Skip to content

Michael Hayman on what it means to ‘Be the Best’

Michael Hayman discovers what the Army’s ‘Be the Best’ slogan actually means in his column for Country and Town House.

To Army Headquarters South East and the heathlands of Hampshire for an immersive leadership challenge day. The invitation was written with military precision to strike fear into the heart of a comfort-driven pen pusher: me. ‘Limited cover from the elements’ and a test of leadership, resilience and communication skills, it promised.

Was I up to it? A question posed not only by my internal monologue, but clearly a moment of collective doubt, in a windswept car park, on the assembling faces of business Britain. Leaders in their own commercial backyard but what about the Great Outdoors?

Army tea was the first experience, an institution all of itself. Stewed across the ages it has the strength of Hercules. And it earns the respect of the most experienced regulars if you can take a brew.

Three cups in, we were brought to attention for the briefing delivered by an urbane Lieutenant Colonel. We were gathered, he explained, to learn more about the leaders we might become. But to do this we needed to be introduced to the people we were at that moment.

First up, The Prisoner: trapped, folded arms and sullen in demeanour. The Passenger: happy to sit back and not play an active role. The Protestor: complaining, negative, disruptive and disengaged. The Participant: enthusiastic, engaged and involved. And The Pilot: the hands-on leader who sets the course.

As I gingerly eyed my fellow participants I waged we had enough Prisoners in the ranks for a Dickensian penal colony.

But in this I was wrong. A veritable squadron of pilots were waiting to be discovered. For, as the day swung into action we were all to find out what we were really made of. From physical training with the incredible gurkhas to ammunition resupply drills with the outstanding Reservists of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, and so much more.

As each task progressed, a dawning realisation. When the Army talks about ‘Be The Best’, it’s an invitation, not an instruction. We all have hidden qualities to be revealed, teamwork and leadership skills to be discovered, physical abilities that are better than you might think. In short, the best of yourself is in you and a day like this is designed to reveal, rouse and refine it. It’s something that Reservists get to experience on an ongoing basis and it is these skill sets that more employers in the business world can support.

Later, I was back on more familiar terrain: speaking at a black tie awards dinner in Central London. Quite the transformation from the khaki. But it was more than matters sartorial that had changed. The prisoner had been freed and I have some very brave, committed and brilliant members of the armed forces to thank for that.

Access your free chapter now

Access your free chapter now

Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.