Why leadership and management differ.

Thoughts on how JC should avoid being CJ by Caffeine associate Suzanna Jackson.

The late great David Nobbs brought us an unsurpassed portrayal of workplace nonsense and human nature. Reggie Perrin’s excruciating boss, CJ, brilliantly encapsulates the rear-view mirror logic of poor leaders. “I didn’t get where I am today by thinking…” is his triumphant conclusion at the end of series 1, following Reggie’s disappearance and faked suicide.

39 years after Reggie left our screens, we give professional thanks that CJ prototypes have entered management no-no textbooks. These type of people are now filed under the sub-heading ‘Hindrance to performance and progression’. (I miss his brand of conviction however – a topic for another day). Management by fear went the way of Sunshine Deserts. In came the mantra of ‘always hire people better than yourself’.

The world of business consultancy now offers more recommendations on the qualities of  a great leader than CJ could shake his mixed metaphor stick at. I feel it’s time to pick an über-quality. Why? Firstly, the blogosphere lists of ‘ideal qualities’ get longer. Second, brands and their reputation are no longer controlled at base. Community  shared experiences and user-created content all now shape the marketplace (and the marketing plan). Therefore this demands that we focus once more on the role of the leader in driving brand development and value creation. And third, something currently of note: here we stand in the UK in a bit of a political brand wilderness.

I offer the following as the über-quality that should drive a business, inspire its people and build brand value. It is that of having a clear vision and purpose for your organisation.  Simple. Except it isn’t. I don’t care what you call it and I don’t care if you have a codified brand model. But I do care that you a) articulate it to your people, then b) consider carefully which elements of it should be communicated externally.

And here’s the thing – I care very much that a great leader asks him/herself the following at the end of the day:

  1. What have I done today to reinforce and articulate some aspect of my brand’s purpose to my people?
  2. What have I personally done to help my brand achieve its vision and goals?

It’s a bit against the grain isn’t it? It suggests leaders should work on themselves, rather than focus on finding hero qualities in others.  And in a marketing world that encourages the whole-hearted embrace of every inbound social flutter, the best thing a great leader can actually do for the brand is ‘look inside’ every day.

Which leads us onto a live example of leadership. I think J Corbyn should do this.  Nothwithstanding this week’s thirst for bold conference content, broadly disregard the media and the populace for now (well ok, acknowledge us and look engaged and like you might be about to speak, without saying anything too strategic and detailed).  Look inward and think hard – about the Labour brand, its soul, its vision for a better UK and its two or three key messages. Let others think policy, but communicate not a great deal before the big picture is in place. In other words, permission to navel-gaze before the story can be told. Clearly be very sharp and as quick as you can about it (yes, speed to market matters in politics) but earn points by setting the strategy and letting people know what you intend to do about it personally. That starts internally.

Please don’t default to telling the country “it’s the right thing to do”. That’s the generic statement of a leader with no vision that can be articulated.

Maybe that’s where CJ blew it – bit of a cock up on the thinking front?


Guest Blog: We invite Caffeine friends, associates and interesting people we know to contribute to the debate on business leadership through our blog. If you’d like to write for Buzz, please get in touch here.

Suzanna Jackson
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