Monty Halls – explorer and television personality

Monty Halls

Monty Halls


BLM talks to former Royal Marine, explorer and TV personality Monty Halls, who also runs a leadership training business in Bristol.

In your opinion what makes a great leader?

“That is the million dollar question and I’m not sure there is a single set of characteristics that can define a great leader.

“Over my career I’ve been led by people who had superb admin skills but were not very inspirational, and on the other end you have very inspirational people who may have poor admin skills.

“The best way to describe good leadership is that you’ll know it when you see it.”

So what leaders have impressed you?

“Blondie Hasler – he led the cockle shell heroes in a very famous raid in the Second World War.

“He was a Royal Marine and it was known as Operation Suicide.

“He created this fantastic team ethos and he honed their skills on an individual level – they were certain to be killed but he trained them to an extraordinary level.

“Ernest Shackelton also. The way he inspired such devotion and managed to turn around a shambles was inspirational.”

Do leadership approaches need to change in different sized businesses?

“I do think approaches need to be different and I have got experience of that myself. I run a small eco-tours business.

“It’s very interesting. We have a couple of employees and it is about forming a very personal relationship.

“It’s very hands on and very personal and you’ve got to get your people right.

“But even in larger organisations you’ve got to get your people right.

“Lots of businesses go wrong by investing in technology and communication but don’t invest in people.”

Are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson style controlling leaders over?

“I carried out work with premiership managers – it is very results orientated and you are dealing with wildly different personalities and eleven millionaires.

“It’s a very intense environment. Very abrupt and brutal leadership works well, but bullying and sadistic leadership has never been effective – leading by fear is not good.

“Sir Alex is a very clever man but he had control in his arsenal and if you over stepped the mark you knew it; people like rules and like to know that if you step out of line, there will be recriminations.”

So in your opinion, how tough is it to be a leader in football?

“Football is an extraordinary environment – one of the toughest leadership environments you can work in.

“The public scrutiny is brutal.”

How do you deal with morale hoovers – people who disrupt team unity?

“The old models of task, team and individual are good. And morale hoovers slot quite nicely into this dynamic.

“Personally I like to work with that type of person initially; to nurture and counsel them; to coach them and train them.

“But if they start to affect the team you have a responsibility to nurture to a certain degree until there comes a point where you have to move them to one side.

You worked with Nelson Mandela – what was he like?

“If there was a man who recognised his moment– it was Mandela.

“He walked out of jail and knew that this was his moment and the whole world was looking at him.

“He seized his moment like a true statesman and very few people have grabbed the arc of history and curved it like he did.

“When he walked into a room his charisma was mesmeric.”

Do you have any advice for owner managers who want to grow their businesses but are too involved?

“I’d appreciate answers on a postcard for my business as I am quite hands on!

“I love getting into the weeds and getting involved in the tasks.

“I struggle to detach myself from the business.

“I once knew a famous business owner who detached herself from the business completely and she became surplus to requirements. It made her depressed, so be wary of aiming to utterly detach your business!”

Your expeditions that are broadcast on television look like fun – but are they?

“You are dealing with a group of people thrown together under real stress – the stress of a new environment and you are working to a tight agenda.

“These environments have a high level of attrition and it is a constant team and leadership task.

“Discovery invests millions in these big filming projects and you’ve got to get it right; but the environment is highly unpredictable and requires high levels of teamwork.”