Charge of the Smart Brigade

A group of 24 UK IBM Consulting by Degrees graduates were nominated to attend the Inspirational Development Group course at the British Army Officer Training Centre in Sandhurst, UK. The goal of the course was to take Leadership and Followership learnings from military environments, and apply the learnings in our day-to-day roles. The group was made up of CbD members from a number of different customer-facing departments at IBM, with a broad range of experiences and skills.

Arriving at the Sandhurst Military Academy – my first reaction was how out of place I felt. I never thought I would find myself under Army discipline! We were soon introduced to our course instructor, Lance Gerrard-Wright – an ex-officer in the British Army.

Introductions made, we soon found ourselves in a stretcher race, through tunnels and over fences, with logic puzzles to boot. It was these logic puzzles that were particularly time-consuming; perhaps this was a reminder to pause and reflect in the heat of the moment, before choosing a team approach.


With thoughts turning quickly to food, we attended a meal hosted by ex-Major David Jackson. We learned about David’s genuinely unbelievable experiences in command and under fire in Iraq. There was also great interest in his experience and abilities as a leader in the most challenging of situations. Despite reminding us all about the triviality of our day-to-day challenges, I was able to learn a key leadership trait:

“Leaders will give their team an objective, not a procedure; they will allow the team to find their own way to the goal.”

We finished off with a challenge of recreating some plastic models; with teams relying solely upon verbal instruction from those who could see the models – hidden in the dark, and on the other side of the academy. Nobody thought to bring the models closer to the team base, nor to turn on the lights – there were no rules against that! This highlighted that one should use the creativity within teams to overcome obstacles.

To summarise – a great couple of days that gave myself and the other 23 attendees a few good laughs; as well as some great insight into what leadership consists of, and how we can go about applying it in our roles.


Thanks again to our instructors Lance and George, our guest speaker David Jackson and the following participants for making this course so enjoyable:

Alan Ng, Alastair Rodgers, Alexandra Rigby, Daniel Morgan, David Burnside, Isabel Shaw, Jack Clough, Joseph Douglas, Louise Allen, Luke Pearce, Matthew Lee, Michael Murphy O’Reilly, Oliver Hassall, Parik K Makwana, Sarah Kelly, Wenna Hicks


Kind regards,

David Burnside



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