An Evening with Alastair Campbell

REED presents an evening with Alastair Campbell as he discusses his latest book and how career progression can be achieved through a range of leadership

Event: An Evening with Alastair Campbell

Date: Wednesday 28th September

Location: The Ham Yard Hotel, London

Several REED clients might be taking a different approach to their work today, inspired by last night's signature REED event: An Evening with Alastair Campbell. Former director of communications and strategy to prime minister Tony Blair, Campbell spoke at length on subjects ranging from playing football with Diego Maradona to winning three general elections with New Labour.

Drawing extensively on research conducted for his bestselling book Winners and How They Succeed, Campbell discussed lessons and tips to take away from a wide range of personalities, ranging from Maradona's visualisation to Vogue editor Anna Wintour's leadership; Australian surfing champion Layne Beachley's resilience to José Mourinho's approach to strategy.

Campbell explained that his motivation for writing the book (besides achieving the objective of having a number one bestseller, which he did) was a sense that the Labour Party and the UK as a whole were less comfortable than ever with the idea of winning. Campbell joked he had never put much stock in the idea that it's the taking part that counts.

"It's the sort of thing my mum used to say and I think the first time I told her I didn't agree with it I was probably about four. I have always been more interested in winning. I don't think we see enough of that attitude," he said.

In his book Campbell outlines a model for success that is built partly on his own experience, but also backed up by the experiences and lessons from an incredible cast of characters, with a variety of leadership styles.

"It was very easy to get access to all these people," said Campbell. "As soon as you tell someone like José Mourinho you are writing a book about winners and winning and you only want to speak to the very best, they're hooked. My publishers want the next book to be called Failures and Why They Fail. That will be a much harder sell."

The model for success outlined by Campbell is built around his "holy trinity" of strategy, leadership and teamship. Of these, Campbell is clear that strategy is the most important. An atheist, he has long held the belief that strategy is God. It was a golden rule during all three successful election campaigns. For strategy to be effective, whether in business, politics or sport, people need to follow another simple rule of three. They need an objective (what they want to achieve), a strategy (how they are going to achieve it) and tactics (to deliver and implement the strategy). The problem is, despite making it sound clear and simple, too many people mix up strategy and tactics, or objective and strategy, and end up losing as a result.

Unable to stay off politics for too long, Campbell – a vigorous Remain campaigner during the EU referendum – spoke of his disappointment at the Brexit decision. He said it would, in the years ahead, be examined in detail by students of political strategy and become a masterclass in how not to do it.

"Cameron's objective was to stay in the EU. His strategy to do this was at best unclear. His tactic was a referendum to keep the right of his party and UKIP quiet in order to win in 2015. Well that worked out well, didn't it, David? It was a classic misunderstanding of what strategy is and how to use it to achieve a clear objective."

Over the coming weeks we'll be picking out several highlights and lessons from our evening with Alastair Campbell. Keep an eye on our website and LinkedIn company page for more details and follow Alastair Campbell on Twitter.  

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