Management lessons from
history’s greatest leaders
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Introduction and Contents
Togetherness & Teamwork
A leadership position in a modern-day organisation comes with a
multitude of challenges. Sometimes you have to solve these problems on
your own, though more often than not someone before you has faced a
similar situation. Building on the knowledge of the past plays an incredibly
important role in improving your efficiency.
Taking inspiration from history’s greatest minds, from Roman Emperors to
African Presidents, we have compiled the wisdom of these world-
renowned leaders and applied it to every component of managerial life.
This is your ultimate guide to get both your company ahead of the crowd,
and your mind-set ready for world domination! Here’s what you can
expect in the pages ahead:
A little about us8
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1. Great Expectations
Align the Psychological Contract with the
Spedan, the son of John Lewis - founder
of the prolific department stores - joined
the family business at the age of 19.
After his father’s death and a serious
horse-riding accident left him unable to
work for 2 years, he began implementing
full employee-ownership by distributing
profits. This soon developed into the John
Lewis Partnership. Based on a mutual
understanding between employees
and their employer, this strategy
fundamentally adopted a principle called
the psychological contract.
Providing a clear framework for an
employment relationship, particularly
its future, is of the utmost importance.
Without this forward-thinking outlook,
drastic discrepancies can form between
the expectations of the two parties. John
Lewis boasts employee happiness as
part of its mission statement, and a clear
psychological contract fundamentally
underlies the relationship they have with
their employees - not the employment
So what is the psychological contract?
It refers to the unwritten set of
expectations of the employee:employer
What’s the difference?
Think of it as the difference between
expectations (psychological) and
John Spedan Lewis
Note: The psychological contracts are
unique to each employee:employer
relationship, and much like the
professional role an employee occupies,
the criteria and requirements will alter
over time and vary drastically from person
People working for the same firm and
same boss can have distinctly different
psychological contracts; and this means
they require some management.
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promises (formal/professional job role
contract). Miscommunication between
employee and employer is the key cause
of incomplete psychological contracts,
and therefore an unhappy, unbalanced
workforce. It is often extremely difficult
to fully anticipate the future demands
of an employment arrangement; so it’s
unrealistic to think you’ll get this right first
time…at least not without some practice!
What happens if it’s not done right?
A psychological contract that’s not valued
and taken care of can lead to a highly
dangerous outcome: “presenteeism”. This
is a relatively new concept that describes
workers who are present in the office in
body, but far from present in mind... at
least to any productive extent. In fact,
prolific presenteeism can actually be more
damaging to a business than employees
who take too many sick days.
workers who are present
in the office can actually be
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We’ve all heard it before, communication is key! Make
sure that, right from the offset, both employer and
employee are open and honest about their expectations
for the future. Integrate individual learning and
development into your job descriptions. This creates
transparency around the role and incentivises a culture
of new leaders rising from the inside. These people will,
in turn, make sure the company apportions time and
money towards personal growth so that everyone shares
reasonable expectations of commitment and success.
Ultimately, this will considerably diminish the chance of
presenteeism as trust is formed. Your psychological and
employment contracts will be aligned, and decisions will
be made with everyone on the same page!
A great boss sits down with a
new employee right from the beginning
and identifies priorities. Discuss the
performance review, and how you define
“excellent performance.” You should hold
discussions regularly with regards to
expectations from that point on.
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2. Developing Leaders
“Follow Nature for Guidance”: Become a Parent
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from
161-180 AD was the last of the “Five
Good Emperors”. His book “Meditations”
is revered as a literary monument to
philosophy. Marcus ruled Rome as he did his
own home; as a parent.
We know you can’t ‘rule’ your office as a
parent, but the best managers view their
position as more than just a boss: something
to the tune of coach, mentor…a leader. But
who is the ultimate leader to the newest
individuals born into your organisation?
Their manager. And what is the one thing a
newborn needs more than anything?
→ A parent!
So for you leading parent figures of the
office, we’ve got some key focus areas:
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Find each person’s unique talents
Like any good parent, a manager
observes their employees to find out
what they do best. Talk to them about
what aspects of their job they enjoy
most. Tap into and leverage the instincts
and skills of your employees. This
creates a win-win as you’re able to reap
the rewards of employee satisfaction
and employees grow increasingly
inspired and confident.
Some bosses wait until the formal
performance review to relay negative
feedback to their employees. When this
happens, employees are left thinking:
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?! I
could have tried to change or do things
Giving employees feedback along the
way establishes an open relationship.
There’s a sense of conversation,
leadership, and cooperation.
Empower people to make
Part of nurturing self-growth is
empowering your employees to
show leadership over their own lives.
Give your employees the tools and
Striking the balance
You may sometimes assume that your
employees know exactly what to do and
how to do it. Other times, you call all
the shots, giving in to the certainty of
doing everything yourself…whilst your
employees learn nothing. Imagine you’re
riding a chariot like this one:
A great leader can recognise the
importance of not pushing their horses
too hard, and driving them forward to
victory. Finding the equilibrium is key to
the team’s overall success!
Our advice? Take a step back from your
chariot. Think about how you can be
enough of a presence as a source of
help, but not so much as to overshadow
Tip? Enable employees to improve
their departments and team.
Your company will thrive when
you develop leaders who rise
from the inside.
Empower people to make decisions
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techniques to expand their thinking and solve
issues with big ideas. Create an environment
where creativity and problem solving are
rewarded as part of daily conversations.
Recognise people’s contributions
Appreciation is something most blogs
will talk about and, despite its almost aggravating ever-presence,
it fully deserves it and is our advice.
Did you know that companies with formal recognition
strategies reported a mean employee turnover rate that is 23.4%
lower than retention at companies without any recognition
Amazing bosses(/parents!) know how to instil a deep sense of
personal satisfaction and accomplishment in individual team
members. Or, it can be a more formal recognition, like publicly
acknowledging a team member at a meeting or company event.
In the long-term, this crucially help employees to develop a strong
sense of self-confidence and self-praise.
When people feel appreciated for their efforts, they become happier and more
engaged. It goes without saying that this will improve the quality and quantity of
output from your employees.
P.S. A Perkbox never hurt an employee feeling that bit underappreciated!
Recognize your people for
their contributions–both large and
small. It can be as small as a few
words like, “Nice job, Marie.”
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3. Boss behaviour
“When people are determined they can
Self-belief will lead you to managerial success. But, how can you
convince others of your own leadership skills without having
years of experience under your belt? Determination. Great
leaders are not necessarily born; they are made. Nelson Mandela
embodies this thinking, whether it was in becoming South Africa’s
first black President elected in a fully representative democratic
election or in having served over 27 years as a political prisoner. If
you lose your drive, attaining your goals becomes near impossible.
You must recognise the importance of this for both yourself and
your employees in order to achieve the best results. So, how do
you become a great leader?
Most great leaders share certain
characteristics. Remember: these can all
be learned. Rarely does one remain great
without working at their craft so attend
management seminars, read (e)books and
do a lot of self-assessment to keep leading
yourself and others to success. In the
meantime, we have a number of tips
for you inspired by Mandela himself!
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Live for your job
What’s even more important than
engaged employees? Engaged managers
and business leaders, empowered, driven
and motivated. In my experience, that’s
not a given. The best bosses we can
think of all live for their jobs, so
To be an effective manager you
should lead by example. By daring
to try new things, you encourage
your employees to do the same. This
keeps you at the forefront of your
industry, making learning a part of
everyone’s daily lives. Combine this with
accountability for one’s actions and you
will inspire leadership all around you.
An often overlooked but incredibly
important aspect of management is the
simple idea of consistency. Sure, we’re
all different, but if your personality
and approach to business varies on a
daily, or even weekly basis, this will
cause confusion for your team. It takes
courage and strength to maintain your
composure but by being the rock your
employees rely on you will ensure your
trustworthiness and dependability.
Be open and truthful
A great leader is direct, but sensitive.
Communication is essential. If you see
performance slipping, don’t wait too
long to talk about it. Never dodge the
truth or hoard company information that
could help your employees. You must
not be threatened by your employees’
knowledge; rather, you must encourage it.
Know your employees
Take a personal interest in your employees’ lives. An employer who understands their
employees is more likely to be sympathetic and, for example, consent to flex-time when
required. Employees who feel that their boss is caring and interested in who they are will
be more committed to their work.
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Have a feel for the business
The best managers have a solid
understanding of all the key aspects of
the business they’re in. Understand the
products, technology, market share, sales
channels and how to read an income
statement. Employees, especially if they
are new, aspire to have
a holistic understanding
of their company.
Mentor your team
Apportion time and money towards
personal growth so that all of your
employees become stronger in their
abilities: it’s that parental attitude
again! Set up regular weekly 30-minute
check-ins with your people to help them
celebrate wins and overcome any issues
they might have. And on a regular basis,
help staff understand how their actions
contribute to the overall company
mission and vision. We’ll talk more about
this in the next chapter.
3 key leader traits:
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4. Bring teams together
“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he
works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
You can’t write a book about leadership without mentioning
Mahatma Gandhi. This man starved himself to keep India from its
religious division into what is now called Pakistan. But don’t worry,
you don’t need to go that far to keep your team together!
Gandhi believed in two things above all else: conflict resolution
through non-violence (i.e. dialogue) known as “satyagraha” and
self-governance known as “swaraj”. A great leader will encourage
dialogue through constant interaction and high performance within
the team. Whether we succeed or we fail, we do it together. This
creates tight bonds
of loyalty amongst
with the company.
Successes are met
with equal high
praise and rewards,
while failures are
met with encouraging acceptance and learning discussions yielding
next-step improvements. (Of course managing risk to ensure people
and teams fail safely in the first place is a must!)
Whether we succeed or we
fail, we do it together
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Connect to the company values and mission
Your company’s core values and mission are what provide
a greater sense of meaning to your team’s day-to-day
decisions. Extraordinary leaders weave the goals and
culture of the company into every aspect of departmental
operations. In response, employees become increasingly
passionate and enthusiastic about them. Study after study
shows that core values drive employee engagement and
corporate culture. In turn, that engagement and culture
Set collaborative goals and review progress
Harvard Business School surveyed hundreds of workers in
a variety of settings and found that the number one thing
employees said they needed to feel happy at work was
to see that they are making progress. As a leader, you can
help people see their progress by setting meaningful goals
for your department as well as for the individual – one
should be an extension of the other. You can then involve
your people in determining how they will accomplish their
objectives. This mutual exercise in establishing objectives
gives employees a sense of their own self-leadership aka
swaraj, only adding to their motivation to succeed.
Integrate creativity into
daily conversation and procedures
so that every employee feels
comfortable expressing their
creative flair when interacting with
others in the company.
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To meet or not to meet?
The best leaders make sure that everyone on the team
understands the difference between a valuable meeting
and a waste of time and resources. They educate the team
on facilitation techniques and give each person constant
practice at structuring and leading effective meetings with
feedback afterwards, of course!
Efficiency vs. Efficacy
The best managers know that efficiency can be the enemy
of efficacy in the long run, and so they work to create an
atmosphere of expansive thinking. We live and work in
a fast-paced, ever-changing, highly competitive world.
You’ve got to prioritise, but once you figure out what
needs to be done, it’s generally more important to be
effective than to squeeze every last bit of productivity
out of yourself and your people. Empower your team with
time, resources and techniques to solve big issues with
Being an extraordinary manager means inspiring your
employees to reach for greatness. Commit to putting
the above behaviours and systems in place, and your
employees will do their work with pride, increasing their
loyalty to your business and your customers.
The 3 ingredients to a successful meeting are:
1. Setting a specific & detailed agenda
2. Inviting only the people that really need to be there
3. Providing a structured “close” i.e. leave 10 mins at the
end of the
a) what was the main point you’ve taken
from the meeting?
b) what topic should be discussed at our
c) which word would you use to describe
how you feel about this meeting? This
question will set expectations for closure
of the meeting.
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Providing and promoting healthy
food not only has benefits for
your employees but also for you. A
nutritious diet improves stamina and
concentration, gets the creative juices
flowing and leads to more proactive,
productive employees with increased
problem-solving capabilities. It should
also mean less people phoning in sick
and an all round happier workforce!
5. Creating THE working environment
“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product”
Known as the “First Lady of the World” for her dedication to human and
worker’s rights, Eleanor Roosevelt was known for getting her opinions out
there no matter what the world told her she ‘should’ be doing. As a strong
campaigner against racism and an advocate for workers’ rights, she wasn’t even
afraid of denouncing her own husband’s policies in public! This woman on a
mission believed in diversity, simplicity and the power of the heart. In order to
create an environment where employees thrive with real passion for their jobs
leaders must weave these concepts into every part of the work environment.
CHOCOLATE can be a great mood
enhancer due to its ability to stimulate
the production of serotonin, your body’s
chemical mood enhancer! Aim for high
quality organic dark chocolate though,
with over 70% cocoa content.
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Team social events
We know team drinking is fun: that’s for
certain. But does your team interact in
any other way? Find simple, productive
ways for people to work together on
things which are either not related to
work or can be indirectly linked. For
a day each month
where a certain
number of people
help out in a
charity can be
a great way to
say a ping pong
afternoon trip to
the museum could also work. If you’re
still thinking about team efficiency, you
can always use your team activity as an
opportunity for some social media posts!
As William Cowper said: “Variety is the
very spice of life, that gives it all its
flavour.” An engaging atmosphere where
things are ever-dynamic will continue
to foster interest and intrigue from
an employee perspective. This keeps
sky high. If you
ever run out of
ideas to make
as happy and
productive as can
be, we’re always
here for you at
“Variety is the very
spice of life, that gives
it all its flavour.”
Feng Shui of your desk!
Follow Eastern tradition to
optimise your desk layout!
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Some cool ideas for office spaces:
These days everyone is always talking
about Google and Facebook’s offices.
What gets them employee satisfaction
ratings like no other business? Their
promotion of creativity and relaxation
in the office, that’s what. Allowing
employees the flexibility to not be
constantly working from 9am to 5pm
is important as this actually impedes
their productivity. Implementing
physical spaces into the office, which
allow for a release from the ins and
outs of day-to-day business is the best
way to do it. Check out some of our
favourite ideas in action.
mind, body and
wisdom and self-
career and life
Feng Shui Bagua map
Epic: NY Subway room
Facebook: Games room
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6. Tools for the modern day leader
Salary Sacrifice Schemes:
Make a valuable addition to your
employee’s lifestyle with salary sacrifice.
Whether it’s a new bike or the latest
tech - pay for it upfront and recoup the
cost from your employee’s salary pre-tax.
They’ll save on something special, and
you’ll pay less NI!
Get 2-for-1 or 50% off at thousands
of restaurants across the UK with
tastecard. From leading chains to
exciting independents, the only hard
part is choosing where to take your
employees to lunch!
A video-based platform to keep health
& well-being at the top of your priority
list. Engage in yoga, meditation, fitness
and cooking without taking too much
time out of your schedule!
If you can spare leaving the office,
get discounted rates at salons, spas,
gyms and more at both top brands
and trusted independents. Remember,
leading is tough - not least without
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Luckily both you and all your employees can get these
services at discounted prices with a Perkbox account!
Remarkable leadership is easily within your grasp and you
can begin to make changes today. As a result of creating a
fantastic workplace with engaged and loyal employees, your
company will accelerate! If you’re ever in doubt, at Perkbox
we’re here to help you out.
Contact us now and be sure to
check out our inspirational
quotes section below!
0208 396 6812
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Full list of references available here.
A little about us
Having grown up in London, the diversity of people
functioning seamlessly within one single ‘Labour Market’
has always fascinated George. With people spending the
majority of their time at work, he realised that passion and
enjoyment for one’s job are key to ameliorating lifestyles,
and consequently specialised in both behavioural and labour
economics whilst attending the London School of Economics
& Political Science. With a background in Finance and
Consulting, experience has taught him how important the
relationship is between employer and employee. George’s
aim is to help everyone achieve their goals in the most
pleasurable and efficient way possible; using technology as his
A Northern Irish born country girl, Jenna moved to London to
study a masters in communication design. Having always been
fascinated by urban environments, she studied the sociology
of how people, organisations and places we all inhabit come
together. During her masters she researched a methodology
that favours ethical, social and environmentally responsible
approaches to all forms of design. With a background in not-
for-profit and SME organisations, her main drive is in making a
difference to people’s everyday lives.
George Taktak: Marketing Manager
Jenna Edgar: Designer
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Management lessons from
history’s greatest leaders
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