Lessons on Leadership From the Election: Not having a closed shop?
Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill were Theresa May’s key advisers in her flawed election campaign where she succeeded in scraping a hung parliament from the jaws of a vastly increased majority. There are some important lessons in leadership that we can all learn from the Conservative campaign and I intend to write a blog everyday this week on those lessons.
During April of this year, Theresa May, most would say came over as a very credible leader, it was reported on the 11th April that she had a 37 point lead over Jeremy Corbyn and only 38% of labour supporters preferred to see him in Downing Street, whilst 29% actually saw her as a better proposition to lead the country as Prime Minister. Then out of nowhere she announced the snap election for June 8th, apparently decided as she walked the hills in Snowdonia and her position as a leader suddenly came under much greater scrutiny.
Theresa May relied on two key advisers who had worked with her since her tenure as Home Secretary as her joint chiefs of staff, however, both had fallen before because of their strongly held views. Both were reinstated as part of Theresa May’s campaign for Tory leadership and both followed Theresa May into number 10 as a result of that success. They were instrumental in who gained access to her and they were a tight team with fixed views. They lacked flexibility, allies and listening skills and apparently became aggressive when challenged.
Choosing the right team:
As a leader choosing your team is key to your effectiveness and it is here where diversity is key. Leaders need to have their opinions and ideas challenged in order to create credible arguments for them to use. Leaders need to be approachable so new ideas and allies can reach them and support them.
Flexibility and compassion:
Leaders need to be flexible in their approach in order to be able to adapt to their situation so they can deliver the right style of leadership to match the situation. Leaders need to be human and fallible in order to show that they are just like the rest of us. Leaders need to show compassion even when setting direction in order to win over their doubters. Jeremy Corbyn showed all of these and that is why his campaign was so much more effective than Theresa Mays. It is also true that he gave voters a feeling of hope, the younger voters especially are tired of being told what to do by politicians that are seemingly out of touch with their electorate.
Next steps for May:
Relying on a closed team with fixed views that had already been found out once was a flaw in Theresa May’s approach. She needed to show compassion, flexibility, humanity in order to win over both the voters and her party. Demonstrating strong and stable leadership is admirable, especially in times of crisis and volatility but without listening to others, engaging with other points of view and allowing one’s self to be challenged, you are heading for a fall.
It is now key that she sharpens her leadership and engages with her wider team in order to take on Europe’s best.