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Paul Russell

Luxury Academy

Founder and managing director

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Politician analysis: David Davis


There’s nothing like an inappropriate comment to get you in the news as Secretary of State for European Union Relations.

David Davis found that out this week after saying “get thee behind me Satan” when asked by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee what he made of Guy Verhofstadt’s comments on the four ‘inseparable’ EU freedoms.

To whom this biblical reference was made is debatable, but it’s not the first gaffe we’ve witnessed (‘it’s DD for me’). We discuss the untraditional conservative, training and professional relationships.

To look and listen to David Davis you’d never expect that he wasn’t from the traditional Tory mould complete with privileged upbringing.

True, the former SAS reservist with the three times broken nose did attend Warwick University, London Business School and then Harvard Business School but it is the childhood on a council estate in London that differentiates him, at least on paper, from his colleagues.

Though of course it would appear that Davis was always set for an academic future with his early grammar school education, the type of education that he wants to reinstate for the ‘underprivileged’.

And putting aside the debate on the merits of various educational systems, what Davis is perhaps championing is the confidence and poise that can come with education; the type of education that has allowed Davis to be in the position he is in today.

As professionals we should always be open to new learning opportunities, taking all training and educational opportunities which can ultimately enhance our careers.

And as careers go, at 67, David Davis has had an interesting one.

Working for Tate and Lyle before moving into politics, Davis has held more than a few parliamentary positions including Shadow Home Secretary, a position he was branded ‘crazy’ and ‘brave’ for resigning in 2008.

This was the same year that the New Statesmen reported an ex-employee of Davis saying: “His office is like a survival of the fittest jungle.”

All leaders need support from a strong team around them: these are the people that will implement the strategy and tactics that enable you to do what you do best, and it is right for a leader to motivate and encourage their team in the superlative transformational style.

Keep updates and responses to the point, clear from jargon and terms that can be misinterpreted.

But always ensure that this doesn’t veer too far to the extreme, encouraging a competitiveness that can erode workplace happiness and team working.

From relations with your team to getting on with the boss, Davis has had a public disagreement with his in recent weeks with May criticising him for making up government policy. The PM has said that Davis’ assertions that a single market was “very improbable” was his own opinion and not that of the government as a whole.

Of course, the newly formed government is an extremely new team and to expect that there will be no teething issues is perhaps unrealistic, but that said, when you are communicating on behalf of an organisation, or in this case a government, it is best to ensure that what you say reflects the official party line.

To look and listen to David Davis you’d never expect that he wasn’t from the traditional Tory mould complete with privileged upbringing.

Communication-wise, criticism has also been levied at Davis for a wishy washy manner of reporting on the progress of one of the most closely monitored projects of recent years.

At one time or another, we may all be called upon to provide updates on work progress, either officially or on an ad-hoc basis and our response can either engender confidence in our abilities, or erode it completely.

Davis’ comments that “I can’t really answer as it’s all terrible tricky,” or that “everything is going to be tickety-boo” does little to reassure.

Keep updates and responses to the point, clear from jargon and terms that can be misinterpreted, share only information that has been mandated to be released into the public domain and where the outcome is yet unclear it may be helpful to suggest a timescale for a further update

Oh, and refrain from calling anyone Satan!

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Paul Russell

Founder and managing director

Read more from Paul Russell

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