Press Releases - Claritas Books

Claritas Books releases book about leadership development for senior educators in Iraq.

“We never hear anything positive about Iraq in the news”, said author Tony Nelson’s children. Nelson had been working with Iraqi Deans of Colleges to help strengthen their leadership skills and was struck by the western media’s narrative of chaos, terrorism and kidnappings in the country. He began to share a different story - of ordinary leaders living in extraordinary circumstances, trying their best to make a better life for the young people they served.

Wisdom for Leadership was co-authored between Nelson and Professor Moneer Tolephih, President of the University of Baghdad, who was closely involved in the Deans’ (and later Heads’) leadership programme. 45 delegates attended the programme in three cohorts over five years and the book details numerous personal and organisational benefits but perhaps the greatest was that evidenced to an external assessor from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Gaynor Thomas, who said “the most impressive stories were those of rebuilding the human soul”. The evidence offered to the CMI assessors of each delegate’s strategic leadership impact met international standards.

Nelson explained that the “key challenge was to deliver a culturally sensitive, relevant and challenging programme which would help Iraqi Deans develop the leadership skills they needed to build high performance teams, lead change, engage with key external stakeholders including employers, grow their income and become reflective leadership practitioners. And all this in an environment of ‘post-liberation reconstruction’ (the Iraqi description) in which Deans warranted bodyguards as representatives of the government. The Deans had stories of assassination attempts against them, repeatedly looted Colleges, students taken hostage, and subsequent negotiations with insurgent leaders to de-politicise the campus. These stories would come to us over morning tea (‘chai’) or during an evening walk. This was their life and they were sharing it with us”.

Nelson and his UK team learned as much from the delegates as the Iraqi leaders did from them. One of those insights gained by Nelson was that delegates searched as a group for the ‘wisdom’ in each session, lecture, learning task or activity. It is that search for wisdom which informed the title of the book. Another accidental discovery for Nelson was the power of story-telling in an Iraqi group. With the electricity cut off mid-workshop it was impossible to show a planned video clip so Nelson simply related what was on the clip, saying ‘I realised that I had stumbled onto something when the group quietened in concentration on the story. After that I used oral storytelling all the time’.

Tolephih participated in the initial pilot group, who were all trained to coach future cohorts, and then became lead assessor of the 5,000-word assignment each delegate had to write documenting their personal leadership applied learning on the programme. Tolephih also taught on the programme, including a workshop he wrote on the rationalist and humanistic leadership qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Tolephih said “The DQP leadership training programme for Iraqi deans had direct influence on their performance. Contextualising values and faith played a very important role in the leadership training as a parameter alongside the theories studied for the qualification. We have much evidence that shows how such models and theories had been intuitively applied by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his leadership of the first Muslims. This was why the leadership of Muhammad was studied as a role model”.

The book describes the programme’s content, structure and impact but moves beyond a factual replay and shares the human stories behind the intervention and some of the key teaching. It shares accumulated leadership wisdom from a variety of western, eastern and tribal sources and sensitively grounds this body of knowledge in a spiritual and Islamic context to enable the reader to reflect upon their own leadership impact. Unusually, the book is written by a European Christian and an Arab Muslim and demonstrates the power of cross-cultural, empathic understanding and respect.

Dr. Ali Hadawi, C.B.E., Principal of Central Bedfordshire College, said of the book “it brilliantly demonstrates how leadership cannot be separated from other aspects of humanity such as faith”.

Iraq’s Ambassador to UNESCO, H.E. Prof. Mahmood Al-Mullakhalaf, said the programme “helped transform the leadership capabilities of our people at a critical time in the country’s development of its vocational education system. The benefits of this programme continue to this day”.

Wisdom for Leadership tells the story of the Deans’ and Heads’ Qualifying Programmes (DQP and HQP) which were based on the UK’s acclaimed leadership development programme for FE College Principals. Tony Nelson was Director of the UK’s programme before designing and delivering the customised Iraqi programmes, supported by a team of trainers, coaches and assessors. The Iraqi programmes ran between 2009 and 2013, with Iraqi pilot programme delegates trained to help support various aspects of the main roll out including coaching and some assessment. Nelson is a fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Royal Society of Arts. He holds a MBA (with a specialism in leadership studies) from Strathclyde University.

Wisdom for Leadership is co-authored between Nelson and colleague Prof. Moneer Hameed Tolephih, currently President of the University of Baghdad. Previous roles include President of two other Universities and Dean of a Technical College in Iraq. Tolephih graduated the pilot phase and then became chief assessor of the 5,000-word assignment each participant had to write detailing their applied leadership learning.

Programme graduates were assessed by the UK’s CMI for membership/fellowship and subsequently for acceptance as a Chartered Manager. CMI assessors used international standards to accredit each delegate.