Theresa and I moved to Oxford, England on September 5, 2022. Here is a short list of national events since we arrived:
- Boris Johnson resigns as Prime Minister: September 5th
- Liz Truss assumed the role of Prime Minister: September 6th
- Queen Elizabeth passes: September 8th
- Charles immediately becomes King Charles with the Queen’s passing: September 8th
- Kwasi Kwarteng, Chancellor of the Exchequer, released the “mini budget”: September 23rd.
- Kwasi Kwarteng resigns his position: October 14th
- Liz Truss resigns: October 20th
- Rishi Sunak is elected Tory leader: October 24th
- Liz Truss submits her resignation to King Charles: October 25th
- King Charles invites Rishi Sunak to form a government: October 25th
In the short time we have been in England, we have seen three prime ministers, a Queen and a King, the near collapse of the conservative party, deep loss of national credibility in global financial markets and the start of a recession.
What should we expect next week? I am reminded of the advice from that great English football manager, Ted Lasso, “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.”
It is part of my work to remind clients that leading and authority are not the same action. Exercising leadership begins with a personal intervention from anyone with the courage to act. It can come from anywhere and from anyone.
I need to do a better job of highlighting the importance of authority in organizations, governments and civil society. Authority “is the formal and informal power within a system, entrusted by one party to another in exchange for services.” What are those services? They are 1) direction, 2) protection and 3) order. (The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Ron Heifetz)
Rishi Sunak has just inherited all the authority that is vested in the role of Prime Minister of Britain. He has a hell of a job in front of him and he will need to use all of that authority to first provide his party, then the country with a clear direction into a murky future. Britain’s future will need to be built on the shoulders of Brexit, a pandemic, fractured politics, a war in Ukraine and now a recession.
Sunak also must sort out how to protect many people from being hurt by a poor economy, loss of jobs, a diabled health care system and dent to national pride that comes from being compared to Italy. That is a great deal to protect, and he will need all of the government and parliament to get it done. No small task.
This brings us to the third service of authority: order. To some extent, order is influenced by the quality direction and protection operating in the system. If there is clear direction and solid protection present, then it is likely that the system will be operating with a high degree of order. A bit like 1+1 = 3.
I suspect that Sunak has already started the work of generating more order. He has made some progress uniting the Tory party, but more work will be needed. The party is way down in the polls, and many of his own party members are in pain.
It will be interesting to watch how he forms a government and how he mobilizes members of parliament to do the hard work of adapting to the uncertain future. He needs more than Tories to do this work. He will need to mobilize other parliament members who live outside the Tory tribe.
Rishi Sunak will need to get his authority in order, but it will not be enough. He will have to lead as well, and that act of leading begins with managing himself.
Rishi didn’t ask me for help, but if he did, I’d start by asking him these questions:
- What are your strengths, vulnerabilities and triggers?
- What is your contribution to the mess you are trying to sort?
- What are the stories others tell about you? To what extent are those stories accurate?
- What are your competing values in this situation? How will you choose?
- Where is conflict likely to emerge?
- What experiments can you run that put you beyond your comfort zone by design?
- How will you take care of yourself?
- What is your practice of self-reflection?
If you are following a leadership development practice, you are courtside to the “Live Rishi Sunak Leadership Case.” He will be my guide for the next few months; there is likely to be much to learn. I want him to be effective regardless of his political positioning. The people of Britain need a healthy Prime Minister who can move between authority and leading.
And he needs a mind like a goldfish.