10 essential leadership qualities – and Boris

That Boris Johnson is a larger than life character is beyond doubt.  He is already a huge force in British politics and it is certain that we haven’t heard the last of him.  But now he is out of the leadership race for the next Prime Minister we can take a moment to consider whether he might have made a good leader for the country or not.

Good leadership is a hard quality to define and when you are looking for leadership potential it is easy to get caught up in personal charisma instead.  Which is why our Organisations Leadership Skills course takes time to consider a Leadership Competency Wheel that identifies all the qualities needed in a leader.  This is a great way of looking dispassionately at someone’s performance while not getting overly caught up in their personality.  This wheel identifies 10 qualities that a leader should express.  Let’s take a look at how Boris Johnson rates for each of them.

Visionary

Is Boris truly a visionary?  Well he is certainly good at appearing to be one, but think about that long weekend after the Brexit referendum was first announced when Boris stayed holed up at home making up his mind which side to campaign on.  It was quite possible that he might choose either side.  So does he have a clear vision about exiting the EU or was it a tactical move to take him closer to being PM?  My sense is that Boris’ vision relates more to his own career than to the country being outside the EU.Cross

Inspirational

Undoubtedly Boris is an inspirational person.  In a few weeks he was hugely influential in swaying public opinion in favour of Brexit.  Tick

Strategic

Yes, I’m sure he had a strategy to win the Brexit campaign, but after the vote there seems to be a lack of a detailed strategic plan for leading the country through an exit from the EU and beyond.  Cross

Tactical

Oh yes, Boris can do tactics.  He is very clever at achieving his goals.  And no one gets as close to the top of government as he has without being highly tactical.  Tick

Focussed

OK he can focus on a vision, but my sense is that when it comes to the detailed task of government I suspect he might be less focussed on the fine detail of legislation which is a large part of the job.  Cross

Persuasive

Yes, Boris is hugely persuasive.  His jovial style has won many voters over from cynicism about politicians.  Tick

Likeable

Boris is like Marmite, people either love him or hate him.  But I think many people have been won over by his natural humour and buffoonery.  Tick

Decisive

Apart from that famous weekend when the referendum was announced, he is obviously able to make decisions and stand by them.  Tick

Ethical

Hmm.  While there is no evidence of unethical behaviour he always gives off a sense that he will act for his own career above anything else.  I wouldn’t regard him as a conviction politician.  Cross

Open to feedback

Can you imagine Boris humbly listening to feedback from others?  Perhaps?  But then wouldn’t you expect him to go away laughing behind his hand?  Cross

 

So would Boris have made a good leader of this country through the exit from the EU?  According to this list I would give him just 5/10.  Perhaps that is what other politicians saw which is why he lost their support.

But whatever you think about Boris Johnson it is important when choosing a good leader to get beyond personal opinion and charisma.  So taking each of these qualities in turn and considering the individual in the light of them will help in choosing a good leader for an organisation.  Similarly, for those in a leadership position already it is a good mechanism for personal reflection to see how you can improve the way you serve your shareholders, staff, customers and other stakeholders.