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Innovation and leadership

Robert Walpole, Robert Bosch, and Positive Leadership

Robert Walpole, Robert Bosch, and Positive Leadership

In 1688, following years of tyrannical ‘rule by decree’ under James II, the Glorious Revolution swept the British Isles and parliament was reinstated in England and Scotland. Robert Walpole, a keen defender of the democratic principles of the Glorious Revolution, rose up the ranks of government, eventually becoming Britain’s first ‘de facto’ Prime Minister, 300 years ago today.

In light of Robert Bosch’s inclusion in the History of Parliament Trust’s book discussing ‘300 Years of Leadership and Innovation’, we examine the characteristics Bosch and Walpole shared, Walpole’s legacy on Britain, Bosch’s legacy on his own eponymous company, and how we can incorporate positive leadership into our lives at home and at work.

Who was Robert Walpole and who was Robert Bosch?

Whatever was the conduct of England, I am equally arraigned.


Robert Walpole was a politician, scholar, and businessman, from Norfolk, England. He was a leading 'Whig', a 17th-19th Century political group that championed the importance of constitutional monarchy- a system of government in which the monarch is answerable to Parliament- over absolute monarchy- a system of government in which the monarch can make all of the decisions. His powerful persuasive ability, administrative skills, and pursuit of peace enabled him to dominate British politics for twenty years, being widely recognised as the first Prime Minister.

I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money, I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.


Robert Bosch, on the other hand, was a businessman who was born in 1861, just as Walpole’s Whig Party reached the verge of collapse. Despite more than a century existing between them, Bosch was very much a product of the world that Walpole helped to construct. He was dedicated to sustainability and ethical labour practices, and remained a committed democrat throughout his life. In fact, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the charitable trust that holds 92% of total Bosch Group shares, was created in part to avoid the company’s innovations and wealth falling into the hands of the Nazis at the time of Robert Bosch’s death in 1942.

Where can we see Walpole’s legacy in Britain, and where can we see Bosch’s legacy in Bosch UK today?

Robert Walpole and his bedroom at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Picture courtesy of the Legion of Honour museum, San Francisco
Robert Walpole and his bedroom at Houghton Hall, Norfolk. Picture courtesy of the Legion of Honour museum, San Francisco

Walpole’s legacy is still present in modern Britain- he popularised the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, he is the reason the Prime Minister lives in 10 Downing Street, and most importantly, he brought an end to Jacobite ideology that taught us that everyone in society was placed in their social class by the will of God. Following Walpole’s persuasive speeches and powerful rule, the public began to believe in the importance of social mobility and the idea that hard work and motivation should be rewarded with success. These new ideas about class and society spread across Northern Europe, and were quickly embraced in Germany, where the other Robert- Robert Bosch- was born a century later. It is these people-orientated values that ultimately prompted Bosch to introduce the 8-hour workday and company-wide commitment to a sustainable future, traditions that Bosch UK remains committed to even now.

Robert Walpole and Robert Bosch were alike in a variety of ways. Bosch and Walpole were both political moderates who had to steer a careful path between extremes- in Walpole’s case, the Tories/Jacobites and Whig radicals, in Bosch’s case, Communists and Nazis. In their social outlook, both valued peace and foreign trade and saw prosperity as the key to a better world. In their professional lives, both used cutting-edge technology to establish themselves and make their fortune and legacy (Walpole used the emerging press to great political effect) and personally, both were landowners who enjoyed nature, adopting a hands-on approach to managing their estates. Bosch first expanded to the UK in 1898 because he was keen to gain a foothold in the country known as the “motherland of industrialisation”- a title Britain had won in part due to the wealth the country had accrued after prioritising exports and dominating the woollen trade under Walpole’s tenure.

What lessons can be learned from the positive leadership of Bosch and Walpole?

As a leader, Walpole was known to be clear and firm but never forceful. Those around him found his confidence to be a calming and stabilising influence on work at Parliament. On the other hand, Robert Bosch was known to be a strict disciplinarian- he had little patience for poor workmanship or laziness, but he wasn’t a cruel employer. Nicknamed ‘Father Bosch’ by his associates, his intensity and dedication to his work was rooted in compassion; he was distinctly aware that the lives and wellbeing of his associates were inextricably tied to the success of his company. Walpole and Bosch are spectacular examples of positive leaders who have revolutionised the contemporary world, but we can all emulate aspects of positive leadership by making changes in our ‘day-to-day’.

Bosch UK Managing Director Vonjy Rajakoba maintains that we can all make a positive impact on the world around us by leading more sustainable lives.

Robert Bosch
Robert Bosch

Both Robert Walpole and Robert Bosch had the vision and courage to act today for a better tomorrow. Leadership and innovation are needed today as much as they have ever been- and if we don’t act now then the world in 300 years time will be unrecognisable.


Robert Walpole and Robert Bosch were both trailblazing activists and businessmen who had a decisive impact on the world around them at crucial turning points in history. While most of us are unlikely to become quite as prominent or powerful in our lives, we can still leave the world a better place than it was before us through our actions, learning from the way in which the positive leadership Walpole and Bosch maintained throughout their professional lives helped make the world around them fairer, kinder, and a better place to be.

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