6.3.4.1 Leadership Performance

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6341.htm)

The performance requirements for a political leader are more demanding than those described previously (6.3.3) for other politicians:

  • Responsiveness in a leader means listening to the members of their team as well as to popular demands and to expert advice.  Good management is not about knowing better than team members – it is about delegating and getting the best performance from them.
  • Competence in a national leader also has an international dimension, whereas most other members of the government team have a purely domestic focus.
  • Integrity is even more important for a leader than for other politicians, because the team takes its moral tone from its leader. It would be impossible to root out corruption in a society whose leader was corrupt, for example.
  • They must be self-confident, to inspire others to follow them.
  • Charismatic leaders can inspire the population and strengthen its morale.

Some leaders dominate the government team as visionaries, directing the way ahead, whereas others act more as team managers.  Clement Attlee, for example, was famously modest but his government achieved a lot; a Daily Mail profile, Clem Attlee stood for decency and duty – a stark contrast to today’s MPs, noted that he ran a talented team:

“In a Cabinet of uproarious, confident, highly talented personalities  –  the bullish Ernest Bevin, the bumptious Hugh Dalton the ascetic Sir Stafford Cripps, the firebrand Aneurin Bevan  –  Attlee, even as their boss, was often overlooked.”

Circumstances affect the degree of responsiveness which is appropriate; it can be characterised on a scale, as illustrated below.  At one extreme is the administrative style, which is reactive and consensual – listening to members of the team and to the public; at the other end of the scale is the dictatorial style, which tells the team and the people what is going to happen and then enforces compliance:

Charismatic leadership is necessary in wartime, or to persuade doubters to accept policies, but normally responsiveness is also important.

Inclusivity (2.5) and prudence (2.6) are always required of leaders.  They have a responsibility for all who come within their sphere of influence and they should consider the foreseeable future impact of their decisions.

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