top of page

David Clutterbuck - the father of modern mentoring in Europe

Empowerment Coaching Krakow-David Clutterbuck Short Biography 1
photo source:

Professor David Clutterbuck is described as the father of modern mentoring. He is one of the most prolific writers on management in Europe. He has written about 70 books and hundreds of articles on mentoring, coaching, and the broadly understood subject of management and leadership.

Professor Clutterbuck is also a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold two consulting firms. He is an excellent and extraordinary public speaker, enjoying great interest all over the world. According to data available on the Internet, he has at least 2,000 instances in his account.

One of his most important goals today is to train a population of five million coaches and mentors for primary school children over five years. A beautiful vision!

Let's get to know his biography, achievements, and influence on today's shape of mentoring in Europe.

Prof. David Clutterbuck - Short Biography

Key Facts:

  • In the early 1980s, he introduced mentoring in Europe

  • He is a co-founder of the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) and is currently its Special Ambassador

  • Visiting professor at Henley Business School (Reading University), Sheffield Hallam, Oxford Brookes, and York St John University

  • He runs a global network of coaching and mentoring experts, Coaching and Mentoring International

  • He has a reputation for asking "massively difficult questions" that make people and organizations think

  • Every year he takes up a new challenge and learns something new (e.g. he was a stand-up comedian for one year)

  • Works with learners and socially disabled children and adults to promote social inclusion

  • He is also the author of short stories for children

  • He chairs the London School of Comedy research committee that studies the effects of laughter on social and wellness

  • He loves being a grandfather!

David Clutterbuck - early life and the start of discoveries

Clutterbuck was born in 1947 in London. He has one sister, Susan. In May 1970 (quite quickly!) He married Paulina. They have four sons, and their fourth child has both Down syndrome and a diagnosis of autistic syndrome. This explains why both David and his wife are actively involved in creating opportunities for people with special needs.

His first education was a BA in English Literature from Christ's College, Finchley.

Already in 1969, at the age of 22, he started his first job. He started as a journalist at the UK Government's Home Office, where he first edited a science journal for the British Nuclear Energy Society and then worked as a technology news editor at New Scientist.

Then he moved to McGraw-Hill as a managing journalist and here, as a representative of International Management magazine, he traveled the world and reported on good management practices.

In this role, he introduced many new ideas and management concepts to the Western world. Among them was what is now called 360 feedback. He discovered it in Russia, where it was designed by the communist trade union, the Komsomol, to keep managers in check.

David Clutterbuck and his business activities

Clutterbuck's first company was The Item Group, a boutique internal communication consultancy, founded in 1982. It was the only one to survive in the top five boutiques after the industry collapsed in the late 1990s. In 2002, when the business was back to profit, Clutterbuck hired a financial advisor to conduct a management buyout of the company. Then The Item Group was sold at a profit to another consulting firm.

At the same time, in the 1980s, David formed Clutterbuck Associates operating in the business journalist sector. During this time, he published two groundbreaking books that popularized his name and helped to grow the company. Ultimately, Clutterbuck Associates was sold to the US outsourcing corporation GP Strategies in 2008.

The first book, "The Winning Streak", written together with Walter Goldsmith, then CEO of the Institute of Directors, and published in 1985, sold over 100,000 copies.

Conceived as the UK version of In Search of Excellence by Peters and Waterman, it used a more robust research method to identify common features of high-performing listed companies.

In the next volume, "The Winning Streak Mark II", published in 1998, Clutterbuck and Goldsmith re-examined what happened to these companies over time, analyzing what it takes to stay on top.

The second book "Everyone Needs a Mentor" was a personal success for Clutterbuck. It was the first book on development mentoring to be published in Europe around the time Mentoring at Work was published in the United States by Kathy E. Kram. Kathy was a researcher at Boston University and had infected Clutterbuck with the subject of mentoring several years earlier. To date, the fifth edition of Clutterbuck's book has been published, and hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold around the world.

It is worth mentioning that these two mentoring books represent two different traditions and concepts of this development method.

In the European tradition, the mentor uses his wisdom to help the other person become smarter. In the American tradition, this role is muted by a more practical form of sponsorship. The language used in each case illustrates the difference: mentee (someone we help think about) versus protege (literally someone who is protected).

Clutterbuck has often referred to the metaphor that this difference concerns two distinct manifestations of the Goddess Athena: as the Goddess of Wisdom and as the Goddess of the Martial Arts.

David Clutterbuck and foundation of EMMC

In 1992, Clutterbuck collaborated with David Megginson to establish a European Mentoring Center at Sheffield Hallam University. The organization aimed to bring together scientists and practitioners to deepen knowledge and good practice in mentoring.

In 2002, coaching was also included, and EMC transformed into the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), currently the largest organization representing coaches and mentors in Europe.

Empowerment Coaching Krakow-David Clutterbuck Short Biography 2

At this point, Clutterbuck's path crossed the path of Sir John Whitmore, considered the father of business coaching, about whom we write separately in a dedicated column.

At EMCC, Clutterbuck has held a variety of roles, including Head of Research and now a Special Ambassador, responsible for supporting the development of new national divisions. In addition, in the 1990s, Clutterbuck's work, writing, and consulting increasingly involved corporate governance. He became an advisor to the British National School of Government, designing board appraisal processes and training newly appointed directors.

From 2000, he focused on the exploration of mentoring, coaching, team coaching, and talent management. He led the team developing the International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programs and a series of further studies on coaching and mentoring, many of which questioned the assumptions made so far. For example, the book "Beyond Goals - Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring", co-written with Susan David and David Megginson, paints a much more complex picture of the goal-setting process and its achievement.

The authors write in it, among others:

What is there in developmental relationships beyond setting and striving to achieve goals? The presence of goals in coaching and mentoring programs has gone largely unquestioned, yet evidence is growing that the standard prescription of SMART, challenging goals is not always appropriate - and even potentially dangerous - in the context of a complex and rapidly changing world. Beyond Goals advances standard goal-setting theory by bringing together cutting-edge perspectives from leaders in coaching and mentoring. From psychology to neuroscience, from chaos theory to social network theory, the contributors offer diverse and compelling insights into both the advantages and limitations of goal pursuit. The result is a more nuanced understanding of goals, with the possibility for practitioners to bring greater impact and sophistication to their client engagements. The implications of this reassessment are substantial for all those practicing as coaches and mentors, or managing coaching or mentoring initiatives in organizations

In 2007, Clutterbuck published "The Talent Wave", the result of four years of interviews with HR professionals and others that answered the following questions:

"If HR practice in succession planning and talent management works, why do the wrong people hit the top so often?"

The study found that a large part of HR practices contributed to the problem by adopting a simple, linear systemic approach to complex, adaptive systems that threaten the employer-employee relationship. This book later evolved the concept of system talent management in organizations.

"Coaching the Team at Work", published in the same year, was aimed at collecting the evidence base for the emerging discipline of team coaching, combining both academic literature and the experience of good business practices.

David Clutterbuck and his PERILL model

The developed model was then thoroughly revised in 2018 and resulted in the creation of the PERILL Model taking into account the functions and dysfunctions of the team. PERILL stands for:

  1. Purpose and Motivation,

  2. External Processes (stakeholder interactions),

  3. Relationships,

  4. Internal Processes,

  5. Learning Processes

  6. Leadership

and in this model, all six elements form a complex, adaptive system.

Empowerment Coaching Krakow Blog-David Clutterbuck-Short-Biography 3

During the Coach Assessment Center, a coach maturity model was developed based on the observation of hundreds of coaches. The model proposes that coaches evolve through stages of identifying and perceiving their work and themselves.

  • At the earliest stage, they do client coaching.

  • As they increase their confidence and their skills, they evolve into coaching with clients. Thanks to extensive reflection on their practice, they go to the stage where they integrate what they do as a coach with who they are as human beings.

  • Eventually, they evolve into the "systemic eclectic" phase, where "they hold the client, while the client has the conversation they need to have with themselves". "

Each stage requires successive levels of socio-emotional and cognitive maturity in the Coach.

Among other books written by Professor Clutterbuck, we can find such titles as: "The Leader's Guide to being coached", "Powerful Questions for Coaches and Mentors", "Powerful Questions for team coaches", "Making the Most of developmental mentoring", and even the title "Writing your first book".

As you can see, David Clutterbuck is a versatile, talented person with an extremely sharp mind. He is also famous for his sense of humor and inexhaustible energy.

The mere fact that at 70, he set himself the goal of creating a population of five million coaches and mentors supporting children worldwide speaks for itself.

What characterizes a good mentor

Finally, I invite you to watch a 3-minute film in which Professor David Clutterbuck tells what a good mentor should be like, in particular, what competencies a good mentor should have.

Prof. David Clutterbuck - Honors and Awards

  • No. 1 Coach for Impact on European Coaching by Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50

  • Coaching at Work magazine’s First Mentor of the Year, 2011

  • Amongst the top 15 of HR Most Influential by HR Magazine, 2012, 2013

  • Honorary doctorate from Sheffield Hallam

  • Honorary doctorate Oxford Brookes University

  • Visiting fellow, Stirling University

  • Visiting fellow, Puttridge Bury

  • Scholar in residence, Wolfsburg, Switzerland, 2006

  • Visiting professor, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Visiting professor, Oxford Brookes University

  • Visiting professor, York St John University

  • Visiting professor, Henley Business School











  10. "The people champions: HR's Most Influential 2012",


See also other biographies:

540 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page