OPINION: And Another Thing... First-class leadership comes from conviction

Can leadership be taught? I don't think so. Management? Yes. Management is a science whereas leadership is more of an art. You can train people to be good managers but with leaders you need to start with certain raw materials - then HR consultancy can build on that, grow it and develop it.

Good leadership also depends on a set of circumstances to which leaders respond well. Winston Churchill wouldn't have been a good leader but for the Second World War, for example.

From the beginning of the Iraq crisis, Tony Blair has shown first-class leadership skills - and I'm a politically neutral animal in my job at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Why? Because he's shown absolute conviction in what he's doing. He's communicated his vision very clearly and it's perfectly obvious that the rationale behind going to war was that he deeply believed it was the right course of action.

Communicating clearly and treating people as you'd like to be treated are key to good leadership. Although people like to hear good news, they also want to hear bad news rather than no news. Uncertainty can really dampen inspiration and morale. At least with bad news people know where they are and what's expected of them.

When addressing people, leaders should be themselves and not try to be someone else, because they'll be found out. If you're a leader, you're there because you've been elected, accepted or appointed.

Most people need pressure to squeeze the best out of them. A good boss puts some pressure on a colleague but recognises when they're not coping.

A good leader is also on his staff's side so they come to work believing there's no mountain they can't climb.


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