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26 May 2016
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Leadership is forged in fire

By Des Dearlove

This article is part of the Contemporary leadership series

For Nelson Mandela it was Robben Island. For former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain it was Vietnam. There is a point in the lives of leaders, a moment when the leader makes the grade, when they leap from management to leadership, from team member to leader.

For Warren Bennis that moment came when he was the youngest infantry officer in the European theatre of operations during World War II. This experience was what Bennis later labelled a “crucible” – "a transformative experience though which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity".

Des Dearlove is co-founder of the Thinkers50. He is an Associate Fellow of Said Business School at Oxford University; an adjunct professor at IE Business School, where he taught the Strategic Communication Module on the International MBA; and the author of a bestselling study of the leadership style of Richard Branson. He has taught on the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme, and the Swarovski Academy in Switzerland, and teaches media skills and crisis management at Cranfield School of Management.

He is a former columnist to The Times, contributing editor to the American magazine Strategy+Business, and co-editor of the bestselling Financial Times Handbook of Management. His books available in more than 20 languages include Gravy Training and Generation Entrepreneur (co-authored with Stuart Crainer).

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