Leadership – In a democracy, people get the government they deserve
“In a democracy, people get the government they deserve,”
Who said we need a leader?
Time for another BLOG and it seems to me that the most interesting phenomena on the horizon at the moment, both in the UK and the US, are the upcoming elections. In the UK we will have a referendum decide if we will stay the European Union. For some readers this will not seem particularly exciting but for us and particularly the Conservative Party it’s a big event. Since we joined the EU or EEC as it was then our politicians on both sides have used ‘Brussels’ as a whipping boy for all the country’s ills, now it’s time for the ‘ins’ to change that from negative to positive and the opportunity for the ‘outs’ to solve the problem by ‘BREXIT’. So serious is this for the Conservatives that their Members of Parliament have split into two groups who will spend the next four months fighting each other for their point of view. Who will run the country while the elected government fight amongst themselves? Who knows!
The Leadership of the US is also ‘up for grabs’; it’s time to choose a new President. The potential candidates for this high office are currently being ‘selected’ ahead of the nominating conventions in the summer when both parties confirm their presidential nominee for the real poll in November. This time there is a stark challenge for the Republicans with a billionaire business tycoon leading the field much to the chagrin of the Republican Establishment, if the newspapers are to be believed.
Leadership – an everyday experience
All this activity has led me to reflect about leadership, what it is and how it works so let’s start at the beginning with our ‘followership training’. Yes, we are all trained from birth to accept the leadership of others in the guise of our parents, siblings, teachers, preachers, guardians, friends et al… and it’s very simple. We have needs for something that others have; to satisfy these needs we must satisfy their needs, This, when we are young mainly requires us to ‘do what we are told’ we follow to get the things we need; as we develop and become more capable we not only need things from others we have things that others want from us and in our turn provide become leaders. All of us, given the right circumstances, are ‘available’ to be led by others and also to lead. The stranger who stops someone on the street and asks for directions to the nearest metro station is seeking leadership. The passer-by who responds with directions, ‘first right, second left’ is giving leadership. The couple who are driving to a new destination with one driving and the other navigating are sharing leadership. It happens millions of time to millions of people every day.
Leadership – something we need
Leadership is simple, life long and reciprocal. It is based, as is all motivation, on the satisfaction of needs.
We all have needs to lead and needs to be led. Our needs to lead are satisfied when we can help, guide, advise, care for, teach et al and we satisfy our needs for leadership through those who we see as having sapiential, organisational, charismatic, moral and contractual authority:
Leadership – the five authority bases
- Sapiential – the authority of knowledge; we are prepared to follow people who we believe know more than we do about something we need to know and people who are skilled in something we want to be able to do. If I need help with my Linux programme I call Russell. He is my Linux expert I ask he answers and the problem is fixed. When I need help with the picture I am painting I seek help from my wife who is an artist.
- Organisational – the authority inherent in being able to organise things. If I need help organising my latest project I call Richard. What Richard does not know about managing projects isn’t worth knowing; he provides me with the disciplined approach I need to get the job done and no, I don’t want to be ‘self-disciplined’.
- Charismatic – the authority the power to persuade others by force of personality. These people ‘stand out from the crowd’; we seek such people when we need assurance and when we need to learn from them to develop our own charisma. I don’t have a regular charismatic leader but have worked with many very charismatic people over the years and was able to learn both with and from them.
- Moral – the authority of wisdom; the people from whom we learn about life. These are people who we recognise as ‘being wise in the ways of this world’ and use them when are seeking understanding of an issue or even just the opportunity to enjoy a ‘blether’ in good company.
- Contractual – the authority of ‘relationships ’the ability to develop rapport with others across racial, religious and regional lines. All relationships have ‘rules’ which are in the main ‘unwritten’, implicit and based on assumptions. Effective leaders know them and use them to create rapport. Contractual authority can be divided into three main groups legislative, contracted, and social.
- Legislative rules are those rules of behaviour which nations agree to and consciously or subconsciously abide by; they are the ‘price of membership’ of each ‘tribe’.
- Contract rules are the rules that we agree to abide by in return for being accepted into some ‘formal’ relationship like school, university, employment et al and from which we achieve some pre agreed benefit; education at school, qualifications at university, money at work.
- Social rules are the rules that we must abide by in order to maintain our social relationships; family relationships, friends, the bowls club, et al.
The difference between this authority base and the other four is that it is ‘policed’. We have police forces to police our adherence to the laws of the land. The contractual rules of organisations, schools, universities, factories, religious groups, political parties’ et al are ‘policed’ by appointed ‘leaders’ (managers) who’s task, amongst other things, is to ensure that members obey the rules and to punish’ transgressors in order to maintain discipline. Social rules and policed by group members or appointed custodians.
When we need help, advice, guidance or support in any of these areas we search for someone who is an authority figure, a ‘leader’ in our particular area of need and seek their help. And vice versa, where we are the authority figure, they seek us.
If I have a problem with my car, I take it to Phillipe at my local garage because he knows all about cars (sapiential authority) and he is able to do what’s necessary (organisational authority). I have recently successfully installed a satellite dish. We had a small party with our friends and I demonstrated my new dish. Since then two of our friends have been to see me and ask in more detail about it, one has now asked me to help him install a dish.
Leadership – in practice
We have three main groups of needs that require us to seek leadership. These are:
Informal – where, as in the above example we are seeking guidance
Appointed – where we seek someone who is an ‘accredited’ leader either by ‘sapiential authority like my garage man, my doctor and of course my boss or by appointment position of authority like a supervisor or manager.
Elected – where we elect someone who has a vision we believe in; they know where they are going, they know how to get there and they have the courage to travel.
The most common of these, because we all participate in it and the least recognised, is ‘informal’ leadership. Informal leadership is the natural, usually sub conscious (heart) process, through which the follower, the person with the need, seeks someone who they believe can help them and gives the person they have chosen as an ‘authority’, the right to lead (advise, guide, help) them. For example, my gardener will come on Thursday. I have a number of things where I need his advice on what to do; in this context he is my leader.
Appointed and electoral leadership is a more formal process. It is part of our need as ‘pack’ animals to create hierarchal structures in which someone has ‘formal’ responsibility for our ‘wellbeing’; It’s all based on the need to have ‘one person to cheer when things go well’ and ‘one bottom to kick’ when they go wrong. The difference between the two is that with ‘electoral’ leadership, we the people are involved in choosing our leaders; in the ‘appointed’ form they are chosen for us.
In most Western countries Public Sector senior managers are either directly elected or selected by people who have been directly elected. Senior managers in the private sector however are appointed. All people in management / supervisory positions below the senior levels in both public and private sector organisations are ‘appointed’ by their managers. They are normally chosen on the basis of their experience. The best engineer becomes the Engineering Manager, the best sales person becomes the Sales Manager the best claims processer becomes the Claims Manager and so on. From a leadership perspective being the ‘best engineer’ means that they naturally have sapiential authority thus the respect of the team and their position gives them the ‘contractual’ authority to get things done. However as Moral, Charismatic, and Organisational are not usually part of the selection criteria they may well missing in the manager’s leadership profile. The fact that the appointed leader does not have these authority bases does not mean that the team functions without them; it doesn’t. It solves the problem by finding someone, often more than one person, in the team who has them and informally appoints her / him as the leader when Charismatic, Organisational, or Moral authority is required. Can these things be taught? Yes, they can but that’s another story, see our book on Amazon: Managers as Leaders if you would like to know how.
Elections are primarily used for choosing leaders where it is seen as important to legitimise the position of the leader in the eyes of the people. It is also a key opportunity for the people (us) to reflect our changing needs through our choice of leaders thus allowing nations to develop around the changing needs of their populations. Most countries now use an electoral approach to select their governments and heads of state and more and more are using ‘proportional representation’ rather than ‘first past the post’, thus ensuring that the electorate as a whole is represented in the government of the country.
To win an election in any ‘free’ environment is the most challenging of leadership situations because the candidate is alone on the podium and must ‘tick all the boxes’ over what can be a lengthy campaign; one small mistake can end a lifetimes ambition. These people are ‘selling themselves’. To win, they must present themselves in a way which enables voters to differentiate between one ‘product’ and another; and present themselves as ‘the best buy’.
Candidate Authority Profile
We started this Blog thinking about elections and would like now to offer you the opportunity to apply the theory in practice. There are two parts to this process; in the first we profile the leadership qualities of our candidates using the five authority bases we spoke about earlier. In the second part we will analyse the potential results using the voter profiles to see which of the candidates has the strongest appeal to the three different categories of voter.
Compare candidate scores – Example
Candidate A Candidate B
Overall score 33 31
In this example it is clear that the candidates are running neck and neck; they have different strengths which added together nearly balance the contest. However, we know that when it comes to choosing ‘political’ leaders, there are three types of voter. The traditional voter who votes for the party; these people either belong to, or support, the policies of one or other of the parties and will vote for these ideas. This group are the majority but in ‘free and fair’ elections, they do not decide the outcome; this is done by the ‘swing’ voter.
For these people it’s the candidate not the party that’s important. There are two types of ‘swing’ voter the Heads; who focus on what the candidate is offering and the ‘Hearts’ who are swayed by vision and charisma. Head people are convinced by facts. They are looking for the candidate who is ‘best qualified’ for the job; they have the knowledge, skills experience and aptitude to be successful. Heart people on the other hand are motivated by their emotions. Heart voters are looking for someone they can trust, someone to believe in. Now look again at our example candidates using the Head and Heart scores.
If the majority of swing voters vote with their heads candidate A will win, if the majority vote from their hearts it could be candidate B.
Voter Head or Heart profile
To find out more about which way the vote is likely to go we can try to estimate what proportion of the ‘swing’ voters are Hearts and what proportion are Heads.
This process is full of variables and it can change right up to poling day. However we can get some idea if we look at what voters want from their new leader. Do they what more of the same or would they like change; will they vote with their heads or with their hearts. Think of everything you know about voter intentions and using 100% answer the two questions below.
What percentage of ‘Head’ swing voters do you think will vote for each candidate? %
- Need to understand what they are being offered
- Need to see how this will be delivered in practice
- Need evidence of a track record of success
What percentage of ‘Heart’ swing voters’ do you think will vote for each candidate? %
- Need someone who they can trust
- Need to feel good about the candidate
- Need someone with a vision of their future
Does this help? Sadly it’s only a ‘guesstimate’ when it’s this close no one really knows what will happen on the day!
In the US election there seems to be a clear difference between the candidates. In one camp the front runner is a successful charismatic entrepreneur with no experience of politics who is offering to ‘refresh’ the presidency. The other leading candidate is offering a life time’s experience of public office, an absolute commitment to serve and the chance to elect the first American female president. If we look at the UK referendum and it is early days, the IN side under the leadership of David Cameron seem to be building a campaign focusing on our natural reluctance to change ‘better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. The OUT campaign, which has no clear leadership at the moment, seems on the other hand, to be focusing on freedom, greatness and glory as defined by ‘sovereignty’.
What do these two events have in common? One side in each election has chosen a ‘head’ campaign, a logical approach using their strengths their ‘knowledge and experience’ to persuade voters that they are the best option. The other side in both contests have chosen a ‘heart’ campaign a chance for adventure, in our case a chance to get away from bureaucracy and be ‘great’ again. Clearly both contests have some way to go and outcomes in elections are always uncertain until the last vote is counted but at least, for the first time in many years voters appear to have a real choice.
Note. Whilst the US election is clearly about choosing a President and the UK referendum is about deciding on a course of action. The leaders of the winning side in the UK referendum will either remain our leaders if the IN’s win or become our leaders if ‘BREXIT’ wins.
Now it’s your chance to see who you think will win; we’ll be happy to hear how you get on. Take care and enjoy.
George & Richard, April 2016