There has been a great deal of noise on the streets of the UK. The two main causes have been football and the visit of President Trump, and while the scope of these topics is vastly different, there is an interesting comparison to draw between them in terms of leadership.
There can seldom have been more dissimilar leaders behind the public reactions. One struts and swaggers, embarrasses his allies and praises erstwhile enemies. His arrival was greeted by declarations that ‘the ego has landed’. The noise surrounding his visit has been fiercely anti and vehemently pro with a distinct bias towards the former. He is the most powerful leader in the western world with little feel or tolerance for diplomacy. Some admire his directness while others cannot distinguish it from rudeness. Even his apologists can struggle to justify his stances on several matters and see him as the arch deal maker who is simply taking an early extreme position so that he can soften his stance as a deal comes into view. To describe him as a Marmite leader captures his polarising impact but does not convey the extremity of the reactions he provokes. In his world, lights and bushels never meet. He might grudgingly be called a winner against the odds having secured the presidency against the predictions of pundits and gamblers alike.
…vs humble determination
The other is the manager of the England world cup football team. He is quiet, charming, intelligent and warm. He cares hugely for his team, respects and appreciates them. He demonstrates what Jim Collins has dubbed Level 5 Leadership, characterised by deep personal humility and extremely hard work allied with fierce determination and ambition for his team. His style has given rise to national admiration and seems to be followed by his captain and the rest of the team who exceeded even their own expectations by progressing to the last four in the competition when most recent England teams could not make it into the knock-out stages at all. Southgate’s refreshing approach, and his team’s exploits stirred the heart and hopes of a nation and 26 million in the UK are said to have watched the semi-final of the competition.
So which is the more helpful role model for leadership in tough times? Whereas there is continual contemporaneous commentary, the ultimate success of a leader is frequently judged retrospectively. Periods of success and failure tend to intertwine in most careers. Both leaders set out to reverse what they saw as previous decline. The President’s approach is to push, even bludgeon his way through his ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda. Gareth Southgate encourages, coaches and nurtures his charges. Which is most likely to succeed in the longer run? Jim Collins’s research suggests that the most appropriate approach is Level 5 Leadership. Time will tell.
by Prof David Pendleton