How’s Your Leadership Coalition Doing?

Political Coalition

We are told that on May 8th we will be governed by a group of people who have formed a coalition, from a number of parties, just as we have for the past five years, rather than a majority party. The difference seems to be that the minority parties who claim that they will hold the balance of leadership power are more extreme right and left-wing than the last coalition, which may result in, not just a disagreement on policies but a fundamental values clash. So how does leadership manifest itself in these circumstances? Is it just the strongest or loudest leaders that prevail, or is it down to something else?

There are many parallels to be drawn with businesses – much leadership has to happen without the comfort of hierarchy and permission. There is often a feeling that to achieve my agenda I have to step into someone else’s world and ‘tread on their toes’. However there is another way. Much of this occurs in our experience because there are other things going on – people have their own agendas rather than being authentic and working for a common good.

One CEO we worked with complained that his team were working in silos and told him what they thought he wanted to hear rather than what was really happening. We explored with him what had caused this and the urban myths that existed about what would happen if you admitted errors or failures. These myths actually referred to an experience with a previous CEO, but none of the Executive Team had adjusted their behaviour. By surfacing these concerns, building the relationships across the team and establishing the common ground that existed about the Future they all wanted to create, we got them working far more effectively and making much better decisions.

The only successful way to make a leadership coalition work is to have all parties in a Playing to Win mind-set rather than Playing to Avoid Losing. In other words ‘How great could this be, having different views and beliefs, in shaping a better future?’ rather than ‘How can I give as little away as possible to protect my position?’ There needs to be a culture of safety for this to happen, created by authentic leadership – one where strength is shown through appropriate levels of vulnerability and honesty.

Many think this is what has been lost in politics – we are no longer seeing the politicians as real people, rather as spin doctor creations who are afraid to deviate from the party line and tell us what they really think. It remains to be seen after the election what sort of coalition we will have. But in business, we can do things differently. If your leadership coalition isn’t working as well as you would like,  contact david.tomkinson@andpartnership.com on 07710 003029 for an initial conversation.