I had the opportunity recently to listen to Baroness Manningham-Buller share her views on Leadership at our client’s Leadership Conference in London.

By way of background, Baroness Manningham-Buller was Director General of MI5 from October 2002 until April 2007, leading the organisation through significant change in the wake of 9/11 and the threat from Al-Qaeda. During her time at the helm, MI5 doubled in size, opened eight new offices and altered its approach to the professional development of staff with the establishment of a training academy.


So here’s a short, simple summary of what I picked out to be her key leadership tips: 

  • Get enough sleep

  • Keep and create calm- find time to reflect/think

  • Be self critical

  • Thank and praise people (far more important than criticism)

  • Help people grow/develop

  • Show humour (particularly under pressure)

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously

  • It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer (when don’t know – which shouldn't be all the time!)

  • Get feedback

  • Always be learning


Finally, on the topic of ‘change’. Embrace making change under times of pressure. It gets stuff done and helps gain buy-in.

And on the subject of whether life inside MI5 resembled a Bond movie, she referred us to the Official Secrets Act.