Tough times normally call for strong leadership. But does that apply in the case of the UK’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak?
Former PM Boris Johnson’s charisma and his successor Liz Truss’ ideological certainty are hard to surpass. Meanwhile, Sunak seems more like the classic manager than a natural leader; he talks of the need for tough decisions, stability and balancing the books. The question is: does the UK need bold leadership or steady management at the moment?
Leadership is about taking people where they would not have got by themselves, and that implies taking risk. Leaders challenge the status quo. The problem with great leadership is that you succeed big or you fail big – just ask Liz Truss. For every leader who confidently leads you to the Promised Land, there is another who equally confidently leads you straight into the desert. For every Elon Musk-led unicorn, there are many more dogs of a business that never escaped the garage.
He is going to have to rely on the 21st-century management skills of influence, persuasion and trust-building to get his way
In my view, the challenges Sunak faces are essentially management challenges that most managers will easily recognise. As with all managers, he faces the familiar problem that expectations exceed resources. It causes stress, conflict and pain, as Sunak is about to find out. Health, justice, education, benefits, defence and infrastructure all expect more spending, but no-one wants to pay more tax. Good luck with that one.
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