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Worst Practice Leadership Amongst the Political Classes

Gloria Moss

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Control or freedom to listen?

Britain is beset by contradictory tendencies. Its parliament refuses to attend to the voices of the 17.4 million that, by a decent margin, voted for Brexit while a handful of remarkable organisations take the art of listening to new heights. The results?

At a macro level, GDP in the three months to November 2018 slowed from growth of 0.4% to 0.3%, with a further drop to growth of 0.2% in the three months to January 2019 (by way of comparison, American GDP grew by 3.1% in 2018). What is more, the GfK Consumer confidence reached a low of -13 in March 2019, 8 points lower than at the time of the Brexit vote with consumer fears over global trading prospects. Moreover, the CBI Business Optimism Indicator for the UK fell to -13 in the second quarter of 2019, from a high of nearly 20 following Brexit.

Best practice away from Parliament

While Britain’s Parliament remains deaf to the voice of the people and economic indeces continue to tumble, some remarkable organisations in Britain are scaling dizzying heights by turning away from the autocratic, self-important behaviours typical of so many Remainer MPs to something vastly more inclusive.

Sevenoaks School, judged top of Britain’s independent schools in both 2008 and 2018, achieved a remarkable grade average in its international Baccalaureate exams in 2018 of 39.5 out of a maximum point score of 45; significantly, the leadership style is highly inclusive with the Head, Dr Katy Ricks commenting that she ‘hates being told what to do’ and tries to remember that others may feel the same way. She appears to be true to her word since a colleague commented on how inclusive she is, with strong listening skills, a focus on encouraging autonomy and creating a shared vision, and factoring everyone’s views into her decisions even when she is in the minority.

This is a world away from the style of the Prime Minister who put her EU deal to the vote no fewer than three times.

Other shining lights include the giant recruitment firm, PageGroup and Royal Mail Sales where MDs share offices with staff, listening and building what they hear into new ways of working. The 40,000 employee Network Rail too where this listening and inclusive mindset can build bridges with customers and the SME property asset management firm, APAM, now part of a multi-billion pound operation just eight years from start-up. In terms of individuals who stand out as inclusive leaders, these include Alex Ferguson, the football legend who, in his 26 years as Manchester United Manager, achieved twice as many domestic and international trophies as the next-most-successful English football team manager. Also remarkable was Colin Marshall, under whose leadership the fortunes of British Airways were transformed in the 1990s, creating a workplace that led a former Customer Service Manager to speak of Marshall’s tenure as creating ‘the best working years of our lives’.

Aside from their British origins – an encouraging factor in discussions of Brexit – the uniting feature of these disparate organisations is Inclusive Leadership, the subject of a new book by myself exploring how this winning style of leadership is practised in business, education, sport, commercial aviation and the army. The book also explores the perils of sticking to traditional autocratic or ‘transactional’ leadership, a topic which takes us back to Parliament and beyond.

Why Parliament’s autocratic leadership spells disaster

In the video that accompanies the book, the former director of Sales of the Royal Mail Group and now Chair of the Association of Professional Sales, Graham Davis, states that Inclusive Leadership is about listening and that ‘once you’ve listened, because you haven’t got all the good ideas, you need to demonstrate that you’ve listened by changing things. People need to feel that they’re included’. It follows that Parliament’s failure to listen to the views of the 17.4 people who wanted a clean break from the EU not only puts a stop on change, producing stagnation, but also excludes over half the adult voting public from the so-called democratic process.

According to the MD of PageGroup, Sandra Hill, female Leader of the Year at the 2015 Women in Business awards and also featuring in the video, a 360 degree feedback process at PageGroup ensures that leaders are measured against inclusive leadership competencies. So where, you might ask, are these checks on MPs’ behaviour? Should they not be accountable to their constituencies as also senior leaders of public sector bodies such as local authorities, schools, universities, the police and the NHS? Doing this would merely be to follow Best Practice Human Resource Management.

If there were any doubts as to the perils of autocratic or transactional leadership, then the examples in the book should put pay to that. There is the case of Lord Greenbury of Marks and Spencer, the first retailer to top the £1bn profit mark but at the expense of valued staff and tacit know-how, precipitating the dramatic drop in the company’s profits from £1.15billion to £0.14bn over the period 1998-2001. Ironically, the words embroidered on a cushion in his office read ‘I have many faults, but being wrong is not one of them’.

At about the same time, in France, Jean-Marie Messier was turning French utility company General des Eaux into a media empire through the acquisition in 2000 of Canal Plus and Seagram at a cost of £100bn and it was not long before the French multi-media giant Vivendi experienced massive losses. Only time will tell where finally the riots in France will lead, a reaction in part to Macron’s autocratic style and protesters’ exclusion from the political process.

The book shows how the British Civil Service now appraises managers not just on their results but how these have been achieved, a move that has reversed the previously high levels of stress-related absence. Other sectors have yet to follow suit, with senior academics in Higher Education showing how this still functions with autocratic leadership, leading one Professor in a well-regarded University to speak of ‘a mismatch between staff expectations of University life and the reality of this’. Separate research evidence points to a mismatch too with student expectations given students’ strong preference for approachable rather than autocratic leaders across the hierarchy.

The road to excellent: inclusive leadership

In fact, there is a tried and tested antidote to autocratic leadership, namely inclusive leadership. Not only is it deployed in successful organisations but research I have led in both industry and education has shown its remarkable benefits. For, in surveys of employees in major organisations, and university students in the UK and Norway, there is a remarkably high correlation between the perceived presence of Inclusive Leadership across the hierarchy and enhanced self-perceptions of employees’ or students’ own productivity, engagement and mental well-being.

With autocratic leadership in the British Parliament and the French Presidency leading to poor economic performance or civil unrest, who could possibly ask for more? Fortunately, the solution is ready to hand and with a solid track record to provide confidence in its application. In fact, to persist with autocratic leadership in these circumstances is, in Shakespeare’s words, ‘mere folly’.

Gloria Moss PhD is Professor of Management and Marketing. She has a background as a Training and Development Manager in blue chip companies including Eurotunnel, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and author of ‘Inclusive Leadership’ (Routledge), published on 30 April.
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Some Random Passer-b
Reader
Some Random Passer-b

I’d have to ask the author why they felt the need to include the Army? This being an organisation that is rife with bullying, a senior management team that’s not only detached by privilege but by physical space also and that has had more than several of it’s employees commit suicide.

The recent events involving posters of Corbyn being shot at by a VIP escort training facility, and a gang rape (allegedly including a fairly senior NCO) highlights that it only ever “listens” when the horse has passed into the next county.

mark
Reader
mark

A lot of racism as well in my experience. Atrocities, if only on a fairly small scale, murder and torture of prisoners, mistreatment of civilians, death squads, support of terrorist proxies – all pretty much routine in Ireland/ Iraq/ Afghanistan and many other places over the past 30-40 years. A lot of things that are far worse as well but which have largely remained hidden. You can’t do all these things and build a pink and fluffy politically correct organisation. In that kind of environment, things like the Deepcut suicides/ murders, rapes, abuse of all kinds, just go with the… Read more »

Tim Jenkins
Reader
Tim Jenkins

MANY A TRUE WORD SAID IN JEST & privilege . . . A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She reduced altitude and spotted a man below. She descended a bit more and shouted: “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago but I don’t know where I am”. The man below replied “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude”. “You must be an engineer.”… Read more »

Rhisiart Gwilym
Reader
Rhisiart Gwilym

Scott ‘Dilbert’ Adams, Dmitry ‘Five Stages Of Collapse’ Orlov, and commenter Mark right here on this thread all have experience of large commercial outfits suffering autocratic top-down management. All are equally scathing about its efficacy, Dilbert hilariously so. Surely the testimony of survivors from the sharp end of this dismal socio-legal arrangement have more credibility – and more actual experience in the nether parts of the beast’s belly, than an obviously toryoid academic. Has Gloria ever had experience down there? Prolonged? With the constant terror of unemployment and instant near-destitution lashing her into silent compliance? Or has all her research… Read more »

peasant43
Reader
peasant43

Stockholm Syndrome. offg openly acknowledge operating at a loss. Their first post is from an establishment hack peddling his/her/their/zir’s book. Sometimes the bird-like thing quacking in your ear really is a duck.

Gezzah Potts
Reader

Interesting article, but as someone sympathetic to the ideals of Anarchism, why do we need leaders in the first place? Are we not capable of leading ourselves? Just wanted to say tho, the new site is brilliant, and like it very much. I’m grateful there are sites like OffGuardian we can vent on! You don’t have to like every article on here, or agree with everyone. I take what I like and leave the rest. Congrats guys on the new site.

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

With all due respect, I am genuinely interested in what “leading ourselves” could possibly mean. Some people just like leading, while others, just as naturally, like to follow and support someone they consider to be a competent leader. But how will we ever confront the element of human nature in all of this leading-and-following theory? Ban it? I consider it no coincidence that the Bible refers to the masses as “the flock”, and I think we all know how good sheep are at leading themselves… My own conclusion is that a real upheaval in human thinking and consciousness is not… Read more »

Gezzah Potts
Reader

Sorry wardropper, missed this reply. I meant why do we need politicians, rulers, hierarchy? I take your points on human nature, and admit I can be somewhat ‘utopian’ in my line of thinking. And yes, agree, there are those who wish to lead, there are those who wish to control. But where has the current system got us? We are deeply in the poop with hardly any paddles. The Earth is being pillaged and raped for the pathological greed of a few, there are entire countries ravaged by war, there is ever growing destitution and poverty, even in the ‘developed… Read more »

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

Thanks Gezzah, I think we are in complete agreement on what has gone wrong. It’s not so easy to point the finger at precisely what caused the rot in the first place, but it might not be more complicated than just a few very greedy people getting together and deciding that they want to own everything. It might be interesting to know what percentage of the human population think like that, but it looks as if we will always be stuck with them… I also think idealistically from time to time, since I am fortunate enough to have had what… Read more »

Fair dinkum
Reader
Fair dinkum

Leaders.
Where would we be without them?
Genghis Khan, Cortez, Henry 8th, Churchill, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Bush 1&2, Thatcher, Howard, Blair, Clinton, Trump ad nauseum.
In paradise?

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

Several years ago I read an article by a psychiatrist, who stated that the urge to control other people is, in fact, psychotic, and he included in that definition all politicians who think that by controlling others they are improving society.
I remember that article often…

Mucho
Reader
Mucho

Way to go OffGuardian, what rebels you are, kicking off the new site with an ultra corporate article about ultra corporate tossers and their diseased influence in the world. Lovely focus on Satanoaks too, very mwah! Here’s some wisdom from Bill Hicks, to add balance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHEOGrkhDp0 “Gloria Moss PhD is Professor of Management and Marketing. She has a background as a Training and Development Manager in blue chip companies including Eurotunnel, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and author of ‘Inclusive Leadership’ (Routledge), ” How utterly nauseating. “She appears to be true to her… Read more »

Mucho
Reader
Mucho

From the Nestle website. “Our purpose Nestlé’s purpose is enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. We want to help shape a better and healthier world. We also want to inspire people to live healthier lives. This is how we contribute to society while ensuring the long-term success of our company. ” They sell instant, ultra processed coffee, KitKat and Lion bars laden with processed sugar and vegefats (known carcinogens) and Nesquik. They used to have a section about shared values too, I guess I linked to it too many times to expose it. This is the… Read more »

Ben Trovata
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Ben Trovata

If he met his reputation,Robt. Townsend was a walking phenomena who made jobs fit their occupiers. [C.f.,”The Dictator” ]If you’re interested his book ‘Up TheOrganization’ explains this better!

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

The first point of acceptable management is management demonstrating boundaries. Every manager must be required on a weekly basis to audit which employees they have put under surveillance, the modality of that surveillance and whether or not consent for it has been obtained. I have worked for any number of self-righteous surveillance operatives, none of whom had obtained my consent for putting me under surveillance in my own home, namely hacking computers, bugging phones and also having access to credit card/debit card transactions of my personal accounts (I never possessed a company credit card). These criminals all had blue chip… Read more »

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

The problem is basically stupidity, and there still doesn’t seem to be a cure for that. The same people who will collect outside a royal palace to hear the news that everybody has already seen on the Internet (“Woman Has Baby!”… pace Private Eye) will happily support their neighbour’s campaign to become an MP, based on nothing more than a sentimental feeling that it would be “nice” to live next door to an MP. That’s how the rot starts, and if your neighbour was educated at Eton, then you’ve got terminal leadership in your society. As I said, no cure.… Read more »

Gezzah Potts
Reader

Wardropper: people are fearful of the unknown, they’re more comfortable with what they’ve always known, what they were bought up with – think comfort blanket, and probably the most important of all; the full blown propaganda that there is no viable alternative to what already exists. Oh, and then there’s the not so little issue about the Anglo Saxon superiority complex as well. Just my thoughts.

wardropper
Reader
wardropper

Absolutely, Gezzah. But my definition of stupidity would include more than just those who have a genetically restricted DNA code. Laziness comes in there too – the sort of deliberate dullness of people who just can’t be bothered to think – not even in their quieter moments…

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘inclusivity’ included putting members of the General Public under electronic surveillance, which is basically criminality.

Sir Alex Ferguson was very successful, but you should view somewhat more skeptically whether or not he was a saint…..

Yarkob
Reader
Yarkob

He also assaulted one of his players with a football boot. The MSM celebrated his management style. Imagine if the Orange Man threw a shoe at somebody who worked for him…

Mucho
Reader
Mucho

Watch the shoe throwing sensei at work. My favourite President, the leader of leaders, GW Bush

peasant43
Reader
peasant43

OffGauradian’s gone MSM already.

advertorial (noun)

an extended newspaper or magazine text advertisement that promotes the advertiser’s product or services or special point of view but resembles an editorial in style and layout.

ruffle
Reader
ruffle

That’s it.

Good bye then to the site which once introduced me to what is called alternative media. It has opened my mind when I dropped the Grauniard in disgust after Kiew 2014.

I suppose 5 years is a life span for a site like this and it certainly has been unnerving for the original authors.
So, thank you!

I have come a long way in the meantime and will cope without book promotions.

Think, I will take a look at what is on here ocassionally.

peasant43
Reader
peasant43

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — Gloria Moss MA, FCIPD, PhD, is an expert on the way that staffing your organisation with people who are in tune with your customers can massively improve the bottom line. She advises companies on Diversity issues… She brings many years of practical experience of helping organisations… Read more »

mark
Reader
mark

It’s not surprising that Sevenoaks School produces good results. It’s one of the most prosperous, upper crust areas in the country. Sevenoaks isn’t that notorious for its pub fights. The worst anti social behaviour you get there is loutishly passing the port from the wrong side. It’s a little bit different from Brixton and Moss Side, and I’ve worked in all three. I’ve worked in many organisations over the years and experienced all the permutations of the top down, vacuous, platitudinous “people are our greatest asset”, “we value your contribution”, HR bulls**t. Nobody takes it seriously. You just switch off,… Read more »

mark
Reader
mark

Some people think this is too negative, but actually it’s not. It’s the Orlov solution. Don’t waste your time and energy on pointless things like joining the Labour Party. Refuse to take part. Deprive these people of the oxygen of legitimacy. Concentrate on what is important. Take care of yourself and the people around you. Form connections with people locally that are actually productive, if only on a small scale, like food banks and (strictly non mainstream) local charities. The system will inevitably collapse under its own weight. You just have to be patient and let it happen. When it… Read more »

Rhisiart Gwilym
Reader
Rhisiart Gwilym

Instead of Touchy-Feely/Listeny-Carefully/Smiley-Diplomatically autocrats – who still retain their full legally-guaranteed peremptory power even whilst being carefully TF/LC/SD – try these ideas for a really MUCH better way to go (known as democracy):

Richard Wolf on workplace democracy, including information on the gloriously-successful Mondragon example:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKbukSeZ29o

Richard Wolff and Ger Alperowitz on workplace democracy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCIjSsrrtAA

And in case you think Sevenoaks School (qv) is any sort of model to copy, hear Danny Dorling on how to do education optimally, in the course of an interview with We Own It:

peasant43
Reader
peasant43

The literate are suckers for propaganda.

Haltonbrat
Reader
Haltonbrat

The author seems to be saying that one leadership style (Inclusive) fits all and that there is no place for other styles such as autocratic, for which in the 70s we were given De Gaulle as an example. Surely there is still a need for different leadership styles. although the styles might well have all moved in the direction of Inclusive. The challenge is for a leader to use the appropriate style and to be able to switch styles. Most leaders find that difficult; moreover most leaders are not even aware of leadership styles. A good example of an organisation… Read more »

Loverat
Reader
Loverat

This is an interesting point. I worked for an organisation which was riddled with inconsistency in management style. Some good managers, terrible ones, and one or two exceptional ones doing the same job. The best managers were those who had an inclusive leadership but there was a lot more besides. And definitely true about leadership style in the world. For example, running a country such as Yugoslavia post war needed a careful balance in keeping all the different ethnic groups feeling included but also a strong hand. Syria might be another example. Who would have thought 8 years ago a… Read more »

Jen
Reader
Jen

Have I stumbled back into LinkedIn?

Robbobbobin
Reader
Robbobbobin

Not if I’m here, you haven’t.

Jen
Reader
Jen

That’s the problem, you’re not here all the time to reassure me that you are. 🙂

Tutisicecream
Reader

Why are people obsessed with leadership? It seems to me and I’ve led many teams and groups of people that participation is what people really work with. As this article says although its more of an ad than a talking point.

Robbobbobin
Reader
Robbobbobin

If you are unfortunate enough to have fallen into a “leadership” role, the best thing to do is not. Bereft of their dependency, the first thing the over-conditioned led will do is find and reestablish it amongst themselves. Then you can mostly sit back, to apply the occasional nudge needed to keep things on course when they drift a little, the very rare dramatic action when they jump the tracks, and – now and then – the timely reminder to those that are inclined to assume that just because something is freely offered it is therefore up for grabs, i.e.… Read more »

Haltonbrat
Reader
Haltonbrat

Yes, but should not the degree of participation need to be recognised to fit the leadership situation of the moment.

tonyopmoc
Reader
tonyopmoc

Congratulations to all the guys and girls at Off_Guardian I love your new website, so I am just going to do a little test, and write something on topic Leadership, is the hardest job, in the world, especially, if you are really good at your technical job, but have no particularly strong social skills, and basically are an introvert. It is incredibly hard, because to be a good leader, involves encouraging the people in your team, to take the responsibilty…you see they have got a bit of talent, and sometimes you have given them to much responsibilty…And when they make… Read more »