Stuart Tootal was Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment from 2005 – 2007. In 2006, 3 PARA’s deployment to Afghanistan, as the first UK unit to be sent to Helmand province, was heralded as a peace support operation, but the realities of the environment dictated otherwise. With 1,200 soldiers, Stuart’s unit held a disparate number of isolated locations against relentless attack across an area that was later to tie down 24,000 NATO troops. Resources were stretched to breaking point, as 3 PARA used a five-point organisational leadership framework to respond to a 180-degree change in its mission. As a consequence, they adapted, adjusted, overcame and succeeded in a level of combat intensity that had not been experienced by the British Army since the Korean War. Stuart was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his ‘outstanding leadership’ of 3 PARA.
Spending the last ten years as a global head in a large FTSE 100 corporate, the experience of holding senior leadership positions in both arenas, has led him to content that the conduct of business bears many similarities to the prosecution of military operations. Not least, because the rapid rise of digital technologies, growing disruption of non-traditional actors, increasing regulation and excessive media exposure, are frictions common to both environments. Whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom, these operating factors dictate that the tactical application of strategy is likely to be turbulent and uncertain. Regardless of institution, it is a common predicament where leadership at all levels of an organisation will make the crucial difference in closing the execution gap and determining collective success or failure.
Through the hard schooling of battle experience, Stuart Tootal contends that the Army has adapted to the concept that no plan withstands first contact with the realities of the operating environment, or as Mike Tyson put it: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ In response the military have developed a leadership framework designed to adjust to changing tactical circumstances while still meeting strategic organisational objectives no matter how challenging the environment. Stuart maintains that it offers a powerful learning perspective for the commercial world.
Using dramatic visual imagery and powerful examples, this former commanding officer and MD, brings a fresh combat to commercial perspective to his presentations. He demonstrates how a five-point leadership framework, based on the ‘mission command’ military leadership philosophy, can be adapted and transferred to deliver success in the demanding business environment of the modern commercial world.
By contrasting his battlefield experiences to the realities of the corporate environment, Stuart highlights how a functional model of:
(1) leadership – embedded at all levels; based on vision, example, learning and self-leadership,
(2) empowered collaborative teams – able to harness diversity and embrace accountability,
(3) a mission orientated task approach – creating agile decision-making and flexible paced execution,
(4) clear mission communication – as an understood narrative running throughout an organisation,
(5) and setting a culture of collective common behaviour – focusing on conduct and risk management,
can be established in any organisation to make their leaders and teams more successful in adapting, adjusting and overcoming the environmental challenges they face and enable delivery of faster and better business success.
Stuart Tootal’s powerful and compelling presentations have been delivered to over fifty senior leadership teams and have included: Accenture, Odgers, RBS, Kraft, Invesco Howdens, Shroders, Babcock, Edelman, Barclays, Fidelity, the Daily Mail, the BBC, Reed Smith, Carlsberg and the NHS.
After a twenty-year career in the Army and Parachute Regiment, Afghanistan proved to be the crucible of all Stuart’s leadership training and experience, which included several operational tours in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’, the First Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Stuart was also awarded an OBE for the critical part he played in fundamentally reorganising a key part of the Army when serving in the MOD in 2005. Although promoted and tipped to reach the highest ranks, his subsequent resignation over the poor treatment of his wounded following command of 3 PARA, attracted high profile attention in the national press. In 2008, he joined a major bank as the global head of security. Additionally, he has proved the transitional nature of military leadership by setting up an industry leading veterans’ employment programme, which has employed 550 ex-military across his company. In 2009, Stuart set up the Parachute Regiment Afghanistan Trust charity for wounded paratroopers, which went on to raise £3.4M. He is also the Sunday Times best-selling author of Danger Close – Leading 3 PARA in Afghanistan and has published two other historical military books, which have leadership as their core theme. Stuart is a history graduate and MPhil post-graduate of London and Cambridge universities.
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