Monday, 16 January 2023


Being promoted to a bigger job is not always the right move to make. In modern politics people ill equipped for a given role nonetheless greedily grab it. Because, they say, that’s what you do.

When Graham Potter left Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club where he earned a “meagre” £2 million a year for a £10 million job steering Chelsea to glory, many of us were sceptical. He was in a great position at Brighton inspiring a club he’d nurtured. He joined the lofty unknown of Chelsea. It was also unknown if he could do it, if his limitations might be exposed, if the players would recognise his authority. It was like going from provincial theatre to the West End before you’re quite ready.

Graham Potter says Chelsea manager is the 'hardest job in football' | The  Independent

Knowledgeable pundits said he couldn’t say “no” to this golden opportunity. Events are proving them wrong so far. He’s been “luckless” as the Times has said but also he seems out of his depth and lost. Chelsea isn’t just big it’s monstrous. It’s valued at just under $1 billion. It’s had 10 different managers in the last 10 years including Potter and it has 23 players “earning” over £2 million a year (3 of them over £15M.) It’s potty, Potter, as you’re discovering.

In my own career I was occasionally approached by people from much bigger companies trying to lure me to lead their broken, unwieldy businesses. In saying no I never regretted it because I knew the language they spoke was not my language. 

Jaguar Chauffeur Service London | Wilson Chauffeur

A colleague once took the CEO job at a huge multinational. The perks were great. Vast salary. Chauffeured Jaguar. City-centre skyscraper office. But it was a complete nerve-wracking disaster for him.

Boris Johnson was always self-evidently the wrong man for No.10. Wanting to be the top-dog is not a qualification for getting that job and doing it well. Read “Chums” by Simon Kuper to understand the psyche of this flippant, narcissistic scoundrel. 

Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson are linked by superpower fantasies

It's not easy building a leadership team and true leaders are hard to find. They need time, they need mentoring, they need modesty, the desire to learn, yes -  they also need luck but above all they need to believe they’re really up to the job and are focused on it.

I read about a job description recently for a job in the NHS, a well-paid “Director of Lived Experience” (what on earth is that?) who is “interpersonally talented and a strategic bridge-builder.” It occurred to me that opaque language like this goes a long way to disqualifying people from applying for jobs. But they’d be mighty miserable if they actually got the job and found themselves drowning in a morass of jargon.

Dr Philip Kiszely on Twitter: "Director for Lived Experience. £110K  starting salary. Rising to 115K with…well…lived experience, I suppose.  You're not allowed to question such drivel, BTW - it's 'our' sacred NHS!

I was once interviewed for a job I didn’t really want by people who, soon into the interview, I found I didn’t like. They asked me that dread question – “what do you think you’d bring to this job?” I thought and replied “a touch of levity perhaps”.

The Head of HR (sorry, the People Propagator) looked very shocked and the interview ended.

The mission of any business is to do what it does very well, profitably and to be adept at changing and improving. The leader’s role like the conductor of an orchestra is to recruit the best team, get the best out of them and constantly explore initiatives and new music to excite them, grow them and keep them on their toes.

Orchestra Conductor: What Does An Orchestra Conductor Actually Do?

The one thing a leader, conductor or surgeon shouldn’t be is light on experience. Real leadership is about people’s lives and their dreams. It’s not a game. 


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