Former British Prime Minister shares leadership insights at Air University

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert
  • Air University Public Affairs

A former British Prime Minister traveled across the Atlantic to sit down and answer a few questions in front of approximately 1,000 Air University students and base leadership, Oct. 5, 2018, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Tony Blair served as the British Prime Minister from 1997 through 2007.

Before sitting down with Royal Air Force Wing Commander Jamie Meighan, Air Command and Staff College Department of Future Security Studies, Blair spoke directly to the audience about leadership and gave some advice that he said only comes from experience.

Blair said there are certain characteristics and dynamics of leadership that are the same no matter your position or level of leadership.

“There’s always a fine line,” he said. “Being steadfast is good, being stubborn is bad, being ready to act is good, and being impulsive is bad. So with the characteristic of leadership it’s sometimes hard to stay on the right side of the line.”

Blair focused his next piece of advice about the difference between strategy and tactics. He said strategy should remain the same, however, tactics must change as information becomes available. He concluded his insights on leadership speaking about the team of people a leader needs.

“Whenever I was doing something difficult, the quality of the people around me mattered,” Blair said. “Leadership is a huge responsibility, but a great opportunity. It’s an enormous blessing to be in that position and whatever difficulties arise, be glad that you have it.”

Meighan opened the questions by asking why Blair believes the relationship between the United States and United Kingdom is important and where he sees our relationship heading in the coming years.

“The relationship between the U.S. and Britain is constantly revived and the importance of shared values remains,” Blair said. “We are going to find our Western values contested and the West needs to realize the need to stay strong together.”

Because the students at Air University study the 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the return of strategic competition and great–power conflict, Meighan asked the former prime minister what advice he has for military officers preparing for the future.

“Since the turn of the century, we need to get into a different rhythm of thinking,” Blair said. “The rhythm of thinking is no longer how we can finish this quickly, but is akin to defeating the revolution of communism.”

Blair said we can defeat ISIS, but there’s  other groups and nations that we have to be prepared to face.

“We need to change Ideology. I think we need to put in a strategy to change ideology,” Blair said. “I’d like to see a global ideology shift, where everyone is open minded and tolerant of people who are and think differently than themselves.”

One audience member asked Blair what can military leaders do to advise political leaders better?

 “The most painful thing is to lose your people in battle,” Blair said.

 “That level of understanding of the military is really important,” Blair said. “You’re talking about people’s lives and our future security and we need the politicians to know how to make the right decision.”