Back off: When leadership’s all shook up, return to sender

One thing the leadership development sector likes is advising a struggling high-profile leader heading for meltdown. But it’s one thing to offer homilies, it’s another to make them relevant.

When a man called Elvis sends you tips on how Gordon Brown should take lessons from the private sector on leadership, you know you’d better listen up good boy, or else.

Well this Elvis, surname Moyo, acts on behalf of leadership training and development outfit Involve, whose clients include Slough’s finest, Mars, and financial services company Axa. So I guess they should know a thing or two about leadership.

Involve thinks it knows a thing or 10 to help Brown and his team (Team GB) get out of the terrible mess he’s helped UK plc get into. Here are some of their homilies for you to chew over while you watch the value of your shares and pension head south and your fuel bills north.

  • People fear a temper: Brown, who is always the epitome of cool and control in public, can lose it in private and, therefore, is feared rather than respected by his troops. To gain respect, a leader must develop a culture of accountability – which means Alistair Darling will be held accountable for unravelling GB’s economic miracle.
  • Show you value your team: To inspire, a leader must give credit for successes and good work – er, looks like Team GB will come up a bit short here.
  • Develop a clear vision: Always likely to be a touchy subject for Brown. But, say our leadership development gurus, Brown needs a clear vision for his party and what he stands for. “Blair had world-class public services and equal opportunities Thatcher had enterprise and a healthy private sector Brown needs something catchier than fiscal prudence.” That’s mostly b******s, of course, but how about credit crunch? That’s catching.
  • Sell the vision to the Cabinet: The CEO must have the top team on board to engage the organisation, says Involve – I guess they mean us. That’ll be a teambuilding and bonding weekend in Invercockupaleekie then.
  • Live in the present: Sounds good but it’s not really optional is it? You can live for the future but not in it. Still, as Involve puts it, “don’t hark back to past successes but focus on recent achievements and make sure there is strong evidence to support any claims.” Looks like it’s back to the past then for Team GB.

I’ll spare readers the rest of these leadership development homilies and leave one thought: they all sound pretty vacuous when it comes to managing a real crisis.

It’s a mist-ery

Autumn may have been the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness for John Keats but it’s a time of endless surveys for the TUC, which was spraying them out pre its annual conference.

One relates to requesting the right to training, which Team Gordon Brown is mulling over. Now, anyone worth their salt in training and L&D knows that opportunities to learn and acquire skills at someone else’s expense is an opportunity not to be missed. Which is why I’m puzzled as to why the TUC got so pumped up over results from its training survey.

This found that 71% of the 2,857 workers polled want the right to request paid time off for training. That means that a sizeable chunk of respondents either don’t want it or didn’t understand the question. Are these people totally lacking in ambition? Is it they can’t stand training? Or, are they idiots?

I fear many are in the latter category: 76% of those polled who had no formal qualifications supported the right to request training but only 56% said they would use it. So, if opportunity knocks, almost half will ignore it.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber may slag off those employers who do not provide training but perhaps he should also be concerned by evidence that suggests many workers don’t want it.

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