for you.