Julia Middleton's thoughts on leadership

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About Julia Middleton

Julia Middleton is the Founder and Chief Executive of Common Purpose. She is a passionate campaigner for more – and more diverse – leaders who are active in civil society.

In the autumn of 1988, Julia formed Common Purpose, a leadership development organisation that gives leaders the inspiration, the knowledge and the connections they need to produce real change. Common Purpose now operates across the UK and worldwide in France, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, South Africa, Sweden the Netherlands, and Turkey. Since 1989, more than 30,000 leaders have completed one or more Common Purpose courses and the impact of their experience and the course they take part in, can be seen in the changes they make in their organisations, communities and in wider society.

In 2007, her book, Beyond Authority: Leadership in a Changing World, was published by Palgrave Macmillan. The book explores a different approach to leadership when leaders start to operate beyond their own spheres of control.

Julia has founded or helped in the founding of: Demos (an independent think tank),  Impetus Trust ( developing venture philanthropy in the UK), The Media Standards Trust ( fostering high standards in the news media), The Good Governance Network (supporting those involved in governance), and Alfanar (developing venture philanthropy in the Arab world). She is also on the Advisory Group of the Oxford Business School.

Julia was born in London and educated at French Lycees in the UK, France and the US. She worked for the Industrial Society after receiving an economics degree from the London School of Economics. She is married and has five children.

In his book The New Alchemists, Charles Handy said  of her:

“How Julia came to be the force she is, the values she holds and the way she applies them, contains messages for many who dream of making the difference she has done”.


7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 J Baker // May 14, 2009 at 19:03

    Hello Julia I hope you are well.
    Could you please explain to me just what “when leaders start to operate beyond their own spheres of control” means in real terms?

    Is this when ‘leaders’ stick their noses in other peoples business ? Or does it entail using political correctness coupled with ‘sneer & smear’ tactics to bully & manipulate people?

    Also I have noted with interest that you are a registered charity. How do you justify this?

  • 2 Julia Middleton // May 21, 2009 at 13:02

    Leading Beyond Authority means that if you have a role in an organisation then you will have a certain amount of authority to fulfil that role and to ensure that you are able to do your job. If you lead beyond your authority it simply means that effectively you go ‘the extra mile’ by doing a bit more than that. It does not mean that you defy authority, or interfere in other people’s business and it is certainly nothing to do with bullying or manipulation. Anyone using bullying and manipulation is neither a good nor effective leader. Good leadership requires partnership.

    With regard to your query on our charitable status, I refer you to an extract of a letter from the Charity Commission from June 2008:

    Why is Common Purpose entitled to charitable status?
    In answer to this question in order to be charitable in law, an organisation must be set up:
    • for a purpose which is charitable in law; and
    • for the benefit of the public generally
    We also refer enquirers to Common Purpose’s charitable objects as they appear on the public register of charities.

    How is common purpose accountable to the public?
    As a registered charity with income of more than £5 million a year, Common Purpose is required to submit its accounts annually to the Commission and we publish these on our website so that the public can see them. Charities with income of more than £1 million a year are also required to submit a summary information return, which sets out key information about the charity’s aims, activities and achievements, and again we publish these on our website. We have provided enquirers with a link to Common Purpose’s entry on our register, where this information can be found.”

  • 3 Nicola Menicacci // Aug 12, 2009 at 10:55

    Hi Julia,
    I really like your website. I have added it in my blogroll which you can easily see at http://chitham.com/englishblog/
    If you want to link back, I’d really appreciate.
    Thanks and have a great day,

    Nicola Menicacci
    Twitter: Chitham_en
    Personal Twitter: nicolamenicacci

  • 4 Lucas Lin // Apr 12, 2010 at 14:17

    Hi Julia,

    Awesome site!
    Really impressed with your discussion!
    I’m adding your site to my blogroll!
    If you choose to link back, I’d be Glad.


  • 5 Vijay Solanki // Nov 17, 2010 at 23:59


    Last week I had the pleasure of talking to a group of emerging leaders about brands. Both organisational and individual brands.

    I’ve spent almost 20 years at the forefront of some major brands from Dove through to BlackBerry in senior marketing roles.

    I’ve finally taken some time out and like many in my peer group want to give something back.

    I’ve been a trustee of an online charity for some years and am married to a charity fundraiser.

    Who can I more meaningfully help Common Purpose?

    Thanks Vijay

  • 6 Chandila Fernando // Nov 19, 2010 at 11:40


    Re: “Executive Briefings in the City for emerging Leaders”

    Each month, we at Sandler run invitee only Executive Briefings in association with the London Chamber of Commerce. In these sessions, we explore the specific challenges that CEO’s and MD’s face when seeking to improve their bottom line.

    We champion honest, no-nonsense consultative sales and management techniques that get results while preserving the individual team member’s self-respect.

    Our philosophy embodies a comprehensive approach to selling, the mastery of a revolutionary technique and an entirely new attitude toward the sales and management processes.

    Put simply, this interactive CEO,MD and Director led round table briefing will challenge conventional thinking, examine your current techniques and above all, establish in broad terms, what it takes to create a successful sales approach that ensures accountability from the bottom up.

    For your convenience and ease of reference listed below is some feedback from our clients:

    “We chose the Sandler System for its unconventional and highly effective approach to client centred selling.”
    - Peter O’Neill Sales Director IBM

    “Your superb sales and sales management training programmes continue to deliver the edge we need, and your training efforts continue to earn an astounding 93 percent approval rating! That’s why we’ve decided to bring the sales force of our new division under the Sander umbrella.”
    - G Miller, Sr VP of Sales – Cap Gemini Ernst & Young

    “However experienced one is, training is never a wasted pursuit and as either a refresher on lapsed disciplines or new techniques the Sandler sales and business development content is an excellent framework through which the odds of success can be significantly improved”
    - Nigel Harwood, Head of Financial Services , Intel

    “Twelve weeks ago my manager of corporate sales started the Sandler Selling System President’s Club. The change in her is remarkable. Not only has she learned and utilized new and innovative sales techniques, she has become a much more confident, positive individual. Her Tuesday morning meetings for the last 12 weeks have energized her. She has become a much more assertive salesperson, going after big accounts that are tough sales. And she’s getting the sale time after time.”
    - Lisa Craig Vice President, Weight Watchers

    Quite simply, at the Executive Briefing I attended, Luke Davies demonstrated that untold millions of man hours of sales experience has been distilled by Sandler into a methodology that will deliver results more quickly than any other route I have seen.
    - Greg White, Director, Head of UK Finance Sector – Symantec Corp.

    “..I would now find it difficult to consider any other sales methodology. I have personally attended numerous sales training courses in my 20 years of working within sales but can honestly say that this has been the best and most effective briefing I have attended by far.”
    - Daniel King, General Manager, Hitwise UK

    “Your executive briefing transformed our sales pipeline!”
    - Max Jenvey, Managing Director, Oxygen Marketing

    To attend one of our Executive Briefings or indeed if you’d like to bring along another guest, there are still some places available on the following dates:

    - Friday 26th November 2010
    - Friday 3rd December 2010

    The briefings run from 9.30am to 12pm with scheduled breaks so that you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and findings with fellow participants.

    Historically, they are very well attended and so, if you could be kind enough to let us know which of the dates is most suitable for you then we will take care of your reservation in due course.

    In the meantime, if you need any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Please kindly acknowledge safe receipt of this email.

    Kind regards and sincere thanks,

    Chandila Fernando
    “Making good people great.”
    T: 020 7836 5888

  • 7 Naomi Sargant Memorial event: Lifelong Learning | joannejacobs.net // Apr 5, 2011 at 15:21

    [...] our panel tonight is David Puttnam (Chair), Julia Middleton, Michelle Mitchell, Charles Clarke and Trevor [...]

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