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Monday, 23 June 2014
Old Boy Mark Northover returned to Bolton School to talk to the current Year 12 students. After leaving school in 1984, he studied mechanical engineering at the University of Liverpool before joining the RAF. He is now a Group Captain with 26 years of experience across 14 placements, including some with the Red Arrows, and is currently serving in Saudi Arabia. He is responsible for commanding over one thousand service personnel and as such was the perfect candidate to speak to the Sixth Formers about leadership.
Group Captain Northover began the talk by reminding pupils that everyone has some leadership responsibilities, whether they are a prefect or monitor, the head of a club or society, the captain of a sports team, or even an older sibling. Everyone is a leader and a follower at different times, depending on the situation.
He went on to talk about what leadership and management mean, citing the definition from the Defence Leadership and Management Centre, and emphasising the difference: management is more of a process, while leadership is about inspiring others. He reassured the Year 12 pupils that although leadership is more difficult and often people are referred to as “born leaders”, it is possible to learn the qualities needed.
Once he had established an understanding of what constitutes leadership, he discussed some leadership theory. He showed pupils some examples of leaders who, in his opinion, were great and successful. There were some included in the list whose objectives were questionable, but Group Captain Northover stressed that nonetheless their leadership skills should be recognised.
After inspiring the pupils to consider the many different types of leaders who have been successful in some way, he went on to talk about different leadership styles and characteristics. He encouraged the pupils to participate and offer examples.
Group Captain Northover also talked a little about his own history. While a student in the Boys’ Division, he was Chorley house captain and the swimming and life saving captain; these experiences gave him some of the leadership and management skills which have helped him during his RAF career. Even in school, he was already developing qualities that are invaluable, particularly for an officer in the armed forces, but also to any future career.
Finally he discussed some of the leadership challenges he has faced during his career. He told the Year 12 pupils that the most challenging leadership tasks were closing bases and standing people down.
The pupils were really interested to hear from Group Captain Northover, and thoroughly enjoyed the talk. This was a great opportunity to learn from someone with extensive leadership experience, and the pupil took full advantage.
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