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Leaders: Who are they?

It was great to see Gavin Esler earlier this week, not in the Newsnight studio but at our offices, chatting about his new book on leadership. For someone who’s interviewed many of the world’s most powerful individuals, he certainly knows his subject! As part of his research he has spoken to everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Bill Clinton to… Dolly Parton (Tennessee’s second biggest employer – you really do learn something new every day).

Without giving away too much – the book’s not out until later this year – Gavin reckons leadership is about telling a story, whether it’s an individual or a group of people. Where many, particularly political, leaders have failed is through their inability or reluctance to explain who they are.

TEDGlobal 2011 kicks off in Edinburgh

This year’s TEDGlobal conference is under way in Edinburgh and promises not to disappoint in showcasing some of the world’s leading thinkers and expert public speakers.

The usual format is that the speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters at TED include Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Gordon Brown,Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.

Bill Gates at TED

Matt Ridley, who Chartwell previously interviewed, spoke at the event on Wednesday and hosted Session 5 on the Emerging Order. Expert speakers at the session included Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist who argued that “language really is the most potent trait that has ever evolved, and the most subversive tool we have. It allows you to implant a thought in someone else’s mind — without surgery.”

Rebecca MacKinnon’s excellent presentation on Wednesday described the expanding struggle for freedom and control in cyberspace, and asked: How do we design the next phase of the Internet with accountability and freedom at its core, rather than control? She believes the internet is headed for a “Magna Carta” moment when citizens around the world demand that their governments protect free speech and their right to connection.

Phillip Blond, the theorist behind David Cameron’s Big Society idea, also spoke on Tuesday on the topic of re-imagining the role of markets and governments in driving progress.

The best-selling author and writer for New Yorker magazine Malcolm Gladwell is due to present to the conference on Friday.

A full schedule of speakers can be found here.

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