Browse Category: Leadership characteristics

Gove Vote Leave

Conviction politician Gove puts country ahead of his leader

Conviction politician Gove Goes for Leave

He did it. He actually did it. Deputy Editor of The Times. Friend, ally and Lieutenant to David Cameron on so many issues. Reforming Minister within a Cameron government. And, stealing shamelessly from Andrew Neil, he has decided to go out on a limb and put his country first.

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Francis Maude – The Turn Around Minister

Over the weekend Francis Maude announced he would be standing down as an MP at the next election. Full disclosure: Francis was the best boss I have ever had. He is smart, fun, hilariously dry and very fair. But, given the space to “get on with it” by David Cameron, Francis Maude has also proved just how competent he is as a Minister. Continue Reading

Conservative Party Conference – David Cameron speech: Unanimously approved.

The David Cameron speech was eagerly awaited by his critics. He disappointed them. David Cameron’s speech was a speech of balance and political stability. It was not an aggressive table thump nor was it a dull and uninteresting lecture. Cameron’s speech was not an unrelenting attack on Labour, nor was it an unimaginitive list of policy details. It was a well written and well executed speech. Personal details were used to back up arguments, not to score points. He rightly got angry about Labour’s deceit about his attitude to the NHS, he applauded the saving of the United Kingdom and Ruth Davidson’s role in the campaign. He aggressively made it clear to British citizens fighting for ISIS that they had declared their allegiance, that they were enemies of the UK and would be treated as such.

He warned off defectors. encouraged with tax cuts for all who earn less than £50 000 a year, claimed back Conservative territory when speaking about modern day slavery, zero hours contracts and the NHS.

It was a Prime Minister giving a Prime Minister’s speech and luckily the media are now noticing and reporting on the difference between him and Miliband. Miliband is not even a competent socialist. He is a kid pretender. Without even charm or bravado. Just union money and uninspired Labour members. God help us and the world if he ever gets into Downing Street with anything more than a Visitor’s Pass.

I saw David Cameron’s first major speech – when he was bidding to be Leader. That was a great speech without notes. IT won him then leadership of the Conservative Party. This time he spoke from notes. This was a serious speech about serious times – a Prime Minister’s speech. He may well have changed the outcome of the General Election in 2015 with this speech.


Conservative Party Conference – Philip Hammond: Foreign Secretary but never party leader.

Philip Hammond: Foreign Secretary but never party leader.

Like a lot of conference speeches Philip Hammond’s speech sounded more like a wannabe party leader than a cabinet member. To be fair to Hammond this is a difficult thing to avoid when discussing foreign affairs. A Foreign Secretary is required to discuss Britain’s role in the rest of the world and what the country as a whole can do to help others. When discussing the country in relation to the rest of the world it is very easy to begin to sound more like the leader of the that country – whether they wish to or not.

However Philip Hammond has an air around him that feels that he considers himself a front-runner for the party leadership. Obviously anyone as high up as Hammond is expected to at least get a look in as the next party leader, but when it comes down to it and he is facing the likes of the formidable and strategic politicians such as May, Gove, Osbourne and Boris, he is likely to be left in their dust.

There is no doubt that he is competent and is a self-made man outside politics. But unlike the Labour Party, the Conservative Party has a few football teams full of self-made people. The competition is so much tougher in the Conservative Party – the calibre of MPs and Ministers is simply higher. Hammond is the sort of guy of guy you want in Cabinet – but not necessarily leading it.

Conservative Party Conference – Theresa May stays on point.

Theresa May stays on point.

Theresa May’s conference speech was remarkable. It was remarkable in comparison to all the other conference speeches as Conservative Party Conference. The most remarkable thing about the speech – Theresa May stays on point. This may sound strange but cast your mind back to all the other speeches. How many discussed the economic recovery, deficit reduction, campaign strategy or Ed Miliband’s speech? How many cabinet members talked about subjects which are not in their brief? How many minister’s use their conference speech as an opportunity to get on their soap box and give their piece about a whole host of issues? Theresa May did not do this. She discussed what she was there to talk about – Home affairs. She talked about security, terrorism and crime and did not waste time discussing other departments and other minister’s work.

By doing this Theresa May shows that she is leadership material – she can show that she will get down and do the job she is given, no point scoring or petty party politics, just hard work and a commitment to getting the job done. May probably did not go out to give a leader’s speech, but by delivering a speech that stayed on point, she was able to sound even more like the next Tory leader than the rest.

Of course, she has given a far more wide-ranging speech before at the ConHome conference a few years back. But this speech was all about showing how good she is, how competent our Home Office Minister has been. This position is normally a poison chalice. A terrible job concerned with terrible issues. She has performed well and has probably been in the job for as long as anyone else – ever. Her reputation is better 4 years after getting than the job than when she was appointed. Theresa May is not flash and funny like Boris. But she is competent. Which Angela Merkel has shown is a positive attribute amongst voters.

Conservative Party Leadership Election – advice for Boris and his competitors.

Boris has come out of the closet. The one everyone knew he was in. He will almost certainly get a seat – I would definitely rejoin my old association Battle and Bexhill if he came here but he will probably get John Randall’s London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

So the Conservative Party leadership election has now unofficially, officially, started. Actually it started some time back but now it just got serious. No matter what anyone says and despite the fact that David Cameron is Prime Minister and Leader – plans and plots are well underway.

ID-100249349I have always thought that David Cameron would leave parliament, or at least stand down from the leadership, probably around 2017 just after the European Referendum. If it happens. Cameron has young children, doesn’t need the money and is probably emotionally grown up enough to leave Westminster and go and enjoy life outside politics like William Hague is planning on doing.

George Osborne is definitely in the game, has a decent parliamentary team and a strong record to point at – he stuck to his guns and was proved right – although some will wish he had done more. Theresa May will be the safe pair of hands candidate – I am not sure if anyone has ever run the poisoned chalice of the Home Office for as long as she has. She wouldn’t have started with as many MP supporters but respect for her is growing. Then there are a bunch of other contenders – some fruitcakes, some outsiders and a sizeable bunch of seriously competent people. Let’s face it – every wannabe MP secretly wants to be Prime Minister – when they become PPS or Minister it becomes tantalisingly close! But Boris has changed the whole thing.

Guido Fawkes has a lovely piece today on the leadership campaign in which he asks whether you are a FOB (Friend of Boris), FOG (Friend of George), FOT (Friend of Theresa), FOE (Friend of Esther), FOM (Friend of Michael), FOS (Friend of Sajid) and so on. He also quotes Harry Mount in The Spectator who has some interesting insights into the difference between the FOGs and the FOBs :

And here’s where the FOBs have the edge over the FOGs. George’s gang are largely in it for themselves. Their loyalty remains tied up with their own ambitions, which Osborne wisely satisfies from time to time. Boris’s gang are in it for the man himself. And the gang is growing every day.

So now that everyone else is talking leadership campaigns, I thought I would throw in my advice for the leadership contenders and their supporters since Boris has entered the race.

Three essential leadership factors for Boris, Theresa, George and their competition, and ALSO their supporters, to consider.

  1. Leadership and Vision. These are rare things. Leadership and vision inspire loyalty that is often stronger than fear or self-interest. You can’t lead unless you have a vision that your people can buy into and resell. All the leadership contenders will be continually assessed on their leadership and their vision – where they want to take this wonderful country. A vision is big picture –  forests rather than trees and trajectory rather than timelines. It should be very retail, clear and concise. It’s a sales pack that can be passed from person to person without being corrupted. This trajectory and direction also needs to be credible, otherwise people will simply not buy it and the media will rip it, and the “visionary”, apart. It must be focused on the good of the country rather than The Conservative Party – and this is where the appeal of Boris lies according to his supporters. But will he have the vision to lead more than the Parliamentary Party?
  2. Likeability. Boris does very well here. He is funny and popular and has name and hair recognition that all politicians would kill for. I am often asked by my wannabe MP clients why Boris is liked despite coming from Eton and Oxford and being a member of the Bullingdon Club. I don’t think most people have a real issue with people going to Oxford, Eton or being members of drinking clubs at university. They do, however, have a massive issue with snobs and people who take themselves (too) seriously. Boris is neither.  Warning to Staffers and Activists! But the Leader being likeable is not enough. This is a parliamentary and members election. The contenders need to make damn sure that their supporters – MPs and staffers/campaign team/groupies are likeable too and do not come across as arrogant jerks. This is hard for leaders to do – they want all the help and support that they can get and hate to discipline or refuse supporters. But they do have a direct influence on their immediate team and staff and how they act and communicate with others.
  3. Reliability/Safe Pair of Hands This was part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008 – the Who Do You Call at 3:00 am when something kicks off ‘somewhere in the world’ video. It will be the argument against Boris. But as Harry Cole pointed out on Twitter yesterday: Boris has been underestimated before.


There are two points to make here:

        1. It didn’t work out that well for President Hillary although she did end up taking those calls anyway for President Obama’s first 4 years. It was outweighed by Obama’s off-the-scale “getting people like us” rating. Boris is likely to do well here too and he will have a solid list of achievements that he can point to.
        2. A friend who worked directly for him emphasised to me years ago, the now increasingly accepted wisdom, that Boris is incredibly hard-working and competent and that his assets are not limited to his self-deprecating charm and humour.


Good luck to them all. I haven’t decided yet who to support – it’s actually quite hard. I like all of the current contenders and have worked with a couple. Every single one of them is competent and capable – which is more than can be said for the shower in Ed Miliband’s world. I am glad I have a difficult choice.


Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /


business development

Business development – 6 Rainmaking secrets

Rainmaking has nothing to do with changing the weather – it can stay this hot forever as far as I am concerned. It was the very first blogpost I wrote and I think it is still valid – although I no longer use a Blackberry as I have been a fully paid up member of the dark side since I first saw an iPhone!

Business development, or sales or being a finder* is the easiest key to being immune from redundancy and staying on the path to promotion – not the lonely path but the tarmacadam one – the well lit one, with butlers offering champagne, while applauding superiors smile on you and nod approvingly and colleagues snarl and get left behind, version. So here it is. Enjoy…

6 Rainmaking secrets

1. The easiest way to get what you want (i.e. a client’s money and being known as the King or Queen of rainmaking) is to give your clients what they want – or need. Whose money is it anyway?? It’s all about the clients – their company, their problems, their fears, their needs, their threats and their wants. Research your audience, personalise your pitch by using relevant case studies and only use admissible and appropriate language and jargon. Only talk about yourself and your company, when relating how your qualifications, experience and abilities can help them get what or where they development

2. Find out what they want – where they are and where they want to be. Listen aggressively and ask questions. Pay attention to what they say – ask questions to gain more detail or to check that you have really received what they have broadcast, summarise back to them your understanding of their situation, take notes, use their names. Prescription without diagnosis is pants!

3. Treat people like people. People buy from people they like and trust, especially with the declining trust in that corporate logo on your business card!!! Don’t rush in and knock people over – assess and respect the speed and mood of your audience. Be in the room, employ attentive eye contact, and switch off your Blackberry! Focus on being a human who can help. Long-term loyalty is built up by real long term commitment – relationships count, especially in a credit crunch. (Pitch productivity success rates are great for managers, rubbish for pitch teams – focus on gaining or retaining happy trusting clients one at a time – the numbers and the ratios will look after themselves.) The risk/reward ratios of the client are what you should be focusing on – your impact on them, their career and their organisation is much more than just the project investment or your fee structure. It is where you as a professional could take them, their organisation or their career. ROI and a trusting relationship are a very strong pair.

4. Be prepared to do without PowerPoint – especially in small pitches over a coffee or at lunch. This is a good rule as it should stop you from depending on, and using, the same presentation for everyone and merely changing the name and logo on slide 1. Simple graphs and big pictures are much better than crammed details in small font. There is a difference between presenting findings of work already commissioned (educating) – which may well warrant 50 + slides – and pitching for business which should be far more concise. (See – I even hated PowerPoint then!)

5. Competence is compelling. Memorable stories and case studies add credibility. They help you sell the pie and gravy and make you avoid listing mere ingredients. If your USP is global reach (and global reach is decisively relevant to them!) talk about how your global reach helped a client – anonymous but specific. The matching of you competence and its relevance to the client is crucial. (I know I still witted on about storytelling as being essential form of communication – it always has been and always will be – so you may as well adopt it now.)

6. Be prepared for probing questions

Questions and objections indicate either that more reassurance or proof is required from your side, or that they are thinking of giving you the work but need to understand the mechanics of going forward. Remember, most people will have to defend or justify their decisions to others so make sure you equip them with the answers they need – as long as they are valid, of course. Avoid the embarrassment, professional shame and reputational damage of being a hapless, cringe worthy, incompetent victim like those seen so often on Dragon’s Den. To do this you must have identified the MKTAT Questions (Must Know The Answer To) AND THEIR ANSWERS especially in terms of process details and duration, price and price justifications, mechanics and personal knowledge of relevant case studies and how to take it further.

* Lawyers speak of finder, minder grinder: grinders – someone who is never seen, does the work, a back room resource – usually junior; minders – effectively a key account manager and finders – usually partners or those that become partners – the people who bring in the business. Apparently you have to be good at two of those jobs to survive and flourish. If you are a good finder becoming Partner is almost inevitable.

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