As someone in the Leadership Development space, I’ve been fascinated watching the global decline in leadership standards over the last 4 years. While I can’t say whether we’ve reached rock bottom yet, it does seem that the UK has hit another floor, with a bang. It might be the basement floor, or there could be a few more to go. Only time will tell. However, what we can definitely say is that the UK has witnessed a further erosion of trust and leadership this past weekend.
As someone in the Leadership Development space, I’ve also had numerous conversations with leaders about what leadership is and isn’t. Leaders, by definition, need followers. As I always say, a person in a position of leadership with no followers is a maverick. Which brings us to Cummings. I don’t know the man, never met him, never will. However, I became very curious about him during Brexit and my sense is that he sees himself as a maverick – a thinker who conjures up theories that he loves to put into action while not really caring whether people agree, and follow him, or not. My sense is that he sees himself as a maverick, an individual contributor doing his own thing and doesn’t really care too much about others or what they think. I doubt he sees himself as a leader, with followers, with responsibilities. This would be in keeping with how he tends to stay in the background. He strikes me as the man who wants to be behind the power, rather than directly in the spotlight of power.
The problem with this is that, while the general public might not be followers to Cummings’ leadership, within the Conservative government, there are definitely people following him. Johnson and Gove seem to be big fans and firm followers, Gove as Minister for Education and Johnson as PM, with both of them joining him in the Vote Leave campaign. So, whether he sees it or not, or wants it or not, he is a leader, with some very powerful followers.
With leadership comes responsibilities and here is where Cummings, Johnson and Gove are letting themselves, and their country, down. As a maverick, Cummings is going to do things his way and sod everyone else. But when you’re the one, even if you’re in the background, making the rules, people expect you to believe in those rules, to follow them, to lead by example. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see much leadership from any of them during this breach of trust. I just hope there’s not too many more floors to drop.
What do you think makes a leader? What traits do you think are key requirements in a leader, for people to follow? What do you think defines a maverick?