The gloves are off, no one trusts Boris.
Or so it would seem from the numerous interviews given by politicians in the aftermath of the governments’ defeat. Strikingly, many citing their simple but profound distrust of the prime minister as the reason why they will not, no matter their political persuasion, support him.
For a prime minister this is pretty darn fatal. It suggests that no matter the quality of the idea, the goodness of the intention, charisma of the oratory, Boris will be unable to persuade a majority to support him. His soiled reputation dragging behind him like a wet blanket, trampled on by his cohort of hidden advisors, will smother any hope he has for major breakthroughs. Like a beaten boxer, every time he raises himself from the ropes, the ferocity of mistrust is likely to punch him back down again. It will undermine his every move and follow him around like a bad smell sticking to his every word and action.
For every leader mistrust erodes potential and beats down productivity but it is still possible to function for a while without it. But for a prime minister at this critical time, this level of mistrust will stifle and curtail his every move.
Boris must address this mistrust if he is to have any hope of building relationships enough to bring people with him on the hazardous journey we all face. It is time to draw a line under the old-style leadership that Boris, and Theresa before him exemplify.
We need to re-frame our ideas about the role of leadership in times of complexity, to manage uncertainty better, and give us direction that is both purposeful and viable.
Command and control is no longer fit for purpose, we need leaders to work with reality not simply try to control it.
Boris’s (our) only hope is a radical rethink about what the role of leadership can be in these complex times. In the face of such adversity, warranted or not, he must now pause, reflect, listen and face the elephants in the room. His words and grand ambition alone will not be enough to dislocate people from their feelings about him. We need a fresh, relevant approach to leadership, one that brings people together, convened around a purpose that we can all buy into.
Perhaps a good starting point would be to consider the Radio 4 survey results immediately following the referendum that showed that the majority of us voted the way we did for the exact same reason – 86% of us were voting for a better future for our children. Whatever that may look like this would seem a good place to start.
Our suggestion for Boris would be to take a long deep breath, be brave and bold. Know that there is a solution but not by adopting the aged-old political tactics of the top down approach that have so badly let us down thus far. We need a leader not just with a vision but the ability to translate this into language and actions that can unite and galvanise us. We all need to be a part of this new chapter and have a leader to focus on delivering dynamic collaboration to achieve a better future for us all .
Unfortunately, I suspect that the very upbringing and life experience that qualified Boris for this prime role may also be the very reason he will be unable to achieve this necessary rethink. He will increasingly fall back on the tried and failed approach asserting more and more control as he loses it, until we splinter into a myriad of tribal factions, barely able to recognise our reflected selves, nor see the whole we once were.