Wednesday 22 April 2009

Jack Jones - a tribute

Awoke to a text with the sad news of Jack Jones's death. A great and inspirational leader. I was his research Officer in the 70s. Indeed he gave me my first real job. I had met him a number of times when he had come to Oxford - I was the Chair of the University Labour Club. I had come down to a job as a civil servant. Not really a Bubb type role as you can imagine. He phoned me one day and asked if I was interested in the Research Officer role for him. I accepted with alacrity and so worked on speeches and policy directly for him: issues like the social contract and industrial democracy.

He was an amazing Boss - the best I have ever worked for. He had an air of quiet authority and deep conviction. He inspired people to work to ever greater effect and effort. His leadership was based on a strong moral imperative to make the world a better place. It was why he went to fight fascism in Spain. It was what drove him in his leadership. Leadership studies tend to concentrate on private sector examples. So they miss out on what we can learn from a leadership style that is rooted in a moral commitment and vision.

He was also hugely kind as a Boss. I never saw him angry and he had a lot of patience. He was keen to get my views - a mere youth, but he had respect for people who wanted to put their intellectual skill in support of the cause. Unlike any other union leaders of the time he also had a keen appreciation of the role the media could play and encouraged me to build relations with the press.

He mentored me and taught me how important it is to see your job, not simply as a way to pay the bills, but as means of "making a difference". He was a very powerful individual and played a major role in guiding the Wilson Government is unlikely to think it could happen now but there was a lot of press attack about how he really ran the country.

I worked with him especially on industrial democracy. He was a member of the Bullock Commission, set up to investigate how to give employees a greater role in how companies were run. He believed that a trade union was their to champion individual workers on their pay but it was as important to work for a better society for all.

Today's union leaders are not a match on Jack Jones in his prime. And not content with a quiet retirement he went on to lead demands for a better deal for pensioners. Fighting for a cause he believed in to the end of his event packed 96 years.

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