Edition number 13; dateline 2 October 2008
Drawing them in at the end of the pier
When The Leisure Review attended the Life Fitness Elevation conference we were lucky enough to catch Karren Brady, managing director of Birmingham City FC and a woman feted by many for her business achievements. With uncanny prescience Ms Brady was able to fit in with this issue’s cover theme by coming up with a joke more suited to the end of a pier than the edge of an airport where the conference was in fact being held.
Before she got to this particular punch line (in the interests of clarity rather than wit, it was the old rib tickler about there being a surprised mother-in-law behind every successful man), Brady had done as she was asked by her hosts and picked up the conference theme of ‘journey’ in the context of her own success. Her message was essentially one of persistence, amply illustrated by occasions in her career when determination had won the day. “The only thing you can’t teach people is enthusiasm,” she told her audience and offered numerous examples to show that she had it in spades.
However, I suspect that there is slightly more to Ms Brady’s success than the application of what Winston Churchill referred to in his wartime memoranda as the ability to “keep buggering on”. Various media interviews have suggested that Brady is possessed of Olympic-standard dedication to the pursuit of her business goals and the self-possession to pursue them. Taking a Blackberry on holiday and consulting it continuously, returning to work very shortly after giving birth, working with arch-pornographer David Sullivan: all this smacks of a very single-minded and very skilled business operator.
Charisma is often a feature of those who find success in their chosen field, whether it be business, sport or the arts, and perhaps that is where one would find the difference between leadership and merely trying hard. However, she must surely be right that you can teach most of it and that is one of the reasons that we at TLR Towers are pleased to be able to bring the latest instalment of the development of the National Skills Academy for the sport and active leisure sector. The NSA now has a crucial role to play in the development of professional standards within and across the leisure sector, particularly now that the professional bodies that used to claim leadership of the sector have chosen to pursue and protect their own particular business agendas.
As our masthead proclaims, at TLR we still see great value in the cross-sectoral approach. The tourism sector (which should be embraced as part of the sport, leisure and culture sector more readily than it is) often expresses the cross-sectoral perspective to great effect and Bournemouth’s artificial surf reef is a case in point. At one end of the leisure spectrum the new reef is a sporting amenity but at the other it provides an opportunity to enhance, through the application of talents of the leisure professionals, the culture, prosperity, status, reputation and future of a historic area. And there’s a pier near the reef. Perhaps they could ask Karren Brady to open it.
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