Browse Category: Leadership skills

Debate Prep for the Leaders Debate

Leaders Debate

At last the Great Debate or the Great Bore-a-thon is with us. Guy Bentley has a useful rundown in City AM on the format and the logistics for the night, who stands where, who speaks first etc.

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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

The importance of the handshake

ID-10062570Nixon and Mao. Reagan and Gorbachev. De Klerk and Mandela. Rabin and Arafat. The importance of the handshake should not be overlooked. Throughout history the handshake has been used as a powerful symbol for peace. From originally showing that you come in peace and are unarmed (at least in that hand!) to today where it is the ultimate photoshot – used again and again to suggest a new era, a new political order or alliance and a way of reconciling from the past. It can show that two countries or two groups that have previously had no contact, through an action of physical contact, now have a new symbolic relationship.

In the increasingly digital world we live in, the handshake is still seen as a significant symbol in politics, diplomacy, and even business. In business deals and meetings shaking hands play a key role. A study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that a firm handshake can portray a sense of emotional expressiveness, openness, and confidence.

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association recorded that there was a positive link between a firm handshake and being hired at a job interview. The stronger and more confident the handshake, the better the impression.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that witnessing two other people shake hands triggers positive emotions. So even watching other people shake hands makes us feel rewarded.

Therefore a simple handshake can be a powerful symbol of peace, make us more employable and allows us to feel more rewarded and satisfied. Never underestimate the power of a handshake.

How to shake hands well

  1. Smile and look in the other person’s eyes. Eye contact and hand contact belong together. In fact eye contact comes first – otherwise you may find yourself offering your hand and it being spurned.
  2. Go in thumbs up and palm open (obviously – duh).
  3. Dont jerk your arm up and down (not back and forth) – slow and normal does it. Otherwise you will appear drunk, overexcited or juvenile. Or all three.
  4. Don’t have sweaty, moist palms – if your palms sweat buy a hankie or tissues. Otherwise you will be remembered for being the person to avoid – the one that made them wipe their hand dry on their shirt! This rule doesn’t apply after tennis or rugby.
  5. A firm handshake is good, a limp handshake is terrible. When I say firm I do not mean cutting off their blood supply to their fingers.
  6. Keep your hand straight – otherwise you may appear to be dominant or submissive.
  7. 2-4 seconds should do it. More than 5/6 seconds and you are being creepy and hitting on them! Adjust to them and be sensitive to them.
  8. Talk to the person you are meeting – if you already know them, use their name and greet them as if you mean it.
  9. Don’t whip your hand away as if you had just found our that they had an evil, mutating disease. Slow and natural.

Guest Post – Memories of Maggie

(This is a guest post from by Alex Evelyn, President of Essex University Conservative Future)

Yesterday, ‘Memories of Maggie’, was held by Essex CF in the Lords. The event was hosted by Baroness Jenkin of Kennington. Celebrating the life of Lady Thatcher and appreciating the transformation she made to Britain: Free markets, property owning democracy, competition to our public services.

AlexEveleynThe opportunity for Young Conservatives to listen and question friends and colleagues of the last government allowed us to unravel the legend and misrepresentation caricatured by the left giving us all something more personal.

The evening consisted of four speakers Lord Baker, Baroness Bottomley, Lord Jenkin and Lord Sherbourne. All distinguished speakers who had a unique story.

Lord Baker spoke of Lady Thatcher’s loyalty to her government ministers. He talked about her dedication to ideas, allowing ministers to have ownership over their ministerial portfolios. There was also clarity of what she wanted to achieve and how she wanted individuals to get on. Lady Thatcher’s hatred of vested interest which prevented free individuals pursuing the best course of action drove her to rein in the unions – who were preventing ideas and economic growth in Britain.

Baroness Bottomley talked of Lady Thatcher charm and charisma. She also spoke of Lady Thatcher’s obligation to social mobility and her difficulty to understand individuals not prepared to better themselves. Lady Thatcher was never a snob and her ideology was centred on the strivers in life. Baroness Bottomley spoke of Conservatives being the doers of social justice; not the posers like the left – citing our commitment to charity and helping the neediest in our society.

Lord Jenkin discussed Lady Thatcher’s resolve to get the job done. She realised the taxpayer was sovereign and not a cash machine for state extravagance. The issue of privatisation demonstrated Lady Thatcher’s resolve with the breaking up of British Telecom rejecting the use of taxpayers’ money. Her headstrong attitude saw Thatcher win friends in unlikely quarters. Lord Jenkin shared a memory of canvassing in Ebbw Vale, formally Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan constituency. A resident answered the door to Lord Jenkin and responded (queue Welsh accent) “I hate everything this government is doing and I hate Margaret Thatcher”. Lord Jenkin replied “I assume I will not be getting your vote”, for the resident to say “you will be getting my vote because she does what says”. This is a fine example of strong convictions winning friends in unlikely quarters.

Lord Sherbourne, Lady Thatcher speech writer, had the closest contact with her and would spend hours meticulously preparing speeches and PMQ performances. Lord Sherbourne cited her forensic eye over all aspects of government policy. The working atmosphere was intense with long working days all borne out of a desire to get things RIGHT! Lady Thatcher also had a remarkable ability to oppose her own government. Lord Sherbourne recalled a time when the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs had a stated policy from the Permanent Secretary, only for Mrs Thatcher to top and tail the letter and provide her preferred course of action.

Memories of Maggie was an opportunity for her legacy and ideology to be remembered in a respectful and dignified way by four superb speakers, who were able to articulate Thatcher the Lady, Thatcher the PM, and Thatcher the Champion for workers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers who shared their ‘Memories of Maggie’ yesterday, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington for agreeing to host the event, Peter Botting for sponsoring the wine, and Essex University CF executive team for supporting me to ensure this event could happen.

We most certainly envisage hosting a similar event next year and if you would like to get involved please do contact me!

Alexander Evelyn

@jalexevelyn (twitter)


Values in Leadership – a tribute to my Mum on International Womens' Day

My mother had values. The type that don’t walk quietly. She was also my leader.

This  includes being my facilitator, disciplinarian, fan club, teacher and coach and she has been my demanding benchmark all my life. She had a big heart.

She was tough, funny, hearty and loving. One of seven children, she was sent from Eire to live in London in her late teens. She studied and became a nurse – later becoming the type of Hospital Matron that legends are made of and that Doctors fear.

In 1945, she married my Dad in Croydon. He hadn’t been de-mobbed yet and was still in his RAF uniform. She was 22 and living in a foreign country. The Vicar asked her if she promised to “Love, Honour and Obey…”.

My Mum smiled and responded. “Love and Honour.”

This may not seem like a big deal now – but in 1945 it was more than unusual.

Raised a protestant in Eire and living in Africa, she was wary of talking about or getting involved in politics – but she was big on principles and values and doing rather than talking. She was the backbone and the glue of our family; a letter writer and keeper of telephone numbers; a stalwart of the Womens’ Institute; a baker, fundraiser and an organiser in the PTA at my school; a professional and highly respected Nurse and Matron and the sort of person who cooked and delivered a meal when the neighbours moved in. She was proud and supportive of my father’s achievements in business but she glowed when she spoke of his work with RAPT (the Rhodesian Association for the Prevention of Tubercolosis) which wiped out TB in that country for a generation.

She sent me to a private Catholic multiracial school because she didn’t want me thinking segregated white Rhodesia was representative of the real world. She always spoke of the possible rather than the forbidden. She repeatedly told me that I could be and do whatever I wanted to be or do – as long as I set my mind and my efforts and energy to it.

She is also the person who repeatedly pushed and challenged me when I said something was “good enough”.

We never spoke much about politics. She would have been a fan of the principles of social mobility and meritocracy of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. She would have loved the rhetoric of “Yes We Can.” She would have stood and applauded the Peace Process in Ireland. And if I  ever appeared lazy she would have told me to pull my finger out, stop complaining and get on with it – “It’s your life – it’s your fault if you mess it up. It’s your responsibility.”

She would have agreed with International Women’s Day. But she would have found it ridiculous that the world had progressed so slowly that it was still necessary.

leadership and vision

Leadership and vision – Dubai media read my articles! :)

I wrote an article on leadership and vision which got picked up in the Middle East.

Following a recent trip to Dubai, I was so impressed, that I mentioned Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed in an article I wrote on leadership and vision for The Commentator. 

Well how surprised was I today. I was looking for a video I had uploaded to YouTube that seemed to have got lost temporarily and I did a YouTube search for myself. (That WAS why – honest!). Anyway, cynics and unbelievers, look what I found.

Dubai is well worth a visit – and if you can fly Emirates and go on the A380 it is even better! My article was about leadership and vision and listed 4 leaders who have changed countries rather than just tweaking or administering. Anyone who sees how far Dubai has come and in such a short period of time will surely agree with me.

Sheikh Mohammed, like the other leaders I listed, understood the concept of having a vision. That costs today could be justified if jam came tomorow. He has definitely delivered for his people and on his vision.

If all politicians campaigned with the leadership and vision shown by these four leaders and engaged in less political campaigning maybe we would have more people voting for political parties.

leadership and vision

What do Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, Sheikh Mohammed and Barack Obama have in common? Leadership and vision

Leadership and vision define those who stand out

Every politician wants to be remembered for their leadership and vision. But many can’t lead and some can’t see past the next election.

The easiest way to be the passionate politician that so many claim to be is simply to believe in something. It is easy in politics, especially when your social world and your political world overlap, to just “go with the flow” without identifying – and testing – and probing, exactly what it is you believe.

But why do you do what you do. What do you want to achieve. Why do spend the time and the money on politics that you do?

I have asked 100’s of wannabe MPs which laws they would introduce, abolish or amend. Surely, that would be not too much to ask of someone who wants to become a legislator? Some have said “Can I get back to you on that”. Others have answered fluently and instantly. But although it is an interesting question and one that focuses the mind of aspirant Parliamentarians, it is a question leveled at strategy or tactics. There is another question that is more important.

Leadership and Vision 101

You can’t lead unless you have a vision.

What is your vision? For this country and your constituency. After all, politicians are people who influence policy. And unless you are happy with “busy, busy, busy” activity rather than movement, policy must work towards a destination, a goal. A vision.

So what are the characteristics of a vision? A few thoughts:

  • A vision is big picture. It is forests, not trees.
  • A vision should be very retail. It should be clear and concise. Very brief. Very portable. It needs to be passed from person to person. In pubs. In homes. At work.
  • It needs to be credible. Otherwise people will simply not buy it. And the media will rip it, and the “visionary”, apart.
  • It has to be focused on the good of your community, constituency or country rather than yourself or your party.
  • By definition, it is on a time-line. A vision is a place or a thing not yet reached or attained. This is where we are. This is where we were. This is where we should go. Such a vision, if well communicated, will persuade people that short term pain is worth it. That there will be “jam tomorrow”.

On a personal basis, it is to do something, not just to be something. Which is why being an MP is not enough. Being an MP is just a tool, a platform, to help you achieve your vision.

When you know what the vision is you can develop a strategy to get you to the vision. When you have decided on a strategy, you can develop tactics to meet the strategy. But the vision comes first. The vision is the overriding idea, the dream. The vision should be the anchor that holds the rest together.

Sometimes, just sharing the vision, like Martin Luther King did, gives the vision a life of its own.His full, nearly 15 minute, speech is worth a listen. It is recommended viewing for all politicos.

Which other leaders have this “vision” thing? There must be 10 surely? Can we get to a list of 20?

Here, I have listed four leaders of vision. Two are still in power. Who else should be on the list? Am I even right?

Helmut Kohl. His vision: the reunification of Germany.

I lived in Germany while Helmut Kohl was Chancellor. It was great to watch this man speak. A conviction politician. His vision and his passion persuaded leaders of other countries, leaders of opposing political parties, the media – and most importantly, the people of West Germany.

Vision verdict: 10/10. Two countries are now one. It is probably fair to say that this would not have happened without his vision, focus and effort.

Legacy and Impact: 10/10 i.e. country changing. His legacy and impact are facts. Not every leader combines two countries peacefully and with the support of the people of both countries and the international community.

Margaret Thatcher. Her vision: that Britain would no longer be the “sick man of Europe”. To make Britain healthy again.

In this I am sure I will be contradicted here by many who have studied Lady Thatcher and her career and achievements and by those who know and knew her – but that is my retail summary, my perception, of her vision.

Vision verdict: 10/10 It is Europe that appears ill at the moment – propped up largely by the German machine.

Legacy and impact: 10/10 i.e. country changing. The nature of her legacy and impact is hotly disputed – but no-one disputes that she left a legacy or that she had an impact. Even the left would acknowledge that she put Britain ‘back on the map”.

Sheikh Mohammed. His vision: that Dubai become what it is today and more.

Desert replaced by roads and iconic buildings within a 5 – 10 year period. Transforming a desert emirate into a financial centre and a tourist resort. Pretty big picture stuff.

Vision verdict: 10/10. What he has achieved in Dubai is mind-boggling. By “enabling” and setting things up and then letting businesses get on with it. Still in power, he still has a big “to do” list. We all have “to do” lists – but this man has a record of delivering on his promises. And he does it in a country with zero income tax and zero VAT.

Legacy and impact: 10/10 i.e. country changing.

Barack Obama. His vision: crowd-sourced and quasi-delegated.

The 2008 Obama campaign has to be on this list. The “Yes we can” vision harnessed different things for different people – and made it all the more powerful for being so. This crowd sourced and delegated dream or vision may be less concrete that the other three, but it was no less powerful.

Vision verdict: His election could almost have been the vision – and was an unimaginable dream. He gets 10/10 for that. Will he get another term? What will he do with it?

Legacy and impact: too early to say really – he has had only 3 years in office, the 3 other leaders has much longer periods in office so it is a bit unfair to compare them at the moment.


Having a vision is important. It gives you a compass. A political direction. Whatever else happens, and a lot happens in politics, a vision will keep you facing and moving the right way.

Political vision is different from political management. Vision can become legacy. Management seldom does.

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