Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for leader of the month

January 27, 2017

Gina Miller and Theresa May are contenders for Leaders We Deserve award of the month. Each has supporters and vehement distractors

Two political figures have emerged in the UK as leaders of the month. The stories of Gina Miller and Theresa May intersect, and also relate to Donald Trump’s first tumultuous week as President of the United States (POTUS). As I write, [27 January 2017], Theresa May is embarking on her first visit to meet Mr Trump.

Gina Miller’s campaign

Gina Miller launched a campaign which clarified an important constitutional issue at our Supreme Court of Justice.  The success of her action forced the Government led by Theresa May to back off from efforts to bypass parliamentary scrutiny of their plan for exiting the EU.

A torrent of abuse

Gina Miller’s intervention in the courts threatened a delay in the March deadline for triggering the start of Brexit. This week saw the High Court ruling in her favour. Cue to frantic efforts of damage limitation to the government’s plans to trigger the Brexit button, aka Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty .

Her campaign has brought with it a torrent of abuse. Coincidentally, it took place as women around the world were matching in protest at their treatment, and at the appointment of Donald Trump, seen as epitomising bullying treatment against women. And the week when Theresa May was urged to raise such matters with Trump at their up-coming meeting. [See? I said these stories were inter-related]

Miller’s back story is a fascinating one, yet typical of many high-achievers who overcome early life set-backs which strengthen their resolve.

 

Her sense of injustice stems from childhood experiences of being bullied and left to fend for herself after her parents ran out of money for boarding school. Born into an influential family in Guyana, at the age of 10 she was sent to boarding school in Britain.

She recalls how her mother had given her a bottle of her favourite perfume Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps to take with her so she wouldn’t feel homesick, but the first weekend in school, girls emptied it out and filled it with water.

At 14, her parents’ financial circumstances had changed and she was forced to become a day pupil, living alone with her 16-year-old brother in a flat in Eastbourne, supplementing her allowance with a stint as a chambermaid. [The Guardian 25 January 2017The Guardian 25 January 2017]

 

Theresa backs down skillfully

May had repeatedly insisted that to make details public would reveal too much to European political leaders in negotiations about the UK’s ‘bottom line’. The wisdom or naivety of her point is open for discussion. It is unlikely to be an effective approach for nuclear negotiations where  the ‘finger on the button’ does not want to conceal the intentions of the owner of the potentially Armageddon-triggering digit.

The week, Prime Minister May broke her self-imposed restraint with a prepared statement helped clarify her previously concealed exit (Brexit) strategy. Then at Prime Ministers Question time, she announced the miraculous birth of a white paper, fully formed, and to be presented to the House. [Wednesday 25 January, 2017]

Out means out. Out of the Economic Union. Out of the shared tariff zone arrangements. Out, out damn plots robbing us of controls of our borders.

Deal or no deal

So what’s up for negotiation? Anything which deprives the UK of getting ‘the best deal possible deal’ Err, not quite so clear. The statement did indicate a ‘deal or no deal’ possibility involving the UK from ‘walking away’ from the negotiating table (note please, it’s another metaphor, although a not-unknown gesture of defeated participants in high and low political practices). The no-deal option which secures ‘the best deal for Britain’ has been dubbed by opponents of the Government as heading the country for a bargain-basement low-wage tax-haven society.

A footnote to history?

 

The years 2016-18 may turn out to be of particular interest to students of leadership. The sweep of events touch on humanitarian crises, environmental decay, to political shocks to the system. Donald Trump is likely to grab headlines as the most unexpected political story of the decade and beyond. from his change of job title as an entertainment host to the most powerful leader in the world.

Both May and Trump are untried in the fog of international negotiations. Each utter words or reassurance to their respective supporters. This week they share headlines with Gina Miller. Theresa May will have more chances to demonstrate her leadership qualities. Perhaps Gina Miller will as well. In any event, she has been guaranteed a footnote in contemporary political history this week.

She is my nominated leader of the month.

To be continued


Theresa clears things up: A fairy story for our times

January 17, 2017

charismatic-leadership

 

Once upon a time (as all good stories start) there was a little girl called Theresa. She was brought up to be very well behaved and always did her homework, brushed her teeth and ate all her greens, even Brussels sprouts which she particularly didn’t like

 

Theresa was always top of her class and so eventually became a politician. Her nice-manners and retentive memory served her as well as her elegance of dress and footwear. So it was, she rose to the very top of her profession entrusted with making great decisions of state. Then there came a grave crisis to which there was no answer. At first, Theresa won time by reassuring words, such as we cannot reveal the answer because our enemies will turn it against us.

But as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, the crisis deepened. Critics spoke out against her. Theresa had to come up with another plan. Eventually she and her advisors decided what to do.

“I will explain everything,” she said. “There are twelve principles, just like there were twelve Apostles, and the twelve days of Christmas and the twelve angry men. Just listen as I explain them.”

And then she went through them one by one. They were wonderful, and promised everything anyone could wish for.

“Oh, that explains everything” cried the grateful people “That’s alright then, you have saved us from the crisis.”And that was how Theresa became even more popular, and everyone lived happily ever after.

 


Brainstorming Brexit

September 1, 2016

Image result for last supper wikipedia
As Teresa May’s Cabinet re-assembled this week,  reports suggested it would ‘brainstorm’ to review progress towards Brexit.  Here’s why that didn’t happen:
Media reports surfaced this week [29 August 2016] accompanied by official images of the cabinet room, chock fulla ministers surrounding the Prime Minister, and looking like a version of The Last Supper as portrayed by Banksie.
The Guardian lampooned the suggestion by asking a few creative thinking and team-building consultants how brainstorming might work:
Get them out of the the Westminster bubble, was one Guardian suggestion.  More audaciously, dress them up as penguins, was another.
All the gurus agreed the location and the composition of the team were both serious inhibitors to success in an attempt to create useful and imaginative ideas for Teresa May’s most serious political problem in the absence of dealing with a functional opposition.
I recently suggested how brainstorming might work. The topic is important, such as finding a new advertising slogan
Various earlier posts in LWD have looked at the scope and limitations of brainstorming as a means of creative problem-solving.
Technically, a brainstorming provides a structure and a few principles which help individuals (or more commonly groups) to challenge and go beyond old beliefs and ideas.
Newer versions such as electronic brainstorming are appropriate for ‘virtual’ groups operating remotely.
Anyone interested will find information in the most recent edition of my textbook Dilemmas of Leadership, and its chapter on creative leadership, which provides a good starting point for studying the subject.
Misunderstandings
Misunderstanding of brainstorming is widespread.  Politicians and business people us it as any attempt to dream up ideas.  (My favourite misunderstanding was a well-known politician who made the perilous journey from Westminster to the bandit territories of the North to take part in a brainstorming. Unfortunately he had accepted because he imagined he had been invited to make a barnstorming speech about his department’s achievements.
Brainstorming: a personal view
After much effort and numerous publications, I have reached a view that brainstorming in the narrower sense  requires:
a topic to be considered,
a structure which tries to overcome preconceptions participants interacting to overcome social and psychological barriers
a person experienced and skilled in facilitatating the process
and a physical space conducive to new ideas.
These conditions do not completely  preclude the possibility of a Cabinet meeting carrying out a brainstorming. But they do make it highly improbable to function effectively.  The more guarded and invested in a prior idea the participants are, the less likely there is of a positive result.
And with that, I rest my case.

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Catch-up Part Two: The campaign to become Prime Minister

August 3, 2016

David Cameron ListeningIn Part One I looked at the developing stories from June 23rd 2016, the date of the European Referendum in the UK. To deal with the next part of the story, I have to go back to February, to the start of the months of national campaigning. 

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Theresa May arrives to lead the fight against invaders

August 24, 2015

thatchertankTheresa May arrives to lead her border troops into action in the battle of Calais. Comparisons with Margaret Thatcher are irresistible. But will her admiration for Geoffrey Boycott be career-limiting?

The Home Secretary has avoided the rather blood-curdling descriptions of ‘swarms’ of migrants ‘breaking in’ to our country, as favoured by The Prime Minister. Today, [August 20th, 2015] however, she takes the initiative from Mr Cameron with a visit revealing details of a plan to deal with what the BBC calls The Calais Migrant crisis.

Reading Theresa’s intentions

The role of Home Secretary requires the holder to survive periods of public invisibility interspersed with possible career-threatening high profile decisions. The job also carries with it healthy aspirations to move into the top job.

So, some statement such as “I have great pleasure in serving my country under our beloved leader than whom there is not nor has there ever been an equal for wisdom, integrity, and fragrance literally and metaphorically” may be taken to mean “you bet your bobbly bits I’m ready to take over, the moment I get the signal that the time is right to give the heave-ho to that spineless apology for a leader “.

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Police Reform: A noxious brew of politics, regulation and special interest groups

March 7, 2013

Tom WinsorThe dilemmas of police leadership are fictionalized in a thousand police dramas. These are currently being played out in the UK following the controversial appointment of Tom Winsor, a lawyer with no service experience of police work, as Chief Inspector of Constabulary

The police forces of the United Kingdom are united mostly in a concern that changes imposed on them by outsiders will be ill-informed on the special features that make policing unique among the professions.

Inevitably, the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Police from outside their ranks [July 2012] produced initial hostility from ACPO [The Association of Chief Police Officers, and The Police Federation. And that was even before Tom Winsor got down to work.

An intellectually undemanding profession?

He was quoted as saying that the service was still based on a century-old structure and that:

“For too long policing has been unfairly regarded by many as an occupation of an intellectually largely undemanding nature .. policing today is entirely different. The attitudes of some police officers remain fastened in that mind set and I believe that is holding them back [in order that] all men and women of intelligence and good character consider a policing career on a par with law, medicine, the clergy, the armed and security services, finance and industry”.

Not the words of someone seeking a conciliatory relationship with police leaders.

The Home Secretary’s choice

Theresa May has acquired a reputation of a conservative hawk as Home Secretary, attracting controversy either deliberately or insensitively, according to your political perspective. Her attempts to reform immigration http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15649548 control procedures led to battles and blame-naming “United by love divided by Theresa May” goes one slogan against her policies. .

On the home front, her choice of Winsor is seen as an attempt to finesse the challenge of leading a campaign for police reform, by relying on the inclinations of Mr Winsor to ease the way towards unpopular legislation.

According to the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

The current system sees all police recruits begin work as a constable, regardless of age, skills or experience. The Home Office proposals being put before MPs herald a fundamental change to the current system of police recruitment. It currently takes about 25 years for a newly recruited constable to work their way to the most senior level, a process that is thought to deter talented people from other professions from joining the police.
The direct-entry plans expected to be put forward follow recommendations in a report last year by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor.

Watch the watchdog

Tom Winsor may be Theresa May’s watchdog but he is no poodle. Brought in as Rail Regulator, he become involved in bitter disputes with the Government over what he considered to be efforts to undermine his authority.


Home secretary Theresa May creates a new Border security force

February 21, 2012

Theresa May announces a restructuring of the Border Agency. Her announcement coincided with release of the Vine report into border security checks. The links between the report and the Home Secretary’s announcement seem rather loose

Although the Vine Report into Border Security and the Ministerial announcement were made simultaneously, they are quite different in focus.

The Minister indicates that she accepts “all the recommendations of the report”, but makes it less clear that her proposal is not based on the report, which offers operational ‘fixes’ rather than strategic ones.

The ministerial announcement concentrates on a reorganization which splits the Agency into two. In organizational terms it is an attempt to differentiate structures and activities to reflect a major distinction between two groupings. The Vine report is strictly operational, and makes no strategic recommendations.

The BBC reported the announcement by the Home Secretary [20th Feb 2012] :

“The Vine report reveals a Border Force that suspended important checks without permission; that spent millions on new technologies but chose not to use them; that was led by managers who did not communicate with their staff; and that sent reports to ministers that were inaccurate, unbalanced and excluded key information. The Vine report makes a series of recommendations about how to improve the operation at the border, and I accept them all. I do not believe the answer to the very significant problems exposed in the Vine Report is just a series of management changes.
The Border Force needs a whole new management culture. There is no getting away from the fact that UKBA, of which the Border Force is part, has been a troubled organisation since it was founded in 2008. From foreign national prisoners to the asylum backlog to the removal of illegal immigrants, it has reacted to a series of problems instead of positively managing its responsibilities.
The extent of the transformational change required – in the agency’s caseworking functions and in the Border Force – is too great for one organisation. [The Border Force is to] become a separate operational command, with its own ethos of law enforcement, led by its own director general, and accountable directly to ministers”

How to Create Organizational Silos

MBA students will recall how this sort of change has major organizational consequences which have been well-documented since at least the 1960s. They may also recall the dilemmas of centralizing and decentralizing control over business activities, and how any such differentiation risks creating organizational ‘silos’.

How to Deal with Potential Silos

Implicitly, the change will not work if it adds a layer to what may be seen as a classical organizational pyramid. The traditional structures are now recognised as too inflexible to function in fast-changing environments. In any change programme, the new system requires designed-in ways permitting integration so that there is valuable communication flow between the two sub-systems.

To be continued …

See background in an earlier LWD post