Monday, 2 May 2022


Leadership’s been a hot topic recently. From Boris Johnson to Joe Root. The Ukrainian leader, Zelensky, from being ignored by EU leaders has become a global hero. Mr Bean to Superman in under a month. In contrast Putin has seemed remote and callous.  But I’m not sure that’s how most Russians would see him. To many of them, I suspect he's a strong, ruthless, very Russian leader – as leaders should be as opposed to that “decadent Zelensky.”

We’re short of leadership skills here in the West. How bad? This bad. 

Watch: Did Donald Trump really walk out of explosive interview with Piers  Morgan? Here's the truth - World News

Donald Trump on Talk TV, the new Piers Morgan channel, seemed more in touch with the nasty world we really live in. But remembering the clever advertisement the Kennedy’s ran to discredit Nixon, we can apply the same question to Trump (and to Boris) “would you buy a used car from this man?”  It’s a brilliantly pointed question about trustworthiness.

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Rather than looking at today’s leaders I’ve reflected on leaders whom I’ve known in my working life. Some of them memorable for their sadistic or otherwise character flawed eccentricities. There was one who had a glove puppet who did his dirty work. “I’m terribly sorry but Sooty says you’re fired”. He was an insomniac who phoned his executives at midnight saying: “get over here now we need to talk”. Did it end badly for this fellow? No, I’m afraid he made tons of money and was hugely successful. Being nice isn’t always the answer then.

Another had a very short fuse. Following yet another row he left in such a rage that in a futile exit from the car-park he battered his car from wall to wall until it slumped clanking to the ground.

This Is The Aftermath Of The World's Most Expensive Car Crash | Nafterli's  Car World

Another had obviously read a book that said be aggressive and always interrupt and keep on prodding people until they give in. He liked holding court in ten hour meetings. Finally there was a genius who was also a megalomaniac who loved and loathed his people depending on whim. He ended up years later in prison having squandered his riches on addictions.

Many so-called leaders were in it just for themselves and let the idea of leadership go their heads enjoying the terror their presence struck in their employees.

But there were also great guys who said – when appropriate – “thank you.” People who cared about you and your family. People you liked.

Peter Mead leads tributes to David Abbott

Salute the guys who founded Britain’s most successful advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers. Peter Mead wrote a book “When in doubt be Nice” – it worked for him and his partners. It was their creative head, Abbott, though, who crafted the culture based on being nice and being kind.  But it was also demanding and did excellent work. They were winners.

The idea of Level Five Leaders was created by Jim Collins in his seminal book “From Good to Great”. He described them as leaders who displayed  a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will. Good stuff…. but leaders must be winners to survive. Winning comes first. Doing so with courtesy and thoughtfulness is a wonderful bonus.   

Perhaps the era of strong, autocratic leaders like Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt have come to an end. But “Mr/Ms Nice Guy” can’t simply replace them. We still need tough decision makers, leaders who demand excellence and set strong examples about succeeding and growing too. We need civilized winners and better role models.

Ruth Davidson - Building a stronger future for Britain
From The Eyelashes To The Cagoule, Plus The Anti-Government Anger:  Suddenly, We All Fancy Andy Burnham | British Vogue

So, what if pragmatic, credible leaders like Andy Burnham and Ruth Davidson were running the two main parties in the UK?

Ultimately, we deserve better people like them as well as better leaders.

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