“Hierarchy Of Purpose”

Remarks to: the South Georgia Heritage Trust on the occasion of the return of the crow’s nest from Shackleton’s Quest after its three year tour and return to All Hallows By The Tower on Thursday, 7 September, before a dinner at Trinity House, with a toast to ‘The Boss’ and a dram before heading home.

Your Royal Highness, Vicar, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

This City of ours has both inspired and been inspired by exploration.  Explorers challenge us to emulate their achievements in our daily lives. Our City community challenges explorers with motives ranging from scientific discovery to glory, pride, and profit. 

As we know, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1922) made three expeditions during the Heroic Age of Antarctica – Discovery (1901-1903), Nimrod (1907-1909), and Endurance (1914-1917).

Shackleton was a man who said, “Difficulties are just things to overcome”.  He had a strange approach to advertising that belonged in Mad Men – “Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

In 1907, “Frantically calculating and recalculating his supplies, Shackleton discovered that even starvation rations would not let him take the last steps – and turned for home ninety-seven miles from glory, a decision with a humane magnificence about it that still endures, even if luck then played a part in bringing him back alive from the risks he had already taken to reach his Farthest South.”

Francis Spufford, “The Antarctic”, Granta Books (2007), page 58.

In 1914 “War was being declared as he [Shackleton] left [on Endurance], but when he next caught up with the news in 1917 – his ship having sunk, his men marooned on a speck of sub-antarctic rock, he himself having made a brilliant dash for help in an open boat across 800 miles of sea – the manager of the whaling station in South Georgia told him that ‘Millions are dying.  Europe is mad.  The world is mad.’ That was the [arctic exploration] age’s end, in three sentences.  The war spoiled public appetite for conquering nature; in Europe, [the war] damaged the ability to pay the space-programme cost of it [exploration] too.” 

The ‘HMS Endurance’ caught in the ice in the Weddell Sea of the Antarctic during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, circa 1915. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This City has always loved and feared Father Thames – our gateway to the world and the source of foreign anxieties.  Our maritime heritage here by the river connects us over millennia with the New Worlds, the Far East, and every exploration in between. The Heroic Age of the Arctics was important.  The Arctic, then the Antarctic, completed mankind’s encirclement of the world.  The Space Age gave closure to our encirclement as we photographed ourselves clinging together on a rock in space.  These explorations forced us to begin looking at our own house-keeping.  They truly changed our world view. For example, the City passed the world’s first clean air act in 1953, created the carbon markets, and was at Rio and all other 27 COPs, and I shall be at COP28.  Today, we hope to use green finance and carbon markets to deliver Net Zero carbon emissions for our City operations in 2027 and for the entire Square Mile by 2040.

Shackleton and his fellow polar colleagues and competitors still inspire.

“We look at what was endured, and ask if we could endure it.  We look at the various expeditions’ famous leaders and ask ourselves who(m) we resemble.  Which are you?”

Are you the heroic Japanese, Nobu Shirase, who turned up in 1912, determined just to be there for the race to the South Pole?

Are you an Amundsen, “driven, impeccably self-educated in polar technique”, a sleek performer little given to prose?

“Are you a Captain Scott, tense, anxious, man-hauling your way through the snow by main force yet describing it brilliantly afterwards, relying for your authority on military rank and on charm.”

“Are you a Shackleton, with exactly the same prejudice against dog-sledging as Scott, having learned it with him on the same disastrous [Discovery] journey in 1902, but allied to a wonderfully supple gift for managing people, maternally kind when you could be, unhesitatingly ruthless when you had to be?”

Francis Spufford, “The Antarctic”, Granta Books (2007), pages 5-6.

Quest was, as it turned out, a swan song for this crow’s nest, and for Shackleton himself.  Polar holidays became something to put on a bucket list or barrel list.

For decades polar exploration was increasingly left to the skies, now space.  Bezos, Musk, and others pursue space quests.  But polar explorations still motivate down-to-earth quests – we have plenty of worthwhile quests sharing a crowded, isolated planet, such as climate change or 16 other Sustainable Development Goals.  What is our greatest need?

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation stating that five categories of human needs dictate behaviour – physiological, safety, love & belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation.  But which is the greatest of these needs?  Shackleton shows:

“‘The Spirit truly is willing but the flesh is weak’ is a poor text; if the spirit can endure, the flesh will usually find the capacity to do so.”

Foreword by Field Marshall Earl Wavell in “The Jungle Is Neutral”, F Spencer Chapman, Chatto & Windus (1949).

The greatest of these needs is the spiritual, self-actualisation.  “We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”

What more fitting way to close these remarks than to except from a prayer by another master of the sea, Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when…
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly…
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.


Shackleton and his fellow explorers inspire us to leave the world a better place than we discovered it.  Let us all be disturbed to greatness by them.

Thank you.

“Teacher, Tutor, Scholar, I”

Remarks to: the Worshipful Company Of Educators, on the occasion of the annual Franklin Lecture, Mansion House, 18:00 to 19:00, Thursday, 9 February 2023.

“Teacher, Tutor, Scholar, I” – A Metaverse Of Education Or Conundra[1] Of Confusion

My Lord Mayor, Master, Aldermen, Sheriff, visiting Masters, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Just two minutes ago, before coming up here, Stephen Bernhard asked me if I felt nervous. “Of course”, I replied. Stephen said, “I too always got nervous giving our company’s seminars, and I knew what I was talking about.” Thanks, Stephen.

Our Master [Caroline Haines] asked me to consider the future of education.  F Scott Fitzgerald said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”[2]  My first idea is that something absolutely must be done to make education far more relevant to the modern world, while the second is that we have little idea what exactly to do. 

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In Memoriam, Reinhold

“Wenn Ihr an mich denkt, seid nicht traurig. Nennt mich bei dem Namen, den Ihr mir immer gegeben habt. Erzählt von mir und traut Euch, zu lachen. Gebt mir einen Platz zwischen Euch, so wie ich ihn im Leben hatte. Ich bin nicht weit weg, nur auf der anderen Seite des Weges.”

Reinhold Reuß [1 Januar 1935 – 23 Dezember 2022]

Hasta Mañana

Remarks to: IoD India (Institute of Directors), 2022 London Global Convention on Corporate Governance & Sustainability, The Montcalm, Marble Arch, London, W1H 7TN, 11:00-12:00, Thursday, 10 November 2022.

Boardroom Challenges In A New World Order

 Emerging Challenges for Board Leadership in the New Economy

 Building high performance Boards in uncertain times: Balancing Strategy, Operations & Compliance

 Board’s oversight for fundamental Seismic Shifts in Global Geopolitics & guide to a disrupted world

 Board’s Human Capital Strategy – Rising to the Challenges of the Future Work Place

 Board Leadership and Strategy for leveraging corporate culture and value chain

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The Kingdom’s Second City

Remarks to: Trades House Of Glasgow, by Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli on Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Deacon Convener, Deputy Lord Provost, Lord Dean of Guild, Collector of the House, most Distinguished Guests – well all guests actually, Ladies and gentlemen… May I make a special mention of my dinner companion, the Senior Deacon Convenor, Sir Robert Smith.

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Jolly Good Fellow

It was a distinct honour to be elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Kings College London (KCL) in 2021. Due to pandemic restrictions, ceremonies were delayed over three years. In the past few weeks, KCL has held nearly 50 graduation ceremonies, against a ‘normal’ 15 or so. At one point I got singled out with this most kind citation:

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Knowledge Mile Begins

I was pleased that the Court of Aldermen saw fit to announce their support for my candidacy as Lord Mayor of the City of London, 2023-2024. Subject to election by the Livery, that role would take effect on 10 November 2023 and end on 10 November 2024. The letter is here, and FT coverage here. Yes, Elisabeth and I are delighted.  We want to use the role to deliver benefits for the City, London, the nation, and beyond.  My working theme is to celebrate our ‘Knowledge Mile’.  All planning ideas appreciated this side of September 2023!  After that it moves over to delivery for 12 months. 

During the course of the mayoral year the Lord Mayor undertakes over 2500 civic, diplomatic, business and political engagements, spending around 100 days of year on international visit to promote UK financial and professional services. As a result, the Lord Mayor has an incredibly busy diary and needs to balance many competing priorities. The diary process for the Lord Mayor and Mansion House is managed by the Diary Manager Maris Kraulins maris.kraulins@cityoflondon.gov.uk.  Please share any requests with the Diary Manager and these will be reviewed in early 2023 with advice given and decisions taken.   

I really look forward to working with everyone on making this forthcoming Mayoralty year a small force for good. And for a bit of perspective on the role:

“In ancient times the chief civic magistrate was styled the Reve, or Portreve, but in 1207 John changed this title to that of Mayor. The appellation of Lord was first prefixed in the fourth charter of Edward III., when the honour of having gold or silver maces borne before him was conferred on the “Lord Mayor,” who ranked moreover as an earl. His duties are multiplex and ubiquitous. In his own person he represents all the rights and privileges of the Corporation. He is said to hold the same relation to the City as the Crown does to the rest of the kingdom. He is chief butler at the coronation of the sovereign, lord-lieutenant of the county of London, clerk of the markets, gauger of wine and oil, meter of coals and grain, salt and fruit, conservator of the Thames, admiral of the port, justice of gaol delivery for Newgate, chairman of every committee he attends, and subject to many other burdens.”

The Corporation of London: Its Rights and Privileges
by William Ferneley Allen, Sheriff of London and Middlesex, and Alderman of the ward of Cheap (1858).