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Former Red Arrows Executive Officer and RAF fighter pilot

As a former fighter pilot and Executive Officer of the Red Arrows, Justin Hughes is no stranger to high performance in the most demanding of environments. And after a further 15 years as a consultant on building high-performance cultures, he is uniquely placed to both inspire and offer practical insights into the drivers of excellence.


Justin is a renowned expert and inspiring speaker on both high performance and high-risk environments. 

  • Building high-performance teams and organisations

  • Leadership

  • Strategic ambiguity and agility

  • Decision-making and risk

  • Behavioural safety and safety culture

Justin has presented at hundreds of management meetings, conferences, academic forums and dinners worldwide with clients ranging from global corporations (e.g. 3M, Microsoft) to public sector (e.g. Bank of England, NATO) and world championship-winning sports franchises (e.g. Mercedes F1).  He was also a guest presenter on Oxford University’s MSc in Major Programme Management London Business School’s ‘Executing Strategy for Results’. 


Justin is the author of The Business of Excellence (Bloomsbury, 2016), has been profiled in the London Standard, Director and the Daily Telegraph), and interviewed for BBC World ‘Talking Business’ and BBC Breakfast. 


Justin’s breadth of operational, speaking, academic and consulting experience allows him to develop tailored content, specific to the client audience.  As well as keynote and after-dinner speaking engagements, Justin’s consulting experience includes conference design, ‘MC-ing’ and coaching of internal speakers.  With the Mission Excellence team, he also runs high-impact teambuilding seminars and workshop programmes for meetings and he co-presents with James Woudhuysen (on agility), Stephen Bungay (on executing strategy) and Anna McNuff (on motivation).


Prior to his current roles, Justin was an RAF fighter pilot.  He graduated as top cadet of his officer training and went on to fly the Tornado F3 air defence fighter.  He subsequently served for 3 years on the Red Arrows performing over 250 displays worldwide including 3 international tours.  Justin has an MBA with Distinction from London Business School and is currently studying International Relations at the University of Cambridge.

Motivational and Keynote Speakers 


Building High-Performance Teams and Organisations


Through over 25 years’ experience of operations, research and consulting, I have identified 4 simple factors which are invariably present in high-performance organisations:


  • People: the primacy of attitude over skills

  • Capability: building alignment before setting people free

  • Delivery: operational excellence to close the gap between desire and outcome

  • Learning: how to accelerate performance in real time


Examples and case studies from the military, sporting and corporate worlds are used to engage, inspire and offer tangible insights that can be applied the next day.




Leadership is often confused with seniority however, people form an opinion of you as a person and a leader, not based on your ‘rank’ or what you say, but on what you do.  If one separates out intellectual ability (the ability to set direction) and delivery (the ability to organise and get stuff done), the thing you are left with is the ability to bring others on the journey with you.  This can exist at any level of an organisation and is a moral and emotional activity.  I identify 3 key factors in our ability to influence others through leadership:


  • Role modelling

  • Reward and recognition

  • Consequence management


If ‘following’ is not through personal choice, then it’s seniority, not leadership!


Strategic Ambiguity and Agility


Given a choice, many large organisations would prefer to achieve their goals through exceptional disciplined process and compliance – to have control over what happens.  However, apart from the demotivating aspect of this approach, it is irrational when operating in environments characterised by ambiguity, imperfect information and changing circumstances.  Instead of control, the keys to success become:


  • Clarity – in direction or end goal – a common purpose and centralised strategy

  • Alignment – a foundation of common approach and language in how we work

  • Empowerment – an approach to decentralise tactical decision-making to the lowest practical level


Agility is not a 21st century issue – the issue is often not technology but mindset.


Decision-making and risk


Decision-making faced with ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity requires judgement.  If that judgement call is any of high-pressure, high-risk or in a high-reliability environment then the consequences of being wrong are potentially enormous.  We are unlikely to be consistently right faced with the above factors but, it is always better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.  Our understanding of cognitive bias has improved dramatically in recent years and a range of tools and methodologies are available to help equip individuals and teams for the situations they will face for which no perfect process exists.  Whatever the outcome, proactive, fast learning is always key such as to maximise our deposits in the bank of experience.

Behavioural Safety and Safety Culture


The historical approach to safety has been through regulation, process and compliance.  By definition though, this ‘scientific’ approach only prepares you for repeats of previous events, or other events which you can reasonably predict.  The ‘art’ of risk or safety management is in building the resilience to cope with the unexpected through the pursuit of operational excellence, improving decision-making through human factors training, and most critically, leadership.  Leadership drives culture drives behaviour.  Behaviour will ultimately drive an organisation’s success in managing risk and safety.

Justin is one of a rare breed of speakers who absolutely engages and captivates an audience, providing clear takeaways to action straight away into positive business results

Harrington Starr


Feedback was massively positive and some of the best we’ve had

Fujitsu Services (EMEIA)


Would not hesitate to bring Justin back

Trican Completion Solutions (Canada)


A year on we still use the language and some of the principles

Maersk Deutschland

b - £5k to £10k

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