The Corbyn Bandwagon: What managers can learn from his success

07 August 2015 -


He’s not particularly telegenic, he’s not a child of the social media age and his views are far from mainstream, yet Jeremy Corbyn seems to be defying all the odds and set for success.

How exactly has he done it – and what can managers learn from him?

Jermaine Haughton

Jeremy Corbyn has propelled himself into pole position in the Labour leadership election, Insights looks at what chief executives can learn from his leadership style and campaign effectiveness to improve their own performance:


Many managers are easily lured into over-complicating their work and overthinking their responsibilities, confusing themselves and employees/customers alike. Corbyn has shown that conveying a simple and understandable message can help make leaders stand out from their competitors and open up crucial engagement, trust and loyalty with their target audience. Corbyn is open about his desire to increase public spending by investing in the NHS, welfare and education. His straight-talking approach seems to connect with many ordinary people. This is shown by the large crowds that have gathered at rallies across England to hear Corbyn speak, such as the 1,500 people who chanted “Jez we can!” at the MP’s speech in Camden this week.


Compared to the polished, youthful and clean-cut image of his Labour Party leadership rivals Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall, Corbyn is an elder, gravelly-voiced politician, often dressed with a colourful open collar shirt with his sleeves rolled up and prominent grey facial hair. With many of the shadow cabinet either shiny sharp-suited millionaires or career politicians, Corbyn’s appearance provides a refreshing change – a laid back style more associated with a history teacher or artist rather than Islington North’s MP for 32 years. For a traditionally left wing party, which claims to represent the working classes, Corbyn’s non-uniform approach clearly has helped build his relatable brand among supporters – a consideration advisable to many bosses. At UK supermarket Morrison’s, for example, new chief executive has adopted a relaxed dressing style attempting to reflect the warm, market-stall feel of the brand.


Critics label Corbyn many things, but never an appeaser to the social norms. His refusal to remain passive on controversial issues has seen him as a pariah in the Labour Party over the last 20 years. Since 2001 he's defied the Labour party on more than 500 occasions, according to voting record website The Public Whip. But the groundswell of voter disenchantment towards the party since May has led many disgruntled supporters to at least listen to Corbyn’s policies and views. Having famously voted against the Iraq war, ID cards and increasing tuition fees, Corbyn represents a complete rebellion by the grassroots of the Labour party, which has felt marginalised since the mid-1990s. Such disruption has been replicated in the corporate world: major firms such as Facebook, Amazon and Live Nation all ripped up the traditional business model on their path to success. Chief executives are reminded by the recent success of Corbyn that the willingness to challenge current ideas, products and services – and provide an alternative – can be extremely lucrative.


Corbyn has shown the saying of ‘age being just a number’ to be true, as the 66-yer-old has attracted large numbers of young volunteers and supporters. One CLP chair believes that "more than two-thirds" of new recruits since the election are supporters of Corbyn. For those too young to have witnessed well-known left wing politicians such as Tony Benn and Michael Foot, the energy and vigour of Corbyn’s campaign seems to have propelled the Wiltshire-native to similar heights. With a number of policies favouring 18-30 year olds, such as the abolition of university tuition fees, and investment in job creation, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said “no Labour leader has connected with the voters like this since Blair in the 1990s.” More than ever, young people are showing their care for social and political issues, from feminism to gay rights to Palestine, and it is a reminder to corporate bosses that incorporating a strong ethical and proactive culture can help attract customers from this important demographic.

Image courtesy of Garry Knight from Wikimedia Commons

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