Inspiration and leadership

This has been a fascinating week as I’ve seen two very different manifestations of leadership in action, and what they had in common was that both inspired me.

The first was Andy Burnham, former government minister and now Mayor of Greater Manchester.

At an audience with the Institute of Directors in Manchester, he spoke with a directness and lack of evasion virtually unique in those who have served time at Westminster. He spoke of his priorities and how what he had already achieved tied to them; he spoke of how he set stretch targets and expected to fall short, but to do better than by setting easy targets, and he spoke of what a great leader Gordon Brown was, an unexpected testimonial for someone vilified by the press.

Unsurprisingly, Andy oozed charm, charisma and personality – an easy person to follow.

The second was Andrew Brown, speaking about the HyNet project at the Association for Project Management in Liverpool. Andrew is an engineer, not a politician. His talk didn’t mention himself at all – the focus throughout was on how it really was practical and achievable to convert natural gas to hydrogen, and capture the CO2 for storage under Liverpool Bay (in the exhausted Hamilton gas field). He explained clearly and logically how this this was possible, how limited the uncertainties were. He answered questions on how the hydrogen could be used; immediately in some Merseyside factories and to stimulate hydrogen fuelled vehicles.

Andrew didn’t “ooze charm and personality” – he was an engineer telling it straight. His leadership was just as powerful though. Many of the audience wanted to know how they could get involved.

Despite their very different styles and personalities, what they had in common were:

  • Sharing a clear vision of what they were trying to achieve, and why
  • A substantiated and convincing argument as to how it’s possible

Sadly, many of our “leaders” have neither – they play on emotions (like greed and hate). This style of leadership is not sustainable – some day even the most selfish and vitriolic followers become exhausted.

Motivating others in a sustainable way starts with hearts and minds.

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