Yesterday, in a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, 50 signatures were needed in a letter to force Gordon Brown to quit. Only 20 were collected. And with the banging of desks reverberating behind closed doors in Whitehall, Mr Brown survived another day.
And the PM promised, “to play to my strengths and address my weaknesses”. So, policy aside for one moment, all of this boils down to leadership style and the resulting culture? We all know that leaders determine, or should I say, dictate the culture of an organisation. And we know too that leaders choose to appoint people who reflect their own style. In today’s terms, we call this ‘leadership brand’. So with a promised shift in Mr Brown’s style, do we expect to see the entire party shifting too?
Aren’t we forgetting the four core principles of a powerful leadership brand? At the heart of any brand there needs to be something that makes people compelling to others, in other words, we need to want more, much more. This needs to be authentic or it will not be credible. And it needs to be delivered consistently or we do not trust – and trust is everything. Last but not least, it needs to be well-known.
The way I see this is that there are two issues here. The first is how to change culture, which takes time and probably more realistically, a leadership personality transplant. The second is timing. As in, when should a leader step down? Over a year ago, I joined a panel on Radio 5 live to discuss this very topic and remember writing about it: Job Cuts
In my view, leaders should step down either when an unanticipated disaster has occurred as in the case of MP’s expenses, or when we want to pre-empt a possible disaster, as in the case of Mr Brown. And yet, more often than not, as we saw yesterday, it is worth seeing potential disaster through to completion for the greater good of the organisation as a whole.