We have another UK General Election underway to select our next Prime Minister. And I am already struck by how much electioneering, and how much politics in general, is about the person – the leader – than it is about the policies and beliefs.
Is a candidate impressive, confident, does he or she look the part, sound the part? Are they admired? Liked? This is all what we see and hear…so much more than what they stand for, what they value or believe. Inevitably we form our opinions much more based on the candidates’ leadership style and much less about what they and their Party are doing.
A commentator at the last UK General election (I know…it was only two years ago) offered a very insightful opinion. ‘A Prime Minister has to be loved or respected to be successful. Tony Blair was loved and Margaret Thatcher was respected. Both were successful. The Leader of the Opposition’s biggest challenge is that no-one loves him and no-one respects him’.
Even now that sounds somewhere between judgemental and harsh…but the more I thought about it, the more truth there is in this assessment. For example, all political candidates try to improve public perception of their image in these two dimensions. We are continually being told how our leaders personally acted to avert an economic depression or international crisis (respect) and what a caring partner and parent he or she is (love). And you can always tell which tactic is resonating best in opinion polls…just observe the next photo opportunity.
This ‘Love or Respect’ concept can also be a great way to pass time. Simply identify recent (or current) political leaders as well and make your call on whether their approach is based on engendering Love or Respect….and then on how you would assess their intrinsic style.
Inevitably I have looked to apply Love or Respect’ concept outside of politics. To leaders in general for example…‘a leader has to be loved or respected to be successful.’ Well maybe a little strong. So how about…‘a leader has to be well liked or respected to be successful.
So does this work? Well the more I thought about it the better it seemed. Every successful leader I have come across – at any level and in any organisation – I would assess highly on one or other of the ‘Love or Respect’ dimensions.
Hopefully none of us come across ‘unsuccessful’ leaders but I did find myself thinking about individuals who can invest too much time and energy chasing whichever of these two traits they don’t have. For example, rather than being happy with respect, many aspire to be loved. And rather than being content at being well liked, we continually seek respect. As Malcolm Forbes once said…‘too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.’
We made Leadership announcements this last week across our sites. Decisions that are never personal, but that always impact people. These times are about people – friends and colleagues. People we know and love and respect. Some of whom will leave and some of whom will stay. In all cases though, individuals who have worked very hard and partnered very well to do their very best, and help their very most.
Leadership matters at times like these. Leadership by leaders for everyone and leadership by everyone for everyone. In truth though, it’s not so much about the people making announcements or communicating messages – although they have to do it well and do it right. It is all about the people who hear these messages. People we thank greatly, care about deeply and respect highly.
And always will…