In 1969 I was lucky to go to a really good state school, the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, where I was encouraged to follow my interest in history. The English word history is rooted in the Greek histor, meaning someone who is educated and wise; and historia, meaning discovery and narrative.
This interest in history developed further at Royal Holloway College, London where I was able to study philosophy with Conrad Russell, son of the great British philosopher Bertrand Russell. He encouraged me to read, reflect, think and argue in our weekly tutorials. One of the texts I had to read and critique was his father’s 778-page History of Western Philosophy. I read it, thought about it and wrote a reasoned but strong critique. I was nervous going into the next tutorial. But Conrad applauded my courage as well as most of my critique, explaining that his father had written it at speed because he needed the money! This was the moment for me when I understood the importance of critical thinking, the power of debate and the courage to speak truth to power.
Since then I have been a banker, a social worker, a headhunter, a CEO, an executive coach, and for the last 20 years, a professional philosopher, where I continue to practise and teach many of the Top 10 Skills now listed in the World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report
Whilst some argue about where we should be working, the smartest leaders are asking deeper questions. How should we develop those skills that help us to think, argue and make better decisions together, whether we are in a room or on a zoom, or both?
As the FT’s Gillian Tett wrote recently, “We can all do with a little more philosophy in our lives.”