Two of the major political parties in the UK have gained new leaders this week.
On Monday, we learnt that Jo Swinson will take over from Vince Cable as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
And yesterday, in a result that was even less surprising, we were told that Boris Johnson has been chosen to lead the Conservative party and will, therefore, become our next prime minister today.
With the UK government facing unprecedented challenges affecting everyone in the UK, it’s an interesting time to reflect on what leadership means and what it requires. And to consider whether the requirements of a national leader differ to those of a team leader or organisation leader.
The answer, in my view, is no they don’t differ. Wherever they are, great leaders have a vision – they motivate people to move forward and realise opportunities they may not have been aware of.
But having a vision is only part of the story. I believe that great leaders must also demonstrate the ability to:
Communicate their vision authentically and honestly with passion and credibility.
Remove barriers to success by working constructively with others and finding solutions to shared problems.
Demonstrate integrity and inspire trust.
Look beyond the immediate problem.
Ask the difficult questions that lead to innovative ideas.
It will be interesting to watch these two new leaders over the coming months and see whose vision gains most traction and which leader most consistently demonstrates all of the above abilities.
Ultimately, I believe that key to their relative success might be their ability to work constructively with others in order to find solutions to shared problems (point 2 above). This is a vital leadership skill, which I believe it’s easy to overlook in a celebrity-led culture that is increasingly focused on individuals. But it really is key to success for any leader – it is impossible to achieve great results unless you carry your team with you. It was, for example, critical to Mo Mowlam’s success in bringing peace to Ireland or Nelson Mandela’s ability to unite a fractured country behind a shared vision.
And, in in our own little business, we could never have achieved the small success we have without having had a fantastic team of united people working constructively to overcome every setback and challenge we’ve faced over what will soon be 20 years!
Great leadership isn’t just about individual power – it’s about teamwork.
As you’d expect, there’s loads of great material on leadership in Trainers’ Library, and a great place to start is The Leadership Identikit. But I’d also strongly recommend taking a look at one of my favourite icebreakers, Sweet Talking, since it’s all about the importance of understanding the needs of the people you seek to lead. (If you'd like to know more about these, please get in touch.)
As always, all comments feedback and thoughts are welcome.