Dr Michael J. Smith



Michael has 45 years’ experience of leadership and management divided between the public and international business sectors working at all levels up to, and including, Ministerial and plc Chairman/CEO. Leaving school at 16 he was commissioned into the RAF in 1970 having gained an HND in Business Studies.  Thereafter, he undertook a diversity of appointments which included being a senior executive in the field with responsibility for 3,000 people; and a tutor at the RAF College, Cranwell, and at the RAF Staff College, Bracknell, the latter of which he is a graduate.


As a Legal, Finance and HR Director his professional involvement included addiction, blackmail, bereavement, espionage, fraud, murder, rape, suicide, terminal illness and State honours & awards. He sat as a member of 30 Courts Martial.  Leaving the Military after 20 years for management consultancy, his early career culminated as an adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staffs on financial issues for 300,000 military personnel, the senior Civil Service and Judiciary.


In 1993 he founded Griffonage, an executive and NED search company, adding coaching in 2006.  He specialised in the aerospace & defence industries, later including F1 and Le Mans motorsport. Realising the value of his business in 2012, he spent a period of time as a Visiting Professor and then, in 2015 with two fellow Directors, launched ETL.  Today his focus is on helping senior executives understand why they behave the way they do and, therefore, aiding them maximise their performance.  He does this as part of the ETL Director team who, between them, have personal experience of all typical, and sometimes not so typical, matters that concern owners and Boards of Directors. 

Michael is the Master of a City of London Livery Company, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and a Director of Spitfire AA810 Restoration Ltd. of which ETL is a founding sponsor. He is currently researching his next book – ‘Psychopaths & Other Difficult Personalities in Business Leadership’.  In addition, as a key element of the AA810 Project, he is designing a permanent Aviation Careers Programme for young people aimed at encouraging and guiding them into engineering, and aerospace in particular; this Programme will be launched at Shuttleworth on 27 September 2019.


Expertise & Achievements

  • Leadership & Management Practice and Development as illustrated above.

  • The Professional Handling of People Issues as illustrated above.

  • Strategy Development & Implementation as illustrated above.

  • Executive Search. Chairman; NED; Group, Divisional & Company CEO/MD/President; Finance; Business Development, Sales & Marketing; Commercial (contracts); Engineering & Technical; Manufacturing & Production; Procurement; Operations; Supply Chain Management; CIO; and HR.

  • Executive Coaching supported by a Professional Doctorate (DProf.) in Executive Coaching & Team Learning, and an MA in Executive Business Coaching, both practical and industry based.  

  • Previous Consultancy Clients  have included: CAE; Chemring; Cobham; Cosworth; GKN; Goodrich; Hunting; Insys; Irvin Aviation; ITT; Jaguar; Lola; Lucas-Varity; Marshall Group; Pattonair; Quadrics Supercomputers; Raytheon; Rolls-Royce; Serco; Smiths Aerospace; VT

  • Publications.  ‘A Learning Team Approach to Executive Recruitment, Coaching & Consultancy’ in the Aerospace, Defence and Motorsport Industries; ‘Two Coaches Operating as a Learning Pair’; and ‘Internal Coaching for Business Solutions’.  All based on the practical experience of 10,000 hours of interviewing, coaching, facilitation and consultancy at Board and senior executive level, primarily in the UK, USA and Continental Europe.

  • City of London Networking.  Member of the Governing Body of a City of London Livery Company (The Fan Makers - today, aerospace & ventilation) culminating as Master (Chairman) in 2018.  He is the co-author of ‘350 Years & Beyond - A Short Past, Present & Future History of the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers.’

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