Why we need to keep the spirit of Nelson alive

PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:04 21 October 2018

Lord Nelson.

Lord Nelson.


As Sunday, October 21 marks Trafalgar Day, passionate Nelson enthusiast NIGEL CUSHION gives his views on why we should keep the story of Norfolk’s most son alive.

Nigel Cushion. Picture: ANTONY KELLYNigel Cushion. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

In 1805, we had a spot of bother with Europe.

A battle would decide the outcome, and success would secure England from invasion, raise national morale and set the victors on a path to build the greatest empire the world had ever seen.

The outcome of the day would rest on the shoulders of Norfolk-born Admiral Nelson who was to lead the Royal Navy into this most decisive victory, at the Battle of Trafalgar.

As we know, he was to send probably the most famous piece of communication in British History (The flag signal: England Expects ... ), and at the height of the battle Nelson fell and passed into immortality.

HMS Victory under fire at the Battle of Trafalgar.HMS Victory under fire at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Why remember this? Well it is a fascinating piece of military and world history in its own right. A case study of personal and moral courage, professionalism, strategy, heroism and patriotism.

In addition Nelson was probably the most famous person in the country who actively courted celebrity and fame, so it is interesting as an early case study on the modern marketing concept of the projection of personal brand.

Nelson also had a complex and intriguing (some would say scandalous), personal life, a true maverick. He certainly did do different and gloried in being a Norfolk man. So he is fascinating from historical, business and personal perspectives.

But I believe there is another, stronger reason for remembering - and that is what I believe to be his greatest legacy - the spirit of his leadership. He created a timeless approach to leadership which which has acted as the source of the intellectual river on leadership, for most business schools and military academies around the world for the last 200 years.

He called his approach “The Nelson Touch”. A blend of professionalism and trusting his band of brothers, have first explained the strategy; with care compassion and love for those he led. Nelson would engage closely the enemy on the battlefield and personally with those he led. In the world we live in today, while we see a lot of celebrity leaders, professionalism and love are often harder to find.

Nelson was also committed to investing in and supporting young people, having received mentoring, and he himself had mentoring many younger officers. He reminds us that while leadership can bring fame and fortune the real leadership test is how we serve others. How we do our duty. I believe we should capture this “Nelson Spirit” and pass it on to tomorrow’s leaders.

For today’s leaders, on Sunday let’s think about how closely are we engaging. What are we doing to encourage future leaders? What is our duty? And today what does England Expect?

Nigel Cushion is founder and chairman of Nelsonspirit, a social impact business enterprise, which is inspired by the spirit of Horatio Nelson.

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