Tuesday, 5 July 2016

A Leader? A Manager? A bit of both?

In the current turmoil in UK politics, this is a very topical discussion. 

There are a number of definitions – “leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this”

“The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate. The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate.”

“Leaders lead people: managers manage tasks.”

I was never quite sure where leadership ended and management began – can managers be leaders and vice versa - clearly there is overlap.  Leaders didn’t have to be good managers providing they were very self-aware and surrounded themselves with people who were good managers and to whom they would listen. Trying to assess which managers would make good leaders was more difficult. One clue was how much responsibility they took for their team’s performance and what they did about it and how creative they were. I still made a couple of bad mistakes!

I remember meeting Michael Dell (founder of Dell Computers) nearly twenty years ago when he spoke to a small group in Austin, Texas. His start-up career is well known and he said that they had been working in a hub and spoke management style – he was the hub and everything radiated out from him. He realized that this would not help the company grow so brought in very experienced non-executives and advisers to help him implement a management structure – the rest, as they say, is history.

The fallout from the Brexit vote dominates our lives – namely leadership issues in the Government, Labour Party and UKIP.  UKIP has only one seat in the House of Commons and he is a defector.  You could argue as their Leader did when he resigned that the purpose of the party was to leave the EU which is in train. Not sure what their raison d'être is moving forward. (These foreign words – they get in everywhere.)

Then the Government: pretty obvious that the PM would resign if he lost and a formal process was then in place. Bit of back-stabbing (and front-stabbing and then stamping on) on the steps of the Forum and Caesar (aka Boris Johnson) was down and Michael Gove was standing for Leader. Boris was a charismatic leader (his finest moment was the 2012 Olympics) but a hopeless manager and not aware enough to deal with it.

Not only did Gove sabotage Johnson (who isn’t actually dead but has retired hurt) but Gove is the man who offered “if anyone wants me to sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying I don’t want to be prime minister, then I’m perfectly happy to do that” he was very clear “I don’t want to do it and there are people who are far better equipped than me to do it” – not sure what changed in a few days.  (PS – for my foreign friends, UK laws are still written on parchment albeit it not in blood – it lasts forever.)

None of the candidates went to posh schools, they come from “ordinary” backgrounds and mostly had careers in the real world before entering parliament. Commentators seem to want someone who is perfect and has no historical baggage – that person doesn’t exist. It is a question of what we can live with.

I don’t know what will happen – especially in the current environment but the bookies are saying it will be between the two women – Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom.  Theresa May is not a charismatic leader but a leader she is, doesn’t duck the difficult questions but also doesn’t make it personal. She has gravitas, doesn’t hang out in the bars in Parliament, gossip and probably isn’t very clubbable – thank goodness. The next few years are going to be grinding – who do you want to see talking to Merkel, Tusk et al, the next President of the USA, leaders of China and India? She was a "remainer" but did not invoke durm and strang (sorry - foreign words again) but was very even-tempered during the campaign.

Andrea Leadsom is an unknown quantity – very personable, is that enough? She was very high profile in the "leave" campaign but has already watered down a couple of her statements. Wait and see. (I am not a member of a political party so don't have a vote.)

As for the Labour Party – I need to go and lie down in a darkened room first.  I am still trying to overcome my rage at the debacle of the launch of the report on anti-semitism and yesterday’s appearance of their Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in front of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Anti-Semitism.

Who knows what could happen before tomorrow.

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