After a decade-long battle with the Guardian, Prince Charles’ ‘spider memos’ are finally going to be published today. They reveal correspondences between the prince and members of Parliament between 2004 and 2005, when Tony Blair was in power. There were many controversial things that happened during Blair’s tenure, not least of which the war in Iraq.
So what’s the big deal? Well, it’s well known that the royal family are not allowed to vote and the queen in particular must demonstrate political neutrality. It is tradition, however, for the newly elected Prime Minister to have an audience with the queen where she will ask him or her to form a new government. She meets with the Prime Minister frequently, as you’ll know if you saw The Queen or the critically acclaimed The Audience in the West End. For over sixty years, Elizabeth II has been Britain’s head of state and seen many changes over the years. Nevertheless, her position of neutrality, coupled with many years of democratic experience, gives the queen the unique position of being able to offer sound advice to the current Prime Minister.
Charles, it is well known, has been second in line to the throne for an unbearably long time. His road to monarch has not been easy but he has, in the past few years, improved his public image (after the post-Diana years) and taken on more duties as the queen gets older. The revelation that he had a hand in government, was able to influence politicians, is a little alarming. The modern monarchy are certainly different to their forebears, and the queen now even has Twitter. However, at the beginning of David Cameron’s second term as Prime Minister, and not to mention the timely addition of another baby in line to the throne, Prince Charles must demonstrate that he is above the crowd and able to rule (should the opportunity arise) with humility and indifference to the changing British political landscape.
Everyone has opinions, and it is most likely that Prince Charles, at the right hand of his mother, is more clued-up on what goes on in government than most. But to lead, he must be authentic. There is no doubt that the queen possesses the qualities of an authentic leader; I doubt there are many other people who could go about their duties and live under as much scrutiny as she has endured for over half a century. Charles, with his son and grandson set to follow in his footsteps, must set an example for them to follow. The monarchy will always be at the pinnacle of British society, but to endure, they most not upset the apple-cart.
All across Britain this morning, we woke to the sounds not of ‘hung parliament’, but of ‘overwhelming majority’. Who would have thought it only a week ago that the Conservative party would not only win the election but do so in such a convincing fashion? Only a few days ago, Nick Clegg was telling anyone that would listen that David Cameron did not believe his party would win outright.
Today’s result marks a startling contrast to the kerfuffle of the 2010 election, where parties were at a stalemate and desperately scrambling to make friends and form a coalition, today Cameron stands tall and accepts his victory with (hardly any) grace. It was a dirty election. To be honest, I could not tell you what any of the main parties’ policies were since the campaign trail dissolved so quickly into character-bashing and grandiose attempts to make the other leaders look worse than each other.
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, this country is going to be run by the upper echelons of society. Those people who schmoozed each other at Eton and enjoy the comfort of not having to pay bedroom tax are now more secure than ever in a position of power. Do we really want George Osborne as Chancellor? The man has never had to budget in his life. No Tesco’s basics beans for him, oh no. But then we come to David Cameron, a man who made Margaret Thatcher look charismatic. Has he ever had to choose between going on holiday or fixing his house? Has he ever had to save every penny he’s earned to afford a mortgage? This is the man that the UK has for the next five years. A party so out of touch with the people seemed to win this election.
Seven years since the 2008 recession and the country is still feeling the pinch. Inflation and VAT is at an all time high with house prices rising at an exponential rate. With the everyday person now not predicted to own a house until they’re in their late thirties, what is David Cameron going to do to help the country back to being ‘Great’? Has anybody forgotten what stellar ethics he possesses by keeping Rebekah Brooks in his pocket? Or lauding it about in the countryside with his incredibly polite and pleasant pal, Jeremy Clarkson? Does anybody remember when Cameron employed now-convicted criminal Andy Coulson? I’m sure these were all oversights.
Only time will tell as to how much of a danger the landslide victory for the SNP will be in Scotland. It would seem that Cameron’s grovelling to keep the UK together is far from over. With five more years under this government, Cameron needs to emerge as a leader that we all have confidence in, not just those who will benefit from the cut in inheritance tax. Cameron now has a majority win, he no longer needs propping up with a deputy Prime Minister. He is desperate for power, that’s for certain, but can he prove himself to be authentic? If the past five years have anything to prove, it’s that Cameron doesn’t like to upset the Fat Cats, those with influence, he will defend his friends rather than speak up for what is right and moral. The next five years may well be even more trying for this government than the last five years. David Cameron must learn to put his ego aside and lead for all the people, not just those with power and influence.
If it all goes to hell, we’re planning on moving across the pond to vote for Hillary!
Barely a week has gone by this year without a UKIP scandal making the headlines, a member of the party has had to step down because they have made a racist/homophobic/sexist gaffe and have ’embarrassed the party’. Whether you can embarrass a party whose leader is the prime reason nobody can take it seriously is a matter for the voters to decide.
After the scandal over a member having gone to Wadham College in Oxford and then ‘changing her mind’ or Farage declaring that his party is not racist because they have one ‘half black’ and one ‘fully black’ member. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is all some sort of bad-taste seventies comedy, but no, here is a man who believes he and his party have the best intentions for British citizens and are going to make Britain a better place come the election next week.
We only have six days left until the polls open and there’ll be more town hall debates, character assassinations and vacuous claims coming from all sides until the Public are left with the final word. However much we have laughed at Farage, found amusement in the ridiculous nature of his party and campaigning, there is a very real danger that this man will gain a seat in parliament next week.
Yes, he looks like he smells of fags, booze and misogyny, but Farage is a real danger to the psyche of British politics. His hypocritical policies are having a deep impact on potential voters. Now, we’re not comparing him to Hitler, but Farage, much like Hitler, is looking for a scapegoat for the British peoples’ problems. For Hitler, it was the Jews, for Farage, it is immigrants. Statistically, immigrants in Britain put more into the economy than they take out, and many come here, not to sponge off the system, but to make a better life for themselves and their families. Farage himself married a German woman and employs her as his secretary. It will be a difficult day at the airport for the Farage family if he is forced to deport his own wife. But then, we would not expect a hypocrite to do that, would we?
Then there are the claims that Farage has the best interests of the British people and has put them at the heart of his policies. A little-known fact about this man is that he used to be a banker in the very city that for too long has creamed off the profits and put the economy in a very compromised position. Do not be fooled by the beer-swilling, everyday man that Farage presents himself to be. He will certainly not be affected by the bedroom tax or the benefits cuts. He likely has little to no idea how the everyday person manages with VAT at 20% and the rising cost of living.
When it comes to polling day, consider yourselves and consider that this man his no idea what he is doing. Power can be very dangerous in the wrong hands, and one who is seeking it so desperately should have his motives called into question. Farage is anything but authentic.
Could you be a great leader?
What if you could lead better simply by being yourself? No more management training courses or lengthy leadership seminars, just a chance to let the real you shine and achieve success at work and at home.
It sounds too good to be true but a new book called Authentic Leadership, by business consultant Bas Blekkingh, claims anybody can be a great leader just by being ‘real’. Many business books will tell you that in order to lead others you need to perfect certain management techniques or influencing skills. But Blekkingh says it’s far simpler than that – all we need to do is truly understand our own motivation and purpose and great leadership will naturally flow from that.
Bas Blekkingh has experienced many different styles of leadership throughout his career. As a junior world championship rower he was coached with the ‘no pain, no gain’ style of leadership; as an officer in the army he learned to think tactically and organise troops and as a leadership consultant he became familiar with the standard tips and tricks managers are taught to use. But he also discovered that all of these styles of management only took him so far, that something was holding him back and preventing him from feeling completely fulfilled in his work. Blekkingh says, ‘I came to the conclusion that true leadership is not about learning tricks. It’s about unleashing your authentic inner power and facing the fears that stop you giving yourself completely.’
Blekkingh now runs a highly successful business teaching his insights and methods to other individuals and organisations. In Authentic Leadership he invites readers to learn these methods in order to create more, do more, inspire more and achieve more both at work and in their lives beyond their jobs. He encourages readers to journey through his field-tested seven-layered model in order to discover their mission in life and demonstrates that leading is about more than merely managing others.
Authentic Leadership is an inspirational, sometimes challenging book that enables readers to create an environment where achievement and fulfilment positively reinforce each other, whether they are a manager, coach, consultant, professional or teacher. So what are you waiting for? Get your copy today!
Of course, Michael Scott was not the only boss that the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin had over the years. Sadly, he left at the end of series seven and his successors had leadership styles that were entirely their own. Given that there were lots of successors, we can gather that they weren’t exactly incredibly successful. However, we can learn from each character something valuable about leadership.
- Robert California. This was the sex-crazed boss who took over after it turned out that Will Ferrell was only contracted for a few episodes. As Robert California stared down the camera at the audience, we knew that we were in for a unique style of leadership. Eventually it all got too much for him and he left Dunder Mifflin never to be seen again. However, though his character was scary and intimidating in the beginning, we began to think him not as mad as he initially seemed.
- Andy Bernard. Whether you believe David Wallace really should have chosen Andy to replace Robert California as manager of the Scranton branch, Andy certainly had camaraderie with his employees. It can be hard to lead when you are promoted ahead of your peers and gaining their trust when you once bantered with them at the water cooler can be difficult. However, Andy’s biggest faux pas as boss was not to undermine his former colleagues, but to disappear entirely for three months on a sailing trip with no prior warning. During his absence, the company was incredibly profitable which only served to demonstrate how superfluous Andy was both as an employee, and as regional manager.
- Nellie Bertram. If you see a job that you want, simply give yourself that role. Catherine Tate’s character effortlessly assumed the role as manager of the company when Andy went off on his sailing trip. Though never formally employed, she managed to manipulate her way into the company in the final seasons. Initially abrasive and rude, Nellie softened up and revealed her more vulnerable side. As a manager, she wasn’t much cop but given that she actually turned up for work everyday, she did much better than Andy!
- Jo Bennet. Played by the fantastic Kathy Bates, Bennet is a character who takes no nonsense from anyone. Once she’s bought Dunder Mifflin, she makes sure that productivity in each branch is high. This Southern woman is not to be messed with, putting Michael right in his place after he attempts to woo her and bring out her softer side.
- Jan Levinson. Frequently the butt of sexist jokes and banter in the office and the warehouse, Jan was able to rise above and succeed in a ‘man’s job’. Her relationship with Michael Scott could be seen as a faux pas as he was a liability when it came to liaising with corporate. However, after a successful boob job and leaving Michael, she became the leader of her own company and the epitome of the successful self-made woman and single mother.
- David Wallace. He is a complicated character but we can establish that he really is just trying to do what’s best for the business. It can’t be easy having to manage people like Michael Scott without firing them at the first opportunity. However, Wallace’s plan to usurp Jan with a new employee was not handled well in season three, it’s always good to give someone the ‘heads up’ before you interview for their replacement in front of them. Wallace also made a bad business decision by hiring Ryan, previously an intern at Scranton who had not made a single sale. The power eventually got to Ryan’s head and he had to be let go. However, Wallace gained back his credibility after being laid off by buying back Dunder Mifflin from Robert California and reinstating himself as CFO. His character arc truly went full circle and he was probably one of the sanest people on the show.
- Dwight K. Schrute. Dwight is the perfect example of earning your leadership role. His first chance as boss is cut dramatically short after he fires a gun in the office. However, by the end of the show we are really rooting for him to become regional manager of Dunder Mifflin. After years of painful pranks from Jim, giving himself the ‘assistant to the regional manager’ title and his lifelong dedication to his job (Dwight wanted to die at his desk, then quits his job after going over Michael’s authority to Corporate) he finally becomes the character that could. He is the success story of Scranton.
Whether you think any of these characters actually deserved to be regional manager is up to you. They certainly all had a unique style of leadership. Perhaps if they’d all read Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership, they would have all been a little bit better at their jobs.
Last week we wrote about how much we admired Michael Scott for the leadership lessons that he could teach us. However, we’re sure you’re all thinking that there were more than a few occasions when Michael’s managerial qualities were somewhat lacking. So, in the interest of fairness, we have balanced out last week’s list with seven reasons why Michael Scott could have perhaps done with reading Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership and getting a few tips on how to improve his skills.
- Lack of productivity. Michael Scott is a procrastinator, if there was an award for this he would most certainly win it. Remember the episode where he had to sign three different things before the end of the day and nobody left before seven because it was too much work? Or how about when Jan asked Pam to write down everything Michael did one day (spoiler: he waited in line for a pretzel). Michael’s inability to knuckle-down almost lost him his job when two companies were forced to merge.
- Mixing business and romance. From the very first episode, Jan Levinson was a part of the Dunder Mifflin company and the victim of Michael’s ‘that’s what she said’ jokes. However, somehow, something like love managed to blossom between the two of them, but not without serious consequences for their jobs and the company. When Michael demands a raise, Toby points out that this may be the first time ever a male subordinate has withheld sex from a female superior until he gets offered more money. Thankfully, Jan and Michael parted ways after a relationship that was tumultuous at best. We can all learn from this that sleeping with your boss is never a good idea and that mixing business and pleasure can often end in tears (take heed, Jon Snow and Ygritte!)
- Lack of discretion. It is well known that Michael Scott cannot keep secrets but sometimes this can be incredibly damaging. When he found out that Oscar was gay, he inadvertently ‘outed’ him to the whole office. This was a dangerous move and Dunder Mifflin suffered because of this: Oscar got months of paid leave as well as compensation. Michael’s lack of subtlety, however, goes much deeper, as he said to Oscar, ‘your gayness does not define you, your Mexicanness defines you’. In the episode, ‘The Convict’, Michael also tells the office which of the employees has a criminal record and that person then quits. Good leaders instil confidence in their employees and make them feel they can share problems in confidence.
- Selfish desires. Michael’s desperation to be the centre of attention or the joke-teller often means that he puts his own needs before those of his employees and the work of the office. Frequently targets are missed because Michael has decided to distract the office with his own personal problems. Take the episode ‘The Injury,’ for example, where Michael demands the office rally around him because he burnt his foot on his George Foreman grill.
- Undisguised hatred of Toby Flenderson. Remember that episode where Michael took the office to the beach in an attempt to see who would make a good replacement? Well Toby doesn’t. He had to stay in the office and man the phones while the others had a fun day out. That’s because Michael develops an intense and irrational hatred of the human resources guy. You can’t be expected to get on with everyone in your office, especially if it’s a big corporation with lots of departments. However, Michael’s dislike of Toby progresses throughout the series in an extreme manner; Michael does not hide his feelings from his employees, or indeed Toby himself, ‘If I had a gun with two bullets, and if I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden & Toby, I would shoot Toby twice’. Harsh words from a mostly harmless man – authenticity needn’t mean brutal honesty.
- General idiocy. Michael, though kind and mostly harmless, has no common sense, which often means that he is the butt of his employees’ jokes and can seem to have little control over his office. A good manager should know what’s going on in their office at all times and not let their employees take too many liberties. Work can be fun, yes, but it should also achieve something. Michael famously declares, ‘I love inside jokes. Love to be a part of one someday’, which shows just how little idea he has about what his employees say about him when he is not around; they are not laughing with him, but rather at him.
- Favouritism. Michael makes no secret of the fact that Ryan and Jim are his favourites in the office. Meredith and Toby, on the other hand, are frequently on the receiving end of Michael’s scathing remarks. Dwight constantly strives to be loved but never gets to be seen as ‘cool’ in Michael’s eyes, instead becoming his fall-guy and wasting career-building time on Michael’s hare-brained schemes. Roping in Dwight on ridiculous plans means that less work is done in the office (see point 1). Remember when Michael refused to pay for the pizza that he ordered because they wouldn’t accept a discount coupon? He locked the delivery boy in the conference room while asking for a ransom from the pizza company. He also asked Dwight to go with him to look at a house he was interested in buying, taking advantage of working hours to run personal errands.
Love him or hate him, Michael was definitely unique in his approach to leadership. Clearly he was a good salesman once upon a time, which is why he was promoted to a more senior role, but one that he was not very well suited to. Bas Blekkingh’s book, Authentic leadership, is based on a seven-layer model that leaders can work through to make them the most productive that they can be.