The Political Leadership Question: Who Governs Britain?

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

Number 10 Downing Street

The political leadership question is back on the agenda. This time it’s more important than ever. This time we decide who will govern Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the next five years. Who will resolve Brexit, unite the country and build a prosperous economy for the future.

In June 2019 I published an article Political Leadership Revisited outlining the eleven leadership characteristics with which to judge the political leadership capability of the two candidates who sought to be leader of the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson won that election and succeeded Theresa May as Prime Minister. Who could have predicted just five months later Mr Johnson would find himself in a position where he needed to call a General Election to settle the question of who governs Britain. This is the political leadership question.

The leadership election in June 2019, when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, was settled by just 160,000 members of his party. In the General Election on 12th December 2019 there will be about 46 million people eligible to vote in 650 parliamentary constituencies. Who will they select to be the new resident of that famous address at 10 Downing Street London SW1? Who will they vote for, and how will they choose their Member of Parliament, the Political Party they will back and who they want as their next Prime Minister? This is a complex subject at a crucial time in our nation’s history. There are a lot of factors to consider. But since my job is write about leadership, I once again offer a set of characteristics by which to judge the political leadership capability of the two candidates seeking to be the next Prime Minister.

Leadership Characteristics

For the General Election I’ve added one item to my previous list and come up with a dozen leadership characteristics to look for. The first 11 were research from the political leadership characteristics of two of our most notable post-war Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. For this article I’ve also looked at the leadership characteristics of two additional post war Prime Ministers – Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. For item number 12 – ‘Team Building’ – I’ve called on my experience as a leadership assessor, coach and trainer.

Who are the would-be Prime Ministers?

Boris Johnson is the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition. The political leadership question – which one will become our new Prime Minister on 12th December?

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

Political Leadership

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

  • BELIEF: having a vision you believe in backed up by strong conviction, authenticity, honesty and a moral compass.
  • CONFIDENCE: having well formed opinions and clear goals; staying in touch with other people’s needs and perspectives; no compromises.
  • COURAGE: being decisive, bold and taking action; seeking and speaking the truth.
  • COLLABORATION: carrying people with you against a vision; welcoming debate and push back; empathy and engagement; taking decisions with trusted advice.
  • COMMITMENT: being driven by strong personal values; setting goals and seeing them through despite opposition and barriers.
  • DETERMINATION: ‘not for turning’; confronting destabilising forces and people.
  • PASSION: fighting for the key policies you believe in.
  • PERSISTENCE: ‘never give up’.
  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING: forging strong political alliances and personal relationships; building bridges with people who hold alternative views.
  • RESILIENCE: rising from the ashes in order to inspire hope for others .
  • VISIBLE COMMUNICATION: influential with gravitas; being seen by and with the people.
  • TEAM BUILDING: selecting the right people and guiding the team to become an efficient and cohesive functioning unit.

My experience in the business world leads me to believe selecting and building a strong Top Team is crucial to leadership success. You are the sum of your people. Their success is your success. Here are the Top Teams offered by each of the party leaders. Of course this may well change once the General Election is over. That’s politics!

LeaderBoris JohnsonJeremy Corbyn
ChancellorSajid JavidJohn McDonnell
Home SecretaryPriti PatelDiane Abbott
Foreign SecretaryDominic RaabEmily Thornberry

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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