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How NOT to lead a team: dissecting the Prime Minister’s style of management

Greg Devine


Small silver chess pieces following large leader gold chess piece

‘Partygate’ appears to be coming to some form of conclusion, with both our Prime Minister and Chancellor having been fined for breaching lockdown regulations. Taking politics off the table, I can’t help but feel they’re both perfect examples of what not to do when in a position of management and when tasked with leading others.

Don’t lie to your team

If you tell one lie, you’ll soon have to tell more lies to cover your tracks. ‘The truth will out’ is a common phrase, but this iswhat happens…and when it does, your credibility will take a nosedive and your reputation will be tarnished.

Boris Johnson even took a step further—he had members of his team lie on his behalf in an attempt to save face. Lying, therefore, could not only damage your own reputation, it could also ruin someone else’s career.

Don’t bully or intimidate staff members

An action purportedly favoured by the Foreign Secretary, bullying is not an easy nor effective way to wield respect in any modern workplace. Honesty goes a long way; I’m sure we would all prefer to be told the truth.

For example, don’t tell your staff they won’t need to come in on Thursday if you know there’s a good chance that they will need to. I would much prefer to hear from my manager, ‘You might need to be in…sorry about that, we’ll arrange something in return.’ Honesty instils loyalty and your staff will be more likely to deliver a better performance for you if you treat them with respect. People won’t put up with bullying nowadays, and quite rightly; if staff members feel they’re not being listened to by their manager(s) and/or HR, they’ll simply leave.

social work environment with colleagues gathered around a workstation together

social work environment with colleagues gathered around a workstation together

Put thought into workplace socials

These can help a team bond and come together, and they can really improve morale. We can finally hold these again, now we’re out of lockdown; however, Johnson’s government encouraged its members to break the law with Partygate.

Make sure, as much as possible, any workplace socials you organise cater for everyone. For example, having a garden party with a ‘bring your own alcohol’ policy may not be as welcoming and straightforward as it sounds. Not everybody will want to drink alcohol—some may have to drive to the event—and it could be viewed as inconsiderate to those with particular religious beliefs.

I had a previous manager who would send each one of their staff members a birthday card and Christmas card. It wasn’t a small team either, with well over 100 members of staff. This manager bought the cards with their own money, and though it wouldn’t have cost them much, their gesture and handwritten message made you feel respected and valued. This is so much better than threatening members of staff, should they not want to lie on your behalf, which would only make them feel undervalued and expendable.

Learn to exercise humility

Knowing when you’ve lost credibility and accepting this is also very important. Sometimes, a manager will make a mistake that may cause staff to lose trust in them. Not everyone is perfect, but the measure of a manager is how they go about rebuilding that trust. Boris Johnson, for example, lost a lot of respect when he was fined for breaking the law. In most other workplaces he would have probably been sacked or encouraged to take the honourable way out and resign.

I’m not saying that, should you make a mistake, you should leave your job; however, regaining your employees’ trust is crucial. Yes, Johnson apologised for what he stated was an error of judgement, but this was afterhe’d lied about attending any parties at Number 10, even though he must have known, deep down, that’s exactly what they were—not the ‘business meeting’ he claims he was led to believe.

Again, in one of my previous roles, a manager made a big mistake with the staff rota. Instead of passing the buck or letting the problem fester, they owned up to their mistake. They apologised and tried to fix the issue as much as they could.

My conclusion? If you need any direction on how best to lead a team in business, don’t look at our Prime Minister as a good example!

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