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Clive Hook

Clearworth

Director

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Blog: Does Boris demonstrate the five fundamentals of leadership? Part 2

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The hype surrounding the Boris Johnson shows no sign waning, especially after his attention-grabbing speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago.

As mentioned in part 1, Johnson is a performer – though, when you look beneath the gags and standard routines, is there something far more complex and substantial about his leadership presence?
 
Whether or not speculation that Johnson wants the Prime Minster’s job holds any truth, what is clear is that this is a man employing all the right techniques to further his career and raise his profile. However, there are two more leadership fundamentals to address:
 
1. Who’s on your side?
 
Like many successful leaders in business, Johnson has an awareness of the importance of getting the right people on his side. He has won over the London electorate by hosting an incredibly successful Olympic Games, as well as implementing popular initiatives such as the Boris Bike.
 
But his party conference speech indicates that he is now taking steps to win over the Conservative Party. This is easier said than done because of the suspicion that is no doubt emerging over what his motive is as stories emerge that he could be angling for the Prime Minister’s job.
 
In an environment of such intense speculation and scrutiny at such a pivotal point in his career, it is important that Johnson does not lose the support or alienate the rest of the party.
 
Similarly, the complexities and diverse dimensions of organisational life mean that leaders that want to get things done need to enlist the support of others, whether they are peers, superiors or rivals. I believe that Johnson sought to do this in his speech by praising the talents of others.
 
He began by looking across the audience and saying: “Where’s Dave?” before wishing him happy birthday and backing his strategy to “turn the country around”. He then praised the Prime Minister for his firm leadership and ability to make tough decisions.
 
And Johnson, still riding high on the back of the Olympics, went on to praise Labour figures Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone, who he acknowledged had also played a part in making the games a success.
 
2. What will be different?
 
Johnson then used the Olympics to illustrate what will be different in the future – a technique that all leaders need to employ in order to enlist the support and trust they need to achieve their goals.
 
He said: "We need to go forward now from the age of excess under Labour. Through the age of austerity to a new age of enterprise in which we do what we did in the Olympics and build a world-beating platform for Britain for British people and businesses to compete."
 
It’s easy to look in and analyse leadership capabilities without truly understanding the motives of an individual like Johnson.
 
What is very interesting, however, is how business leaders, leaders in politics and leaders on the sports pitch are all looking to develop their own abilities by asking themselves the questions that we have asked of Johnson. We believe that these five fundamental questions allow leaders to enter a cycle of constant development and self-awareness:
 
  1. What do you stand for?
  2. Why should they follow you?
  3. What will be different?
  4. Who’s on your side?
  5. Who listens when you speak?
Clive Hook is director of team and leadership development consultancy, Clearworth.

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Clive Hook

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