Berkeley group as a study of entrepreneurial leadership

September 15, 2015

Tony PidgleyBerkeley Group reports a profits surge as it prepares to enter the FTSE 100 index. This news is tempered by resistance from its instructional investors over its executive remuneration arrangements

The Berkeley Group corporate web page suggests this is a modern company complying with the ‘newer bottom lines’ of Corporate social responsibility. Its financial growth has been found attractive to institutional investors. Now the cachet of entry into the FTSE 100 as a solid blue chip company beckons.

Its situation is even more positive at present as government house building policies have given the sector a boost.

Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership Bingo: How to assess leadership performance in the General Election debates

April 6, 2015

QueencerseiIn their attempts to appear authentic, political leaders ‘leak’ information about their leadership styles. Here are some signals which help you play a game of Leadership Bingo during the General Election debates

I examined the great ‘seven leaders’ debate of April 2nd, in search of leadership styles.

Using my notes, I began to work out a more comparative analysis of the leaders combining their performance on the night with more general patterns of leadership behaviour to be found in the literature and in popular culture (Game of Thrones candidate above).

A jumble of leadership styles

My first efforts resulted in a jumble of leadership styles which began to connect what I had observed with more general concepts:

Charismatic style [CS]: (induces belief in those around without need to use statistics or reference to other evidence of authority. Offers hope (vision) for future}
Democratic style [DS] (Distributed leadership: Let’s share leadership responsibilities)
Empathic style [ES]: (I share your pain)
Heroic Warrior style [HWS] : (Lone Ranger: This dude has something special in a tough fight)
Level 5 style [L5S] : Modest but with evidence of determination (‘fierce resolve’)
Nurturing style [NS]: ( I’ll look after you)
Servant leader style [SLS]: (I am an instrument to help you achieve your goals)

The leadership bingo card

So there you have it: the political wonk’s bingo card for use alone, electronically, in the classroom or in the pub (suited for UKIP gatherings).

Fill in the card for each speaker. Needless to say, the winner is the bingo player who can identify every speaker with a leadership style line.

In the case of a tie, the winner goes to the player who has identified the most additional styles on the card.DSCN0938
Make your own cards for other leaders you are interested in. Here is the card I used

Let me know (comments) if you like Leadership Bingo.



Is Amazon under control or under the influence?

July 28, 2014

Bezos bullet train
Amazon announces disturbing financial figures. Its charismatic chairman Jeff Bezos will, as ever, be taking the long view

The mighty Amazon – the company not the river – may be in temporary trouble. Its second quarter sales reported on Thursday [24th July, 2014] showed powerful growth in revenues but unanticipated losses. The results worried the numbers people. Shares, already drifting downward, slumped around 10% on Wall Street the following day.

Taking the long view

Its founder and leader Jeff Bezos is famed for taking the long view. He is a business visionary who fitted the bill as a great leader for the near classic story he has helped bring about at Amazon. His leadership style is restless and remorseless.

He is noted for personal involvement and fermenting a culture of creative challenge. He also likes to ‘back-engineer’ strategy from a desired future to reach and deal with imminent decisions.

The immediate future

The immediate future suggests that his enthusiasm for innovation in the interests of that more distant future may have incurred costs for the present. The ideas at times have breath-taking simplicity. Sometimes there is an initial appearance of craziness that often accompanies great creativity. Think Steve Jobs, or Napoleon even.

This week, the craziness appears to be found in the diversity of effort which may suggest a lack of a cohesive plan. The results were timed to accompany the launch of the company’s new smartphone, the Fire Phone. Other recent plans have included grocery delivery, video streaming, and drone delivery of products.

Not to mention The Washington Post

Then there was the recent takeover of the Washington Post, with assurances from Bezos that under his ownership the newspaper will retain its independence, and certainly without influence brought to bear to advance Amazon’s interests.

Bezos is a fascinating business personality. He has created one of the Century’s most successful businesses with a simplicity of its core competence of rapid, safe product delivery at highly competitive prices. Perhaps its strategic trajectory constrains the creative impulses of its remarkable founder.

To be continued


Discursive leadership: a note on leadership style

June 23, 2014

Book review: Fairhurst, G.T., (2007) Discursive leadership: in conversation with leadership psychology, Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage

Tudor Rickards

I became interested recently in Discursive leadership through reading a book on the subject by Gail Fairhurst, an American Professor of Communication Studies.

Many leadership styles have been proposed by practitioners and theorists. They include the charismatic style; those based on theories X, Y, and Z; Machiavelli; authenticity; and moral rectitude.

Discursive leadership may appear to be yet another leadership style. It may also provide challenging insights to a different way of thinking about leadership and the nature of styles.

Discourse and discussion

Readers not acquainted with the term discursive will recognize the similarities with the more familiar concept of discussion. Readers acquainted with post- modern writings will already be aware of discourse theory, which explores the processes of constructing social reality through texts and other narrative structures.

Professor Fairhurst is not describing a style. Indeed, the book rejects the popular view that leadership styles exist as objective phenomena. The departure point is whether a leadership style exists as an objective phenomenon with a measurable and observable essence. The widely- accepted view is that it does, so efforts to study and measure the style are afoot. Professor Fairhurst subscribes to the social constructionist belief that leadership and its various modes are beliefs constructed in social action. It is a point that has been applied to leadership by other scholars such as Keith Grint

This set me wondering whether such a discursive approach could be applied to other leadership concepts. Might charismatic leadership be considered as socially constructed? And how about Authentic Leadership not considered as a style, but as arising from the way in which a social group develops its notions of authenticity?

If Fairhurst’s ideas become more widely accepted, cherished notions of leadership style will receive much-needed revision.


Comments are particularly welcomed from participants in GEL workshops held around the world, June-July 2014. Subscribe now to receive free notifications of future Leaders we deserve posts to your email, smart phone or tablet.

Felix Magath joins Fulham and illustrates the limitations of tough leadership

February 22, 2014

Felix MagathFelix Magath’s career trajectory illustrates the principle that a business or a football club often gets ‘the leader it deserves’


The appointment of Felix Magath as manager at Fulham this week [February 2014] has been greeted in the media with articles with a shared assumption that he will achieve short term results through his legendary tough leadership style and that this will end in his departure after a subsequent decline in team performance and morale.

The historical evidence

The historical evidence is unequivocal. The BBC article gives a historical account There is a clear pattern of Magrath’s behaviour which involves ferocious training regimes and tough personal relations. In animal terms he is a horse breaker rather than a horse whisperer.

Fans of Felix Magath liken him to a demon headmaster. One of his former players claims he was more like Saddam Hussein. Another one dubbed him “the last dictator in Europe”. But it was as a firefighter that Magath made his name. Indeed, Magath was to German football what Red Adair was to the US oil industry, a man who never came across a blowout he could not quell. Having led Hamburg into the Uefa Cup, Magath was sacked the following season. This is a recurring theme of Magath’s career – recovery, boom and bust. After Hamburg, Magath took Nuremberg from bottom of the second tier to the Bundesliga. After a row with Nuremberg’s president – he has a lot of those – Magath landed at Werder Bremen, another club he managed to drag clear of danger.

After a couple of years with Frankfurt, whom he also saved from the drop in his first season, Magath took over at Stuttgart. He transformed them from relegation strugglers to Bundesliga runners-up, delivering them Champions League football for the first time. As a footballer, Felix Magath won the Bundesliga three times with Hamburg between 1978 and 1983, and won 43 caps for West Germany, winning the 1980 European Championship and playing at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, appearing in the final at Mexico ’86

“I would never want to treat human beings like he does,” said Bayern president Uli Hoeness last week, “If you want sustained success, he’s probably not the right man. But he might turn out to be a viable short-term option for Fulham. They’re already bottom of the Premier League table, so it can’t really get much worse for them.”

Magath might just be the man to quell all that rattling and shaking going on down at Craven Cottage. Just don’t expect those smiles to last too long.

The style is effective at removing those unwilling to accept his methods. He symbolizes what used to be called theory X management, leadership by fear and bullying.

The strong leader and the last dictator?

Magath appeals to those who believe that dictatorial leadership can be the method of last resort, a short term fix. At Fulham, the board has a reputation for tough action, prepared to hire and fire rapidly. It is hardly surprising that they might believe that failure on the field is as a result of weak leadership. Ergo, find a stronger leader. If the results continue to be poor, then the leader could not have been strong enough, The board has a vision they pursue single-mindedly. It is to hire the strongest – because toughest – manager they can obtain.

Transformational it isn’t

The style is ultimately transactional, the limited method of punishment and reward. Fulham has acquired the leader the club’s board deserves [maybe under pressures from financial backers].

The leader the fans deserve?

There will be a proportion of fans vociferous in their support of a tough leader. They too will be acquiring the leader they deserve. Other fans will not have their anxieties so quickly addressed. As results settle down, each setback will be seen as evidence of the folly of the board’s decision to appoint the man likened to Saddam Hussein in his leadership style.

What you see is what you get

One aspect of such a style is that what you see is what you will get. Magath has no hidden dark side of his leadership persona. It is up there for all to see.

Beyond charisma?

Other tough leaders are also often described as charismatic. The great Brian Clough comes to mind. In my preliminary searches I have yet to find the term charismatic applied to Magath.

Situational leadership

There is some evidence that a situational leadership ‘map’ might be helpful in interpreting this story. A leader such as Magath is most likely to achieve results with a compliant workforce. The extreme circumstances facing the players contribute to desperate efforts. This is the ageless story retold in the movie The Dirty Dozen. The tough leader offers a last chance for redemption.

Some media reactions

Hell fighter could be perfect fit for Fulham

Magath accuses Rene Meulensteen of destabilizing Fulham

23rd February

First game showed ‘immediate but limited’ impact’ through team performance in 1-1 draw away to West Brom.

1st March

Loss to Chelsea forces Magath to admit defense must strengthen. Signs of reality creeping in?

8th March

Headline says it all after Fulham lose to relegation rivals Cardiff City. Magath believes players not responding enough to tough leadership.

2nd May

Fulham relegated. First criticism that Magath is the wrong man to return Fulham to the Premiership

Donald Trump shifts his attention to Ireland after losing Scottish wind-farm legal battle

February 20, 2014

This week the resilient Donald Trump bounces back from losing his battle against off-shore wind farms which he claimed were wrecking his plans for a super resort and golf complex in Aberdeenshire.  It seems that Scotland’s loss is to be Ireland’s gain

Donald Trump has bought a five star golf resort on the west coast of Ireland after losing a legal action against a windfarm being built near his golf resort in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

The billionaire property developer said that while he appealed against the court defeat in Scotland he would be diverting his energies to the exclusive Doonbeg golf and hotel complex on the Atlantic coastline of County Clare, restyling it the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland.

Trump had taken the Scottish government to court over a decision to approve a major experimental windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, which will be about two miles south east of his planned £750m golf resort, because it spoiled the view.

Trump’s tale

We have been followed the leadership style and actions of Mr Trump in LWD for some years.

His interest in building a world class golf facility in Scotland was dogged in legal controversies from the start. Initially, the legal objections came from environmentalists and local residents. Later, it was Mr Trump who sought legal rights to protect his interests.

Leadership style

The Trump style of leadership seemed blunt rather than devious or Machiavellian. This places him at some disadvantage over pressure groups whose leaders have long experience of challenging the powerful and drawing attention to their cause.  Maybe Donald trump will now learn from his experiences. Otherwise there will be one more extended story as the local bhoys prepare to deal with the latest foreign threat to their culture and coast line.

Nadal beats Murray on clay. No surprise. Confirmation Murray needs to unlearn some play patterns

April 17, 2011

Nadal continues his astonishing winning streak on clay. It is no surprise to anybody that he beat Andy Murray in the Semi-finals at Monte Carlo, although romantic British commentators on Sky spoke briefly of momentum when Murray won a set.


The semi-final of the French Open chapionships [June 3rd 3011] saw a replay of this contest …

Even winning a set against Nadal on clay is an achievement for any tennis player. Particularly so for a player such as Andy Murray, who has had such deep swings in his playing performances over the last two years.

A thought from leadership research

One thought from leadership research: the leadership maps remain unclear as to how easy it is for a leader to switch behavioural style according to circumstances. Behaviours can be consciously modified. For example, someone comfortable with a task-oriented style can recognise when people skills are needed, and act accordingly. However, under pressure, the tendency is to revert to the habitual and preferred style. High-level sports contests in general, and Murray’s performances as a specific example, confirm this general principle.

A pattern of setbacks

In January 2009 Murray played great tennis in the Australian open before losing in the final. The loss triggered a dismal series of further losses over a period of months. In January 2010 he again reached the final of the Australian open. Once again he lost without winning a set. Once again the loss was followed by a miserable run of form which extended to this week’s tournament at Monte Carlo.

Meanwhile, Murray continues to seek a coach that will help him make a step up to become a serious contender for Grand Slam titles. At present he is (again) ‘between appointments’.

If you always do …

If in trouble in a match, Murray often switches play and more often than not goes on to extricate himself from trouble. That being said, There are patterns to his play which together with natural talent make him one of the strongest players of his era. Yet in sport, as in strategy, there is no such thing as an absolute strength. Stylistic strengths have what are sometimes called ‘allowable weaknesses’. Murray is a great counter-puncher. This can sometimes be favoured and he is acc used of being unwilling to attack powerfully enough. His skill at breaking back lost serves may have contributed to his persisting difficulty in developing a reliable first serve.

Patterns of play can be broken. A great player, and Murray deserves such an accolade on various counts, can overcome weaknesses. It is not an impossibility that Murray will reach the final of a grand slam event several more times; winning one is not beyond the bounds of possibility. However, (and it is a big however), without some radical developments in his game, he may well remain one of the nearly greats who nearly achieved greatness in the eyes of the sporting world. He will remain an example of the maxim If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Blair blow by blow. A collaborative review

September 3, 2010
US President George W. Bush, UK Prime Minister...

Image via Wikipedia

When Tony Blair’s biographic account of his Premiership was published in September 2010, it attracted enormous sales and instant comments.  Leaders we deserve offers an extended collaborative review sharing observations about the leadership issues which it raises.

September 1st Tony Blair’s A Journey is launched with global publicity.  Instant comments appear regarding the 700-page book, some even trying to sound as if the book had been read …

Susan brings home a copy for me.  First glimpse inside. Seems to be written in a chatty style.  Is he chatting to me?  That’s rather a creepy notion.

September 2nd Book breaks publishing records in UK for non-fiction (in the old sense of the word non-fiction).  Early observation:  brief mention of his father early on was interesting … ‘ [Dad] was secretary of the Glasgow Young Communists; then to war as a private, ending as acting major and Tory ..became an academic, a practicing barrister and then an active Conservative’ [p7]. The narrative hastens on to young Tony celebrating the election victory that was to make him Prime Minister and where ‘I saw my dad.. realising that all his hopes could be fulfilled in me.’ [p11]

A lot in a single paragraph.  The p7 material is factual. So it’s a good platform to build upon. It has the feel of the profile of a driven high-achiever who might become an entrepreneur or maybe a business leader.   The p 11 material is highly interpretational.  At very least it is worth another few lines of reflection of the conservative father and one time communist whose dreams were going to be fulfilled by his son (who will go on to help create a radical ‘new’ labour political perspective.)

September 4th Destiny and mythology

We don’t have to believe this story.  We only have to it examine it for the narrative that the author would have us believe. That is step one of a process which metaphorically is studying a map.   If we stick to the metaphor, this particular book tells from its very title its intention to tell of a journey.  Which suggests that we are in the realm of myth-making.

It has been suggested that there is one archetypal myth of a journey, retold since ancient times in cultures around the world. We will re-travel to story of the hero leader departing on a quest or mission, overcoming dangers, and returning having fulfilled what may be seen as a pre-destined role.  The journey may or may not bring contentment.

Blair addresses his journey directly early in the book.  He tells of becoming aware of his destiny, moments of revelation.  The impact of his first visit to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament was one such revelatory episode.  There were several critical incidents each of which ‘told’ him that he had no other course than to claim his rightful place as leader.  The destiny was explained as requiring him to seize the moment.  As in, for example, Shakespeare’s treatment…?

September 5th Dublin, Demonisation, and Respect

The book is creating its own story, as its author continues a promotional tour.  In a Dublin book-signing there is evidence of demonization in a large anti-Blair demonstration continuing the anti-war anti-Blair protests.  However, as The Guardian points out, there were also supporters of Blair who had retained a positive view of his contribution to the extended peace process in Northern Ireland.

September 7th

‘A touch of the coggers’

I am beginning to see how TB presents himself as having unshakeable self-belief. It’s through a process which psychologists call cognitive dissonance. One colleague of mine would say he might have ‘a touch of the coggers’.

Human beings generally can deny the existence of unpleasant evidence which challenges self-esteem. Their reflective processes are curtailed, and this state of denial is a psychic protection mechanism. The example which suggested this possibility is the account [p 88 on] of TB’s decision to send his children the a ‘good’ school rather than a neighbourhood school. These sorts of decisions are seen as presenting dilemmas for some parents. Not Mr Blair. However, the decision of Harriet Harman to send one of her children to a grammar school was ‘shocking’, although TB considered it morally justifiable if politically dangerous. During the account of this episode Tony Blair suggests that opposition to these views by traditional labour supporters as coming from beliefs (which, he adds in parentheses, might be called prejudices).

When I ask managers about their actions and rationale, sometimes their reasoning makes sense. Other times, I am left wondering whether there are less than rational forces contributing to the case being made. In other words, there might be ‘a touch of the coggers’ about it. An isolated incident is not much evidence. There’s a long way to go in the book for testing the idea.

Reader’s Comment:

“In my view, Blair is a Hitler-type nutter. Give him a decade of unfettered power and he would have been very dangerous (His personal ideas/beliefs are more important than reality). He claims that Brown is an analyst without the ability to relate to people but the evidence is that he, Blair, is the exact opposite. “

September 8th: Clause 4 and the Power of the myth

The textbook Dilemmas of Leadership has a chapter about symbolism and why myths are important in leadership. Reading another chunk of TB’s book supported the view that he reached decisions through the lens of a symbolic leader, which is another way of saying that he has a style which involved symbolic thinking and acting. The style is prominent, even when it is contained within some narrative which is closer to the rational treatment of someone with legal training. (Unanswered question yet: how might private conversations between Tony and Cherie go? Will we get any hints later in the book? Or will this remain strictly off-limits).

His willingness to take on Clause 4 is outlined in a highly symbolic fashion. Clause four is labour party short-hand for its historic commitment to public ownership. The identification of it as a target for change is an act of creative leadership (creative destruction for the traditional labour party activist). TB describes it is an icon that has to be smashed (although he is also aware of the need to approach the symbolic act with the greatest caution and heightened awareness of the consequences. His public announcement at the party conference and was crafted as the importance of re-examining the hallowed mythology of old labour in the interests of the emerging New Labour movement he was bringing to power. The myth-makers of Hollywood recognise the grand myth, the battle of the forces of light and darkness (For Tony Blair read Indiana Jones, or Superman).

September 9th The People’s Princess

The death of Princess Diana has become regarded as a defining moment in British popular culture. The widespread public displays of grief were seen as untraditional. Tony Blair’s interventions were considered significant in several ways. It was reported that he recognized a mood of hostility towards the treatment of Diana by Royal family prior to and immediately after her death. TB suggested more public gestures of mourning particularly by the queen. In the book, he recounts his sensitivity to taking a high-profile role and risking being seen as presumptuous (Lèse majesté?). Here as elsewhere he is convincing in his insights to the symbolic impact of leader’s speech, including that of his coining of the phrase The People’s Princess.

He sketches briefly his feelings towards Princess Di.  Elsewhere, he provides several brief pen pictures in emotional terms. Even the eventual antipathy between himself and Gordon Brown is referred to as a kind of love gone wrong. Other similar declarations of love can be found, mostly of a Christian kind of brotherly rather an erotic kind. Here, describing his feelings towards the glamorous princess, he notes Diana as someone he ‘liked’. [Comments?]

To be continued …

September 11th: Anniversary of the World Trade Fair bombing

How did TB describe the events of 9.11? Did he have the same feelings of dislocation and disorientation that appears to have been widely shared by others? To a degree [chapter 12], but his account is clumsily written for someone with his instinct for the impact of his words. He does briefly convey his emotions, but in preamble, he sets the context with his visit at the time to a highly forgettable visit to a Trades Union Conference which is described with misplaced assumption that readers share the author’s enthusiasm for what Tony did next. [‘The great thing about Brighton is that it is warm…’, followed by a brief paragraph in which I counted 11 uses of the first person singular pronoun.]

How did he feel on first learning of the attack? ‘I felt eerily calm despite being naturally horrified…Within a short space of time I ordered my was for a battle for and about came with total clarity, and stays still.. as clear now as it was then.’

The chapter quickly becomes a justification for war in Afghanistan as a moral and strategic imperative. His speeches at the time have impressive clarity, and convey what now seems to be an unshakeable belief in the rightness of his judgement.

September 13th Blair’s leadership style

By chapter 10, Tony Blair’s preferred leadership style is clear. For his closest aides, the principle is a preference for control, with the alternative of delegation of clearly-set responsibilities. It is close to the fundamental principles of scientific management, and still retains significance as the simplest means of crisis management. It has a great deal of face-validity. I have heard such principles offers as precious ideas from captains of industry (armchair Generalship?). Tony Blair has undoubtedly heard and been encouraged in his beliefs by his wide range of industrial contacts, and maybe a few old-style military acquaintances. He notes ‘at crisis time forget delegation forget delegation, that’s the moment you are there for (p294)’. Unfortunately for AB, and perhaps many others around the world, it is a hopelessly inadequate set of beliefs for developing trust and motivation among staff and colleagues under many circumstances. ‘What they teach’ about leadership at Sandhurst as well as Harvard is delegation not of tasks but of responsibilities to act, and with the bonus of trust in the relationship with the leader. Mr Blair does not seem to have taken on board such views openly shared by military figures such as John Adair on action centred leadership, or more directly accessible the views of Admiral Lord Mike Boyce who became chief of his Defence Staff. These more nuanced approaches suggest that delegation and development prior to a crisis means that more people are willing and able to take effective undirected actions.

September 15th 2010:  Iraq

The book builds up to Tony Blair’s role in the Iraq conflict.  What can now be established that had not been established before? The twelve preceding chapters had established a pattern in the narrative which might be expected to be retained.  In general TB writes and speaks in absolutes.  It is hard to challenge the assumption that he believes in absolutes, in right and wrong answers, in good and evil.  He also writes ‘outwards’ from events in which he is presented as the dominant character.  And his reasoning tends to be surprising loose for someone who prides himself in the benefits of a legal training.

For many people, the fundamental questions are around the decisions of his Cabinet (presumed to be decisions taken primarily by himself) to commit Britain to the Iraq War.  Secondary issues are whether he had been excessively influenced by George Bush in taking these decisions.  To a degree, the pattern he outlines in earlier chapters may be a good starting point for understanding these two pivotal ones. 

Map Testing the Blair view of Iraq

My attempts to understand the Iraq story is based on the process I recommend to leadership students.  Analyse by first looking for a Platform of Understanding of any text (a book or even a situation).  The narrative here has a primary narrator.  Maybe we can find a shared belief starting from his perspective.  For example, he suggests that his involvement in the Iraq conflict led to such a deline in his popularity that many people disliked him, and some loathed him.  He further claimed that a hostile press contributed to the public’s mood against him.  He also claimed that public opinion was turned against him to accept evidence that he was dishonest in his treatment of issues (particularly over the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq).   

I find I can share this as an indication of Tony Blair’s map of the decline in his popularity.  We can test the map in various ways.  For example, we might note earlier in the book his observation that a leader may have to be less than honest with others.  That certainly a can be leadership dilemma. But he also notes that the war in Iraq divided public opinion.  The Press may have been tapping in to a public mood rather than creating one.

September 16th: Is Tony Blair a habitual liar?

After close reading of the book, I don’t think that Tony Blair believes that he is a liar in the way many believe to be the case.  He has a intuitive way of reaching conclusions, and finds it easy to back-rationalise from them.  In this respect he is in denial over contrary beliefs.  Having decided that Bill Clinton is a particularly ‘good guy’, he justifies the Monica Lewinski affair in a remarkable bit of special pleading which amounts to his observation that Bill was deeply interested in and curious about people.  That might be compared with Clinton’s own piece of denial to the effect that he “never had sex with that woman”.

One explanation is that Blair and Clinton have beliefs that are filtered through a special way of seeing the world which some would say is misguided at times.  Some would detect evidence of narcissism, and which in Blair’s case verges on megalomia.

September 17th: A note on megalomania

I leave clinical colleagues to arrive at more informed views of megalomania. I recall the psychoanalytical treatment of political leaders by by Leo Abse in this respect.  As a matter of fact, in checking for this note I was reminded that Dr Abse, a former Labour MP had written psychoanalytical texts both on Margaret Thatcher and on Tony Blair

The clinical diagnosis of megalomania refers to a form of mental illness characterized by the unreasonable conviction in the patient of his own greatness, goodness, power, or wealth. The non-clinical definitions seem to characterise someone who an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things.

Bertrand Russell observed that megalomania is found in lunatics and among many of those who achieve greatness.  Alexander the great is often cited in this respect.  There may be actual achievements but the mental condition becomes delusional.


From Jeff Schubert:
I seem to remember that Blair often said something like “people need to understand…” This always struck me as the words of someone who “knew” that he was right! Does this phrase get used in the book?

Think I see where you are coming from. Someone want to do a “people need to understand” count?
Relatedly, he does from time to time go on about other people don’t get it [“I couldn’t get Gordon to see it.” p569]

September 18th The London Tube Bombings

Blair cut short his attendance at the G8 summit in Scotland on news of the London Tube bombings. He entered the role of speaking to and for the nation “thinking how we should respond..this wasn’t about ‘emoting’or ‘empathising’ as people often stupidly and cynically is about defining the feeling so the reactions can be shaped and the consequences managed. (p508)”

The quoted paragraph is worth careful study. Comments welcomed. He feels strongly when described as emoting or empathising. Don’t quite understand why, but TB sees these terms as perjorative, and indeed used by stupid and cynical people. Revealing is his implication that his speech acts at such a time do capture the public mood and shape future public beliefs. It is one view of a leader’s role. Maybe as Jeff Schubert suggests [above], TB wants us to understand, just as he wants the nation to understand.

Bush and Blair

So much has been written on the Bush Blair relationship What new might be suggested? The book offers what TB chooses to present. We find his belief about what is important. This seems to be that Blair trusted Bush unconditionally. (Why is a more complex matter). TB acknowledges that most people find it strange when he rates George Bush as someone of utter integrity and higher than most other political leaders we has met. Why? I have a suspicion that the answer lies in the nature of trust (defined as a vulnerability to accept positive intentions of another). Blair, who someone talks of the lonliness of ther leader still needs someone in whom he can trust. For a special person like himself, it has to be another special person who has attained high office. It’s a fascinating thought to consider how encounters between two such powerful and intuitive persons might turn out. But don’t expect rational explanations. It occured to me that little has been written about encounters between two such personalities. Blair had a charismatic effect on many people; Bush has the more commonly accepted charisma associated with great power and wealth. For Blair it was an deep emotional experience described in terms of an adolescent crush.

A milder version of this intutive admiration for a powerful and contraversial individual is the case of Sylvio Berlusconi (p 552). In each case, the enthusiasm of his descriptions is accompanied by what amounts to a statement which can be read (at least by me) to the effect that most ordinary people might be able to appreciate the special insights by a special person into special persons.

September 20th Toughing it out

Tony Blair’s style switches from chatty to formal, from persuasive to descriptive.  In this chapter I finally got it (to use a Blairism).  He’s writing in the first person heroic in one of Jeffery Archer’s novels.  “I was trying to wear [psychological] armour which the arrows simply bounced off, and to achive a kind of wightlessness that allowed me, somehow , to float above the demonic rabble tearing at my limbs (p573)… I had complete clarity about what it was I had to do. I really did feel absolutely at the height of my ability and at the top of my game…[although my popularity was at its lowest] there was a residual respect for and attachment to strong and decisive leadership” [Comments welcomed].  

A summing Up 

The extended review touches on aspects of TB’s behaviours which are less than admirable. A little more might have been said on substantial changes for which he can claim credit. There is little doubt that his leadership did make a difference to a labour party which had seemed unelectable until the late 1990s. His energy and ideas brought into being the New Labour movement as well as reforms he would himself claim as progressive (one of his favourite terms often applied to himself). Historians among others will find something of interest in the book.

I found it tough going. One of the saddest notions is his division of people into those with open and closed minds. Sad because it is not difficult to put Tony Blair in the category he dispairs of. He was, when in power noted for great senstivity to mood, and a capacity to capture it. This skill is here revealed as not unconnected with insensitivity to the impact his written words may have on large swathes of readers. (Or maybe I’m being guilty of the same intuitive sense of being right in unclear circumstances). With taht caveat on how convictions may trump analysis, here are my conclusions:

[1] Tony Blair believes himself one of the leaders of the world’s progressives

[2] He “gets it” on big issues: World Peace, The Broken Society, The Economy, The Future of the Labour Party, Leadership, Islamic fundamentalism

[3] He is deluded in his view that his training as a barrister has gifted him a keen analytical way of analysing of complex events. His aguments often are loosely constructed to arrive at the conclusion he wants to advocate

[4] The boundless self-confidence conceals deeper insecurities and a need to be loved and seen as someone very special in the eyes of the world

[5] The book may have been written with the belief that Tony Blair’s Messianic aspirations have not entirely gone away.

Change-Centred Leadership

April 4, 2010

Numerous studies have differentiated leadership style into two dominant factors. These are often labelled as a concern for people and a concern for task. A newer theory, backed by empirical studies, proposes a third, and change-oriented style.

The division of leadership styles into task-oriented and people-oriented can be traced to work which originally concerned itself with work practices at operational levels within large American organizations. Organisation behaviour texts offer a historical time line from the Ohio State studies of the 1930s, to the later and related management grid of Blake and Mouton. Most studies thereafter found no need to look much further than the two factors. However, a group of Scandinavian researchers has put forward an interesting possibility of a third, and change-centred leadership style.

Blake and Mouton famously proposed that a combination of the two basic factors in a leadership style (‘more of both’) adds value to leadership efforts. Other researchers leaders were later to take a more situational approach. But there has rarely been a challenge to the dominance of the basic two-factor model of leadership style.

The work of Goran Ekvall (pictured above) and his colleague and former student Jouko Arvonen was recently published in English, which will give it more international attention. Their theory is easy to understand. The research first re-examined in detail the reported data from the items of the Ohio questionnaire (SPDQ, LBDQ versions). They found that change-centred leadership had been measurable through the inventories (in such items as ‘tries out new ideas with the group’). But during the original studies, and since, the results gave no statistical support to a third leadership style, favouring change-orientation beyond the two established styles/factors.

The Scandinavians have been replicating the Ohio methodology with mainly Swedish, Finnish, and US organizational samples. Jouko Arvonen, summarizing the work recently reports that over 6000 responses have been collected in five separate studies. Factor analysis revealed from all studies the appearance of an additional, change-centred leadership style, defined in terms of visionary qualities, creativity, action for implementation and risk-taking. He provides a fascinating hypothesis to explain the emergence of change-centred leadership. Arnonen believes that management is increasingly being required to show skills at ‘neo-charismatic’ or transformational leadership . He suggests that the new style has emerged as a contingent consequence of new work challenges.

Further studies will be required to test this idea. However, the concept seems to have been well-tested, is a potential game-changer for studies of leadership style, and offers a proposal for assessing creative leadership.