Political Leadership: Revisited

At a time the country needs strong political leadership, I look again at the characteristics we need from our next Prime Minister.

political leadership

The political leadership question is back on the agenda again. In June 2017 we had a General Election in the UK. I published an article at that time, ‘Leadership: Your Vote Counts’, inviting readers to decide which of our would-be political leaders best matched eleven business leader characteristics.

The winner of that Election was Theresa May of the Conservative Party, albeit it with a reduced majority. Since then she has struggled to implement the result of our 2016 National Referendum and take the UK out of the European Union. Mrs May resigned in early June and since then there has been frenzied activity in the Conservative Party to select a new leader. This person will not only be the leader of the Party, they will also be our new Prime Minister. Are you with me so far?

Leadership Election

The initial selection process was in the hands of 313 Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs). They took ten initial candidates down to two. In the final stage the Conservative Party membership select a Leader and Prime Minister from the final two. As I write, there are estimated to be 160,000 paid up members who are participating in this final selection. Who will they select to be the new resident of that famous address: 10 Downing Street?

Leadership Characteristic

For this election I’ve come up with a different set of characteristics with which to judge the political leadership capability of our two candidates. I looked at research on the political leadership characteristics of two of our most notable post-war Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. This is not just a random choice on my part. A YouGov survey of the greatest Prime Ministers since 1945 conducted in May 2019 placed Margaret Thatcher number one with 21% of the votes just ahead of Winston Churchill with 19%. Read more to see what I discovered …..

Who are the final two would-be Political Leaders?

Boris Johnson MP is a former Mayor of London and currently a back bench MP. Jeremy Hunt MP is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Boris Johnson & Jeremy Hunt

Political Leadership

Here are the political leadership capabilities we in the UK should be looking for from our next Prime Minister.

  • BELIEF: conviction, authentic, honest and a moral compass.
  • CONFIDENCE: having well formed opinions and clear goals.
  • COURAGE: being decisive and taking action, seek and speak the truth.
  • COLLABORATION: carry people with you against a vision, whilst welcoming debate and push back, empathy and engagement.
  • COMMITMENT: driven by strong personal values, set goals and see them through despite opposition and barriers.
  • DETERMINATION: ‘not for turning’.
  • PASSION: fight for the key policies you believe in.
  • PERSISTENCE: ‘never give up’.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING: forge strong political alliances and personal relationships.
  • RESILIENCE: rise from the ashes in order to inspire hope for others .
  • VISIBLE COMMUNICATION: influential with gravitas – being seen by and with the people.

So my list consists of 11 items again. These are quite different to the 11 criteria for spotting future business leaders I featured in my ‘Leadership: Your Vote Counts’ article two years ago. For this leadership election my ambition is that people will be scrutinizing the two candidates against my new political leadership capabilities. I commend the ‘Further Reading’ below to the two candidates – especially the article by Sir Anthony Seldon The 10 leadership tricks that make a successful British prime minister. My country needs and deserves strong political leadership at this time!

Quotes from Margaret Thatcher:

  • “Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.”
  • “If you lead a country like Britain, a strong country, a country which has taken a lead in world affairs in good times and in bad, a country that is always reliable, then you have to have a touch of iron about you.”
  • “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”
  • “There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors… I mean it.”
  • “I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”
  • “I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air.”

Quotes from Winston Churchill:

  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
  • “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
  • “All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope.”
  • “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

Further reading:

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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