Sinking of ‘Boris Island’ upsets Boris Johnson

September 4, 2014

Boris Island Nightmare

by Paul Hinks

Charismatic leader Boris Johnson, current Mayor of London, vented his anger and frustration at the announcement that plans for an island airport [Boris Island] in the Thames Estuary have been rejected

Boris has been a strong advocate of the ambitious proposal to build a new £100bn London airport in the River Thames Estuary – a proposal effectively dismissed by Sir Howard Davies who has headed-up a commission set up by the government to consider ways of expanding airport capacity:

“We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs. “While we recognise the need for a hub airport, we believe this should be a part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse market like London’s. There are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. he economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount”

Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, saw an opportunity for a political handbagging: “This back-of-a-fag-packet scheme was designed less for the country’s economic future and more for the omnishambles mayor’s political ambitions.”

Limitations of charisma?

While Boris may have charisma in abundance – not everybody is completely mesmerized and following his lead. The Daily Mail reported that the Airline industry backed the announcement by Sir Howard Davies:

“Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives, said: ‘Airlines were never convinced that the Thames Estuary was either affordable or a convenient location for the majority of their customers.’Since airlines and their passengers will ultimately have to pay for the development costs of the selected expansion site then the business case must stack up in order for the UK to remain globally competitive. ‘We call upon Boris to support the important work of the Airports Commission and ensure that the right decisions are made about Heathrow and Gatwick.”

Cameron’s dilemma

The latest setback from Sir Howard Davies highlights how Johnson’s approach can leave him isolated:

“The Mayor ran this scheme up a flagpole in a very public way and very, very few people have saluted. So he has his point of view, but it is not widely shared.”

If David Cameron win the next general election, and Mr Johnson is successful in running as MP for Uxbridge, Boris has already indicated he will not accept the decision by the government’s airport commission, and instead will keep battling for it and will oppose the expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick as “unachievable” This may be seen as a great example of Boris’ tenacity and determination. Or an example of how Boris can create his own problems. The Telegraph offered another perspective:

Mr Johnson added his name to the list of prospective Tory candidates for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015, just 48 hours before the deadline closed. However, the constituency in west London contains thousands of voters who work at Heathrow who would fiercely oppose Mr Johnson’s candidacy.

Mr Johnson believes Heathrow should be turned into a “tech city” so that the capital’s main airport can be moved out of the city and on to a floating island in the estuary. Local Conservatives, however, were delighted with Mr Johnson’s application.

Ray Puddifoot, the leader of Hillingdon Borough Council, told the Telegraph: “He rang me to say he has put his application in – ‘whacked it in’ were his exact words. He said he has affinity to the place and is looking look forward to the process.
“I think he would make an excellent MP. He is a major asset to the party nationally, he will have to prove he is an asset in the constituency.”

Future ‘Leaders We Deserve’ posts

As we move closer towards the next General Election we can expect to see and hear more of Boris and his opinions,LWD We will be updating this post, so subscribers should monitor future changes

Wanted: New Theory in Strategic Management

September 3, 2014

The Strategic Management Journal calls for new theory in Strategic Management and outlines areas of particular importance

The request is for submissions for a special issue of the SMJ [Deadline: November 1, 2014] by the distinguished editorial team of Jay Barney, Richard Burton, Donald. Hambrick, Richard Makadok, and Edward Zajac:

As Strategic Management has continued to evolve and grow as a field, its research base has become predominantly empirical. Quantitative and qualitative empirical studies, which typically include deductive or inductive hypotheses, have grown in absolute and relative terms when compared with purely theoretical Contributions.
Often these hypotheses are derived from theories that were developed some time ago. While we continue to make progress in refining our understanding of these theories’ one wonders if there aren’t important questions in the field that are not well covered by existing theories. A few of many possible examples include:
(1)Every major change in a firm’s strategy involves significant organizational change, yet we have very little theory about how to effectively manage such change;
(2)although we now know that many concepts and processes in strategy such as firm strategy, environmental “fit” involve highly complex interdependencies we have made little progress adapting complexity-based concepts to strategic theory;
(3)We have relatively little theory that applies to strategy questions in the public sector (including public policy); to non-market strategy, and to the broader social consequences of strategic decisions; and (4) fifty years after the publication of A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, and with a wealth of new psychological theories appearing in the interim, behavioral theories of strategy remain underdeveloped.

Additionally, citation evidence indicates that the most widely cited (and award-winning) articles in the Strategic Management Journal are disproportionately theory articles. This suggests a substantial need for such papers relative to their supply.

A historical strength of the Strategic Management field has been its intellectual openness to theories rooted in related disciplines. The field of Strategic Management addresses phenomena that typically do not fit neatly within single disciplinary theories, allowing opportunities for interdisciplinary theory development and additional advances in core theories emanating from within Strategic Management.

We seek theory papers that have the potential to significantly advance overall development
of the field of Strategic Management. These papers may present new theories; reconciliation, synthesis or extension of existing theories; or other important theoretical advances in existing areas, which include (but are not limited to) behavioral strategy,evolutionary theory, dynamic capabilities, upper echelons theory, the resource-based view, contracting theory, and theories of cooperation and competition at the firm, industry, and network levels.

We do not seek minor refinements. While highlighting the shortcomings of existing theories may be important for motivating or justifying the purpose and contribution of submitted papers, we are nevertheless interested in papers that make their own original and constructive contributions to theory, rather than in papers that merely critique existing literature.

We are open to papers that approach theory using conceptual models, formulation of hypotheses, computational models, and various kinds of mathematical models, or combinations of these.
While we encourage the use of illuminating examples and illustrations, submitted papers should not rely substantially on original empirical data.

Submissions are due by November 1, 2014 and must be submitted using the SMJ Submission

Authors should indicate that they would like submission to be considered for the special
issue on “New Theory in Strategic Management.” Authors of papers invited to be revised
and resubmitted will be expected to work within a tight timeframe to meet the special issue’s
publication deadline.

Putin’s rationality debated

September 1, 2014

By Jeff Schubert

John J. Mearsheimer has written an article, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault”, for “Foreign Affairs” magazine. I essentially agree, however, the article contains the following three quite important comments that I would take issue with:

(1) “In March, according to The New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel implied that Putin was irrational, telling Obama that he was ‘in another world’. Although Putin no doubt has autocratic tendencies, no evidence supports the charge that he is mentally unbalanced. On the contrary: he is a first-class strategist who should be feared and respected by anyone challenging him on foreign policy.”
(2) “Russia is a declining power, and it will only get weaker with time.”
(3) “The United States will also someday need Russia’s help containing a rising China.”

Why are these comments questionable?

(1) Putin is  either “irrational / mentally unbalanced” or a “first-class strategist”?

Putin is not “mentally unbalanced”. However, he will be “irrational” to the extent that his decisions will often be adversely affected by his extended time in power, which will have affected his thinking and ensured that his lieutenants and advisers will lack genuine independent thought and/or be loath to disagree with him. And, then there is his reading habits. See my November 2011 article on “Putin’s dangerous reading”


If Putin were a “first-class strategist” (like, say Bismarck) he would have stopped after taking Crimea, and Russia would have gained more in terms of security than it lost in terms of a relatively temporary negative effect on the economy. But, by over-playing his hand (in an “irrational” way, in my view) Putin is doing significant direct and indirect (through the effect of sanctions) damage to the Russian economy. Putin’s great strength is taking advantage of the stupidity of others (be it the authorities in Kiev, or the US).


(2) “Russia is a declining power, and it will only get weaker with time.”

I keep reading this, although I suspect that very few people who put this view know much about the detailed workings of the Russian economy other than it is very commodity dependent and has significant demographic problems. However, in many ways the Russian economy now has many features similar to successful economies such as Australia (which also has a significant, although less, dependency on commodities). Having said this, there is much that could be improved in the medium term and very significant gains in Russian GDP per capita obtained. See my articles on Russian economic reform to get a professional view of the Russian economy


(3) “The United States will also someday need Russia’s help containing a rising China.”

This comment implies that the US will repeat its Russian “containment” mistakes when dealing with China. This, in my view, would be a an even bigger mistake.

About Jeff Schubert

Jeff has studied the motivation of leaders deeply. He writes regularly for Leaders we deserve. You can read more of his work on his blog site.

Sexism ain’t what it used to be

August 29, 2014

A patronizing ad by the ‘better together’ campaign has prompted a rerun of MSN’s   21 1950s ads from the United States, now considered as illustrations of prevailing attitudes towards women

The montage makes a promising introduction to a leadership workshop on cultural diversity and discrimination:

With the Better Together campaign’s recent advert “The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind” lampooned by opponents as being hopelessly sexist and dated, MSN looks at the adverts that have perpetuated female stereotypes and patronised women.


In the No campaign’s advert, a women sits down to have a cup of tea and makes glib comments about how her husband Paul “will not leave off” about the referendum. She calls Alex Salmond “that guy off the telly” and tells viewers “there are only so many hours in the day” to make a decision.

The Independence debate as it happened:unedited notes

August 27, 2014

Polls suggest that the second debate on Scottish Independence was a win for the Yes campaign and its leader Alex Salmond. These unedited notes prepared at the time for LWD suggest something different

Opening statement Alex Salmond. Mostly convincing until claim that among other advantages, an Independent Scotland would ‘prevent unjust wars…’

Opening statement Alastair Darling. Mostly, why trust silver-tongued Alex?

First question from audience. was on financial security. Darling focused on risks of leaving. Salmond a bit less focused, but essentially seeking a mandate to share Stirling while mentioning other options.

Oil revenues. Little spat on who said what in the past. Unclear. I lost the points being made.

Plan B again What is Option B if no Stirling agreement is reached? Alex gives rehearsed answer but don’t mention a plan B. Chair suggests Plan B is to use pound anyway. Gradually Plan B seemed a bit unclear although
Salmond says he has three options. He then seizes on Darling’s point that Scotland could use Sterling after independence. This seems an important concession for audience.

Question on health finance Bit more ‘he said I said’ on NHS funding. More near incomprehensible stats from both speakers. Angry audience speaker calls AD a hypocrite for betraying Nye Bevan.

Later. AD confusing when he talks of our country. Scotland or UK?

Cross examination Plan B. Yawn. Oil revenue. Not quite yawn. More disputed stats. More shouty stuff. Both advocates a bit het up. Only slight personal preference was for AD on sincerity. A very cross examination.

Switched off I really couldn’t take any more. Was a switch off. So switched over after forty five of sixty minutes. Can’t see how the debates are changing many voters’ intentions.

The Sottish Referendum: from the sidelines

August 25, 2014

Like two heroic leaders of a bygone age, Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling prepare for battle. The symbolic War of independence in Scotland is reaching a crucial stage

Have no doubt of the symbolic nature of the war. The matter is to be decided through votes cast for or against a single six word question by those edible by rights of age and location. No voting rights for exiled Scots.

The six word question

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Numerous polls have shown roughly 50% of eligible voters disposed to vote NO, 40% YES,, and around 10% DON’T KNOW. The shifts in voting intention have shown enough of a drift to the YES vote to keep those involved anxious and willing to keep on campaigning.

The dilemma of intervention and MRDA

There seems to be a dilemma for interventions from what is seen as beyond-the-border vested interests. These have tended to be from those offering reasons why the Scots should vote No. These have been most most effectively rebuffed years ago by the famous Mandy Rice-Davis retort .  When challenged in court that Lord Astor denied sleeping with her: ‘he would say that wouldn’t he’. I understand it is now found in tweets as MRDA , standing for Mandy Rice-Davis Applies.

Even if MRDA …

Mandy’s line is strong on dramatic force, but those with vested interests may still be making valid points.

Even if MRDA here, Is it significant that the final Yes No question was reduced to six words of blatant over-simplification? “Should Scotland be an independent country?”appears to be asking for some moral or universal rights assertion. It leaves open for debate whether the voters will benefit more from one outcome rather than the other. Not to mention that the outcome reaches into the haziest of futures. Further confusion is added by the dodgy nature of the statistical missiles deployed in the skirmishes.

Worse, as stated the question reveals the difficulties in laying out the decision by with a say in its phrasing. From the outside, I have not been convinced by the justifications offered for voting Yes or No. In that respect I would be among the 10% Don’t Knows.

Why Boris is remembered for introducing congestion charges and Boris bikes

August 22, 2014

Charismatic leaders attract myths which help constitute their public persona. A case in point is that of Boris Johnsonboris bikes

I was reminded of the myth-making process phenomenon after a meeting yesterday [August 22nd] with two LWD contributors. We were discussing the final draft for a post about Boris Johnson being planned for the near future.

They seek him here, they seek him there

But how to pin down the Boris effect? One instructive episode at the meeting was when we began listing what Boris was known for. Bendy busses. Public gaffs. Teflon-like survival of public gaffs. Boris Bikes. London’s congestion change.

London’s congestion charge?

Well, no not really, but they were added to the list of Boris’s political achievements. Only later did a little research reveal the historical fact that they were introduced by Ken Livingstone, Boris’s predecessor as Mayor of London.

An explanation?

Charisma operates by inducing a state of suspended disbelief. Boris is believed to do big bold controversial things. The congestion change is a big bold controversial thing. I don’t think Boris has tried to abolish it. We assumed he had invented it.

The Guinness effect

A possibly unrelated effect? Some years ago I attended a meeting at which new ideas were being discussed for the drinks company then known as Guinness. A rather nice idea was suggested by a colleague, someone we will call Susan. The idea was hardly greeted with enthusiasm, but at the end of the meeting two unexpected things happened. The idea was accepted as worth further testing.

“That’s a nice idea you had” one of the Guinness executives told me, to general agreement.

Did I insist Susan got credit for the idea? Not loud enough to make a difference to the myth being built. I could argue that the ‘creative ideas’ meeting was structured so that ideas were deliberately left unclaimed and not associated with any one team member. That is hardly the point. I had accrued the social credit for something I hadn’t done. It happened to fit my (then) social identity as the outsider brought in because of his creative skills.

Susan became known in her own right as a successful creative leader. The idea (which involved a re-branding of a well-known product) was followed through. The incident has remained with us as a reminder of what we think of as The Guinness Effect.


Even the Boris Bikes are technically branded as Barclays cycle hire scheme for the moment (but a new sponsor is likely) . And even the Barclays/Boris bikes were proposed by Ken Livingstone and implemented during the reign of king Boris …


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,603 other followers