Oh what a night! Not what we all had predicted. But we have greater clarity than we anticipated. We have a clear leader – but an equally clear statement for Scotland.
The next few weeks we will all pick over the reasons why we saw a collapse of the Lib Dems and the disappointment of the Labour vote. One of the factors I wish to suggest is their respective leadership qualities. The strong leaders won – the weak leaders were crushed. Cameron (whether you like his policies or not) has led the country out of economic gloom, whilst Miliband has looked and sounded weak against him. Likewise, Clegg has demonstrated his weakness over the past five year in the face of Conservative domination in the coalition. Whilst the spoils goes to David Cameron, the real victor of the night was Nicola Sturgeon. She has surprised and impressed everyone since taking over from Alec Salmond in November 2014. When she spoke at the hustings she came across as forceful and clear. Her leadership has created the most dramatic swings in British political history.
Whether we like it or not, the general public are as often voting on personalities as principles and policies (and frankly when all the policies are either unexplained or so close together personalities become the difference that makes the difference). But before we write off ‘leadership’ as just a personality trait, let’s look into this in a bit more depth.
Without doubt, a leader can make a supreme difference to the fortunes of an organisation (just look at Football Managers to see the testament of this). Almost every Management textbook quotes leadership skills as one of the key drivers of success. But it’s not just theory. A lot of empirical research has shown that strong leadership skills do play a key role. For example, in the McKinsey book, Beyond Performance, they have calculated that organisations with strong leadership and clear direction will have greater earnings (EBITDA) than those companies run by weaker leaders. Daniel Goleman likewise has shown that organisations led by a person with high ‘Emotional Intelligence’ on average reports 20% higher earnings than companies run by other types of leaders (e.g based on skill set).
So where is it going wrong? Miliband, Clegg, Bennett and Wood (even Farage) have many of the typical ‘tick’ list qualities of leadership that are widely espoused in all the many books on leadership. For me the element that I do not see in all these lists is something I term ‘Punch’ (and we are not talking the Prescott type of punch!). It’s that personal power – that strength you feel from a person. It’s a force that influences. It’s an energy that is contagious and is difficult to ignore. When they speak you have greater belief in them as the words resonate from a deeper core of conviction. Whether you agree with her policies or not, Thatcher had it (Major didn’t). Of all the current crop of leaders, the one I suggest has the most ‘punch’ is Nicola Sturgeon.
So where does it come from? It’s an inner sense of drive, backed up with a real strength of confidence of their own abilities. They have a grit, a determination that goes beyond what most others push for. When they get set backs it just fuels them to keep on pushing. These people see their aim to achieve their goal – and accept they will not always be liked (unlike most Politicians these days who seem more prepared to be flexible on strategies beliefs and values just to be liked).
This may sound simplistic, but ultimately, to be a leader, you need people to follow you. People will only follow someone who they have the faith and belief will take them to where they want to go. That’s why we have a united Scotland and now a divided ‘United’ Kingdom.