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Cromwell and Henry VIII

6b09cdcf-c7d0-43d1-b4b2-0cfe67441249Wolf Hall – hope you’re not missing it: PBS – 9 pm Sundays.

Low born, but rose to private secretary of Henry VIII. Blacksmith’s son became Italian soldier, became servant, became lawyer, then Cardinal Wolsey’s secretary, then, an Arabesque through chance and dreams to Henry’s most inner circle.

From whence, he interpreted circumstance and opportunity to Henry’s best advantage – within the framework of Henry’s intentions.

This brilliant, haunting production: every frame looks like a Caravaggio.

But here is this guiding genius – one of wide and cosmopolitan experience, knowledge denied the ruler, who’s scope has been necessarily restricted by his situation and ambition. There is this singular man, who has been many places and experienced many situations, with the facility of translating those into new contexts and rendering the universal of that learning into the particular of the here and now.

And the ruler profits from that – doesn’t have to learn every lesson anew – draws on that bank from someone who can bring it forcefully to his benefit. Not someone to tell him what to do – o no – but to salt experience on what, to the ruler, is all new. To provide structure where to the uninitiated there is only flat plain.

How can he do this? He is a blacksmith’s son! But he’s been there. Grown the breadth of his exposure. Observed similar dynamics in analogous situations through open, analytic eyes. Kept track of the universals in human unfolding. Relentlessly learned and read. Stored it all away, in a vast bank, trusting they would sometime be relevant.

So, there have, from time of Merlin, been executive mentors and coaches. A particular type. Not wanna-be’s. Not someone who has read a book. Not someone who has a single answer to everything. Doesn’t come from taking a course.

Unique people who get it – and are specially qualified to do so. And interpret it – framing what is unfolding and seeing ways forward, imparting meaning and useful slants to what is being encountered so that the situation can be played to maximize advantage. Avoiding stumbles, applying deft touches to circumstance to lend leverage and move ahead with elegance.

Now, there are some aspects of Cromwell that are now left to others than worthy coaches. Because Cromwell was also a fixer, a right hand man. When something distasteful had to be finessed, he was the active agent. Now we have COO’s on that end, although most Presidents find that they themselves must shoulder this load. For many, their unwillingness to face into those situations – firing someone who was once a friend and useful, facing up to an important customer who is abusing the company, generally intervening when something toxic to the needed direction is manifesting – is their achilles heel and will likely cause great grief to their enterprise and consequently them. I would say learning to deal forthrightly, fairly and skilfully with conflict is one of the greatest skills I can impart to any leader.

Wolf Hall – the ingenious product of the imagination and researches of Hilary Mantel – who won the Booker Prize for BOTH of the books that gave rise to this series. Unprecedented.

Watch it!

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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