Leadership Bingo: How to assess leadership performance in the General Election debates

April 6, 2015

QueencerseiIn their attempts to appear authentic, political leaders ‘leak’ information about their leadership styles. Here are some signals which help you play a game of Leadership Bingo during the General Election debates

I examined the great ‘seven leaders’ debate of April 2nd, in search of leadership styles.

Using my notes, I began to work out a more comparative analysis of the leaders combining their performance on the night with more general patterns of leadership behaviour to be found in the literature and in popular culture (Game of Thrones candidate above).

A jumble of leadership styles

My first efforts resulted in a jumble of leadership styles which began to connect what I had observed with more general concepts:

Charismatic style [CS]: (induces belief in those around without need to use statistics or reference to other evidence of authority. Offers hope (vision) for future}
Democratic style [DS] (Distributed leadership: Let’s share leadership responsibilities)
Empathic style [ES]: (I share your pain)
Heroic Warrior style [HWS] : (Lone Ranger: This dude has something special in a tough fight)
Level 5 style [L5S] : Modest but with evidence of determination (‘fierce resolve’)
Nurturing style [NS]: ( I’ll look after you)
Servant leader style [SLS]: (I am an instrument to help you achieve your goals)

The leadership bingo card

So there you have it: the political wonk’s bingo card for use alone, electronically, in the classroom or in the pub (suited for UKIP gatherings).

Fill in the card for each speaker. Needless to say, the winner is the bingo player who can identify every speaker with a leadership style line.

In the case of a tie, the winner goes to the player who has identified the most additional styles on the card.DSCN0938
Make your own cards for other leaders you are interested in. Here is the card I used

Let me know (comments) if you like Leadership Bingo.



Strategic Competitiveness in the 21st Century

May 28, 2010

Review of Ireland and Hitt’s Classic Article:

Ireland, R.D., and Hitt, M.A., (2005) ‘Achieving and maintaining strategic competitiveness in the 21st century: The role of strategic leadership’, Academy of Management Executive, 19,4, 65-77 (Reprinted from AME 1999, 13,1)

Strategic Leadership has become an important element within the field of leadership studies. An article written in the 1990s represents a perspective of two experts in the field and has been widely cited. The authors had previously completed a study of performance studies of high-growth entrepreneurial firms, and drew on their findings of ‘the new competitive landscape’

Defining Strategic Leadership

According to Ireland and Hitt

Strategic leadership is defined as a person’s ability to anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility, think strategically, and work with others to initiate changes that will create a viable future for the organization

The Lone Ranger Leader

The broad thrust of the article is that changing environmental conditions in the late decades of the 19th century were met with a shift in behaviours of organizations and organizational leadership. Furthermore, the authors argue that ‘being able to exercise strategic leadership in a competitively superior manner facilitates the firm’s efforts to earn superior returns on its investments’

In ‘the new competitive landscape ..in the 21st century, the ability to build, share and leverage knowledge will replace the ownership and/or leverage of assets as a primary source of competitive advantage’ (64). As a consequence a shift was occurring away from The Lone Ranger or as Senge termed it The Corporate Hercules concept of the Great Leader to The Great Group.

From The Great Leader to The Great Group

The concept of the great group was introduced by Warren Bennis in his text Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration. Ireland and Hitt drawing on Bennis and Charles Handy argue that

“[Great groups] usually feature managers with significant profit and loss responsibilities, internal networkers… Top managers …have shifted the locus of responsibility to form adaptive solutions from themselves to the organization’s full citizenry.”

The authors write of corporations becoming learning communities, a view shared by learning theorists such as Etienne Wenger and organisational experts such as Charles Handy.

Towards 21st Century Strategic Leadership

The paper describes six components of the emerging strategic leadership approach:

Strategic Vision: Establishing a creative vision through a Top Management Team (a special kind of Great Group). Some role-model leaders quoted are rather reluctant to depart from the older view that “the only person who can do that is the CEO”.

Developing Core Competences: Particularly important is privately owned knowledge. Viable firms are increasingly dependent of nurturing the knowledge base throufh encouragement of innovation enquiry.

Human Capital: This is a broader version of the assets within the firm’s ‘entire workforce or citizenry’ (70). The efforts of the TMT will be increasingly directed to nurturing and talents of all employees.

Sustaining Culture: Successful firms are associated with a culture which enhances positive reactions to challenges of change.

Ethical Practices: The importance of establishing ethical norms is noted (and some subsequent ethical pitfalls anticipated, prior to Enron and the 2008-9 Finanacial Crisis).

Balanced Controls: The older idea of top-down control through objective financial demands is replaced by a more complex balance of strategic and financial controls. The new conditions call for strategic ‘information based exchanges ..with emphasis on actions rather than outcomes [which] encourage lower-level managers to make decisions that incorporate moderate and acceptable levels of risk.’

The Leadership Model Evaluated

Ireland and Hitt provide a valuable integrative analysis of views of the successful 21st century organisation embedded in its fast-changing, turbulent and global environment. It is no surprise that some of the leaders cited for their practices are no longer considered role models. That in a curious way supports as much as weakens the broader conceptualisation provided in the article.

A close reading suggests that the model is more an ideal to be explored and tested than a strongly evidence-based description of emerging practices. When leaders offer quotes about ethics, or participative, team-based strategic leadership, the management scientist in me warns of the difference between espoused theories and theories in use (as Argyris puts it).

Readers may also want to go a little further than the authors in considering that the implication of the ‘pure’ Great Groups model would be to challenge the older idea of the CEO as primary agent for setting corporate direction. Nevertheless, the article provides a powerful summary of a conceptualisation of ‘what might be’, a roadmap for strategic leadership into the future.


During the Ukraine crisis attention was drawn to this post for insights into Putin’s leadership style. Is he acting out The Lone Ranger in its ‘great hero to the great group’ splendor?

Why British Business Leaders won’t appear on TV shows

March 28, 2008


In the US, appearing on the right news shows is part of a business leader’s job. In the UK, there is far more reticence by business leaders to court such publicity. Which culture is better served by its leaders and celebrity news presenters?

In one of his recent blogs, Robert Peston draws attention to an interesting difference between American and British business leaders.

When a chairman or chief executive appears on BBC television or radio, he or she is typically talking to millions of people in the UK and across the globe via our assorted programmes and channels and platforms. That’s appealing to a minority of business people, such as Stuart Rose of Marks and Spencer or Justin King of J Sainsbury. Their visibility, they believe, sends out a strong message of confidence in their respective businesses to their customers, employees and shareholders. Other executives are more reclusive, they cherish their privacy – which is understandable. It’s part of my job to persuade them they have a duty to be accountable, via the BBC, to the many different groups which have an interest in their respective companies

Well, yes, up to a point. As one of the BBC’s celebrity business journalists himself, Robert Peston has taken an understandable perspective. But methinks he doth protest a bit too much. Or, anyway, glosses over a very interesting difference in the way in which the media interact with business in America and the UK.

Hollywood invented the star system as a brilliant marketing strategy. The image of the star was supported by the studios and developed the image-building techniques and principles.

Off screen, the Holllywood star had to have an impeccable public life. On stage, the image was also that of the heroic figure. The male lead is exceptional, and yet someone who is also recognised as role-modelling important cultural norms. These include self-reliance, championing the oppressed against the forces of evil or morality. The faithful lieutenant knows his place, and his place is to perform well but not to upstage the star.

Every Lone Ranger has his Tonto …

The drama creates the world in which the audience suspends disbelief in the artifice. When successful the production helps generate popular demand for more of the same. For sequels and even prequels. The images replicate themselves.

We do things differently

Pursuing the metaphor, we can detect cultural differences. If Hollywood produced its heroes capturing and arguably helping create the American dream. While influenced by Hollywood, The British Film industry developed its own cultural mores through its own golden era of war-time propaganda firms in the 1940s, Korda, and Rank were driving forces behind the studios at Ealing and Pinewood.

These centres of creative film-making also helped establish the courageous and modest British hero with intrepid sidekick.

Every Holmes had his Watson …

Propaganda films reinforced the rigid class stratifications of the 1940s, although if anything the class divide between hero and chirpy sidekick in the war dramas strengthened the notion of an officer class, leading a nation of cheerful and indomitable lower orders.

Fast forward

In their related ways Hollywood and Pinewood found space for the rebellious hero. They also celebrated the progress of the self-made man.

Let’s fast-forward to a world of multi-media communications. California has provided a former American President, and its current State Governor.

The candidates for the next president of The United States are a charismatic young man making good; the dynastic successor of a former charismatic leader: and the veteran war hero. More than ever, media presentation will be vital in deciding the way the non-party voters move.

A similar context can be seen around the image-making of commerical figures. With some honourable exceptions, American TV interviewers of business leaders tend to be far more respectful.

The encounters are more obviously a performance in which each of the actors knows his or her parts. There is little difficulty in seeing how that old sociological metaphor of role-players applies. The business leader acts out the role of the able, honest, trustworthy figure. The interviewer acts out the role of able honest, trustworthy lieutenant.

The convention permits some variations in the playing of the roles, but there has also been a lot of convergence towards what is box-office.

Meanwhile, something quite different has happened in the UK. There has always been a theme of the revolutionary and rebellious hero. In the UK, the theme has developed into the celebrity newscaster taking on the establishment. The lawyer, politician and BBC journalist Robin Day was an early proponent in the 1960s.

Fast Forward to Modern Days.

The trend-setting Robin Day has been followed by another generation of celebrity journalists. The dominant themes of drama has all-but-been inverted, with the action reverting to the ancient Greek dramas in which vengeance is meted out to evil leaders by the avenging nemesis as played by the interrogator. It’s Tonto punishing The Lone Ranger. For episode after episode.

The star-system now builds up the image of the studio or channel’s new stars. Competition is fierce. As the Guardian recently reported, the stars are really battling with each other.

The paper was commentating on a public spat between two of the snarliest beasts in the media jungle, John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman.

To help decide the issue, perhaps we need a Celebrity Newsreader [contest] , scoring the two on Aggressive Interrupting, Exasperated Repetition and Curmudgeonly Books about England …

The problem with superhero battles, as any comics fan will tell you, is that it leaves the way clear for an arch-nemesis to clean up with nefarious schemes. Have you seen how much work Sir Trevor McDonald is getting these days?

Quite. It is hardly surprising that business leaders and politicians are avoiding the roles offered them in the dramas.

Leadership lessons

If the increasingly dated style of Humphrys and Paxman were to be seen and compared with interviewers with a less confrontational, yet engaging style, we may well get more glimpses of our business leaders.

Would we be better off as a society? The American system offers more showings of their business and political leaders. They are not particularly popular as prime-time material. As with the president’s well-managed press conferences, they are too rehearsed to be particularly revealing.

Perhaps in the UK, a successor to the much-missed Antony Clare would be worth seeking.