PART 2 – What can recent political events teach us about leadership development?

July 11, 2017 1:18 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

leadership developmentIn my last blog, I concentrated on what we can learn from Jeremy Corbyn’s rise in popularity. However there are just as many lessons in Theresa May’s fall from grace.

It started with David Cameron asking a question to which there was only one correct answer in his mind. And in that moment, he underestimated the power of the ballot box, just as Ed Milliband had done the year before. The need to be in control is a massive human need, and the vote that so many of our ancestors fought to protect, is the main way we can show this on a national stage.

There has been much written about the reasons why the vote was to leave the EU. The power of democracy is that we will never truly know, as every person votes with their conscience and for different reasons. However I believe that the feeling of being out of control was a bigger reason than the belief that people didn’t want immigration. All the evidence I see is that we are one of the most successful multi-cultural nations in the world. Sure there are the minority who are at each end of the bigoted scale, but the feeling that we were losing control of our laws, our borders and our sovereignty I believe were greater reasons why the vote went the way it did.

Add into that, two campaigns that took fake news to new levels. The British people responded in typical fashion, by voting the opposite way they were expected to. Politicians aren’t the ones in ultimate control after all. David Cameron resigned, as he had to, given his complete attachment to the opposite result, and Theresa May took over. Most people thought that her first 9 months in charge was showing good leadership. She hadn’t coined the fated phrase at this time, but dare I say she was ‘strong and stable’. She didn’t agree with the result but resolutely started the journey to carry out the will of the people.

Opposition criticised her for not having a mandate from the people, but she carried on with the job, ignoring her critics. I guess only she knows what then possessed her to call a general election. Whether she listened to the wrong advice, got greedy or simply felt she couldn’t waste the opportunity to capitalise on Labour being in disarray and a twenty point lead in the polls.

Her fall was then faster than her rise. The media jumped on examples ‘U-turns’ and labelled her indecisive. Her ‘school ma’am’ demeanour went from strong and stable into cold and uncaring. Her decision to call an election was turned into an act of over confidence and ‘another example of Tory arrogance’ that started with the Brexit referendum. The fact that she got the biggest share of the vote since 1983 has been lost in the media disaster that was her election campaign, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Opinion, popular and unpopular, seem to say she has been mortally wounded and would appear to be a case of when, not if, she will face a leadership challenge within the party.

I suspect she is wondering ‘how on earth did I get here!’

My 5 lessons for Leaders

  1. Don’t rock the boat when you are ahead – keep focussed on the job in hand, and don’t overly worry about dissenters or competitors. Focus on what you can control.
  2. Don’t overly focus on the statistics and measurement – they are useful barometers but no more. When you start watching the scoreboard too much you start losing the match.
  3. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your leadership – there will always be people willing to massage it with suggestions of how you should behave and how good you are, but be true to yourself and stick to what you believe.
  4. Listen to your people and check your direction against what they say – if you ask the people doing the jobs what needs to be done they can usually tell you, if they think you genuinely want to know and will act upon it.
  5. Finally never lose your humility and think that the people who work for you aren’t in control – you need their engagement and loyalty to be an effective leader and if they lose trust in you it is impossible to get back.


If you would like to discuss how to refocus the leadership in your organisation call David Tomkinson on 07710 003029 or email

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This post was written by David Tomkinson

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