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3 leadership lessons from the Lib Dems

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Avoid the blame culture 

A political party is not a one-man band. There will have been input from other members of the party, yet attention remains heavily focused on this one individual. What the party perhaps needs is a more cohesive team that works together in good and bad times. 

Any leadership group is responsible for efficiently running a company and managing its staff. The only way this is achievable is through building a group of senior individuals who not only complement each other in terms of their skills, but also support one another – advising where required and minimising potential risks. 

While there is historically a blame culture associated with politics, success is really dependent on leaders working together. Indeed, the first few years of the coalition could arguably be considered successful due to the two groups working together and sharing the burden of any negative reports. 

Build resilience

It’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy, especially in the world of politics. Clegg – and indeed any leader in any industry – will have to make tough decisions that some might not agree with, but are perhaps the best option at the time. And for an individual facing scrutiny by peers and the general public, the risk of criticism is high. After all, what satisfies the concerns of one group, won’t always work for other audiences.

Leaders, therefore, need to be resilient to ensure both they and their teams are not affected by any potential issues. Given that senior professionals across all industries are likely to face growing pressure to meet targets, support business objectives and expand the company, being resilient will become increasingly important.

This skill includes the ability to adapt to change. We’re operating in a world where the global economy is in a state of constant evolution. Political parties and businesses alike are finding they need to adapt to new environments to be able to survive and thrive. In order to do this, many leadership teams will need to create a flexible environment, which starts with being adaptable themselves.

Develop and grow teams 

One of the issues that many appear to have overlooked in the Lib Dem party is the failure of the local leadership teams. While much of the focus of criticism has been on the party leader, it can’t be ignored that other senior individuals haven’t performed as well as expected. Looking at the results of the local elections, many leaders failed to repeat their previous successes. 

For example, Sir Graham Watson, the former leader of the Liberal group in the European parliament, was the biggest casualty, losing his seat in the south-west after 20 years in Strasbourg. It’s clear that other senior individuals also played a huge role in the election failings.

For any leadership team, it’s vital that all individuals are not only viewed on a level-playing field, but also held just as accountable as one another. And where there are any concerns, training and development should be considered. Referencing the case of Sir Watson, while he had held a strong position for 20 years, the economy changed drastically during this period and it could be argued that a new approach was required.

Sir Watson’s activity in his long career was clearly successful, but it was well-known in the lead up to the elections that local communities wanted more. Sometimes innovation and new ideas are needed, but this can only be done if the right development opportunities are in place for current and potential leaders. 

In this constantly evolving economic landscape, a company’s success will be largely driven by the abilities of its leadership team. The future of Nick Clegg and his party is uncertain, but for organisations, the criticisms surrounding the Liberal Democrats can provide some insightful learning points.

 Pip Clarke is Business Development Director at a&dc.

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