For those of you not yet totally worn out by recent political melodramas, out latest blog focuses on changing leaderships styles. Having publicly promised to modify her own leadership style, what can we learn from Teresa May’s less than successful campaign? Margaret Heffernan (TED speaker and leadership consultant) and André Spicer (Professor at Cass Business School and author) discussed this very question as part of Radio 4’s Today Programme (13th June 2017). Here of some of the key points.

Having surrounded herself with a small band of ideologically committed people, Teresa May effectively cut herself off from external viewpoints and other information – ‘groupthink’ at its most potent and most divisive .

Isolation in this context can lead to an ‘illusion of invulnerability’. Assuming you’re always right means you don’t necessarily pick up on the signals telling you that perhaps you’re not!

The concept of leadership has changed over the past 15 or so years – from ‘heroic soloist’ i.e. the smartest person in the room to ‘collective leadership’ – where the role of the leader is to build a sharp, mutually supportive (and we would say mutually challenging) team, resulting in a ‘collective intelligence’.

Leadership has become far too complex for even the most brilliant to take on single handed – so why try? The adage, ‘two heads are better than one’, has never been more relevant.

At least three things need to happen if leaders are genuinely committed to changing their style;

  1. Change your networks; change who you associate with, who you look to for counsel and who you gather information from.
  2. Change your habits of reaction; recognise how you typically react in certain situations, defensively, aggressively, passively etc. and then look at how you might respond differently.
  3. Change how you see yourself; for example moving from being results focused to more open and consensual in your approach.

As well as considering how to ‘future-proof’ the business, organisations should also be thinking about how to ‘leader-proof’ themselves i.e. putting plans in place to ensure no single person has control and/or decision making rights.

Change takes time, in part because you need to rebuild trust. Changing your leadership style means potentially having more than one version of yourself in play at any one time, the obvious question being, ‘which one is here to stay?’

What it takes; generosity, a sizable capacity for listening, knowing your values and what you stand for and a recognition that no one person can (or should) have all the answers

The realisation is, that as leaders we shouldn’t be relying on individual experience and expertise, but instead actively seeking out all of the talent and insight available to us before crafting and articulating our message to the world. How easy this shift will be for Teresa May is yet to be seen, but perhaps a timely reminder to us all that it’s only ever ‘lonely at the top’ by our own choosing.