Newspaper politics

Lessons in Genuine Leadership

Written by Louise Franklin, Project Leader. Opinions are her own.

Theresa May, Jacinda Adhern and Jeremy Corbyn – political preferences aside, who is the real leader here?

If there was ever a time when true leadership was called for it’s now – as the UK desperately tries to navigate Brexit.

The ramifications of leaving the European Union have been well documented. At the time of writing the UK has been granted a short extension beyond the 29th March deadline. People fear the National Health Service (NHS) running out of medicine, citizens are stockpiling essential items and the military is being put on standby. We really need the leaders of both the main political parties to embody true leadership qualities.

Leadership is what we all need whether in a company, government or UK plc, when the going gets tough. 

The ‘just a manager’: Theresa May. Though doggedly determined, the impression May gives is that of a manager not a leader. Her main focus is all around following process, some would say blindly and at the expense of leadership. Though no-one is denying she has a very difficult job, in stressful times certain kinds of individuals seek comfort in process and systems; and who can blame them? However, the reason we have a leader in role is they can see that something is bigger than themselves, even their own political party, and that they are self-aware enough to see how they themselves react under stress. 
In contrast to Theresa May, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, comes across as much more considered. Her clear values of humanity and tolerance shape her empathetic behaviours. She appears open to change if that is what is right and fits within the framework of her values.  As a result she seems less reactive and tends not to resort to knee jerk reactions.


The ‘non-leader’: Jeremy Corbyn – is not showing any leadership. At all. He has been avoiding the Brexit issue as he doesn’t agree with the EU in general. Though
some would argue he is staying true to his political beliefs, his actions (or in-action) is really the opposite of leadership, and he would benefit from focusing on the bigger picture. Is he protecting his legacy rather than the greater good?

Both scenarios are lacking in purpose. Without purpose how does a leader carry people along with them on the journey? How do they unify their team at a time when teams are under pressure? Purpose is what gets people behind you. It’s what makes people want to follow you.

In the case of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn and their lack of leadership, there isn’t anything unifying their party members, so splinter groups are formed. This exacerbates an already difficult situation.


The ‘true leader’: Jacinda Ardern. In contrast to the above leaders of the British mainstream parties respectively, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown genuine leadership in a time of great tragedy for her country. She is visible in time of need (she was seen visiting Christchurch almost immediately), respectful (she wore a headscarf when meeting with the victim’s families) and inspires trust by being credible (she has been quick to initiative gun law reform, impressively making it effective within a month of the atrocity). She communicates with great articulacy, showing compassion and connectedness with New Zealanders. 

Underlying it all is a sense that she has an impressive team behind her who are running a slick operation. This is not to take away from the importance of her authenticity and compassion – without those behaviours, she may not create the loyalty and support she receives. Behind every leader is a good team. UK politics has a lot to take on board.

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