Dr John Alban-Metcalfe (1940–2015)

Dr John Alban-Metcalfe, Chartered Psychologist, and one of the most influential leadership writers of the past 20 years, passed away on 31 March this year. This was after a year’s battle with cancer that he approached with the enormous positive energy that characterised him throughout his life. John and his wife of 43 years, Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe, created a University of Leeds spin-out company, Real World Group, in 2001 following the publication of their ground-breaking study of leadership that is referred to as Engaging Transformational Leadership. A graduate of zoology from Oxford University, John later switched to psychology, completed a PhD at the University of Bradford on the subject of cognitive complexity in children. Based on this, he became a Chartered Psychologist. John was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in the 1990s following his highly influential research into Down’s syndrome. He published many peer-reviewed articles on this subject, and on other issues in special needs education, including a book on ADHD in the classroom, now in its second edition. John worked for most of his academic career at Leeds Trinity University, (latterly as a Principal Lecturer) in special needs education and after retiring from the university joined Real World Group in 2001 as Director of Research. Here, he co-authored the majority of Real World Group’s leadership diagnostic tools, including the TLQ, which is used around the world.

For the past 14 years, John was a major contributor to large research projects pushing forward the boundaries of understanding leadership culture and team working, which included two longitudinal studies of leadership and team working in mental health (with King’s College, London and the University of Bradford, School of Management), and was a lead author on the reports. His limitless ideas and insatiable passion for research fuelled many areas of product expansion at Real World Group, supported by a wide range of peer-reviewed articles and reports co-authored with Beverly on subjects around leadership including systems leadership, competencies vs. behaviours and team working. John was actively writing research papers right up until the weeks before his passing. Two books that he co-authored with his daughter, Juliette Alban-Metcalfe, and colleague, Margaret Bradley, are due to be published next year.

His hobbies were paying tennis throughout the year, and he was also an artist, producing a prolific range of paintings. John will be remembered as a true gentleman, a man of huge integrity, relentlessly-positive energy and humour (though he told jokes badly), love of life (and claret!) and of intellectual pursuits; he was a fabulous husband and father. John passed away peacefully at home with his wife, Beverly, and his daughters, Caroline and Juliette. Colleagues at Real World Group and from his extensive network across psychology and beyond will miss him hugely.

Professor Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe, FBPsS

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber