What Type of Leaders do we Really Want?
‘You choose your leaders and place your trust/As their lies wash you down and their promises rust’ (Paul Weller)
What do we expect from our managers and leaders? Judgement and insight, or conviction and ideology?
It’s a question raised in Jonathan Freedland’s weekend piece Chris Huhne, David Cameron and the RBS boss don’t have it, but Al Gore did – asking whether we prefer jaw-jutting certainty to thoughtful judgement in our business and political leaders.
A weighty question. I guess most of us want decisive leaders and managers, the kind of people who know how to sort things out and get things done. And people who can read the signs and adapt. Yet is that what we get?
Freedland asks if it’s right that the RBS chairman says “I think it’s true that we underestimated the scale of the public reaction to the bonus award” – a poor judgement call. After all, shouldn’t someone with his experience and insights have known that? He also raises similar questions over the judgement of Mandelson and Greenspan, both admitting that they didn’t foresee the economic mess that we were heading in to…even though the signs were there. Certainly strong enough signs and warnings that should merit investigation from people who hold high office, and reap the rewards that come with it.
Business examples appear regularly – take the recent Kodak example. Why didn’t the people at the top see that their market was changing and that they were ill equipped to survive? Whose job is it to hold them to account – shareholders or employees? Or was their confidence (even optimism) enough to satisfy those who relied on their judgement for their income.
With high pay and rewards very much on the public’s agenda maybe it’s a good time to ask what type of leaders we expect for those rewards. Are we happy to believe in the conviction leader who asks us to trust their judgement? The alpha confidence as Freedland calls it.
Or are we really looking for sound judgement, which probably brings a less self-assured tone with it?
What do you think?