This is not the place where I get into political discussions, and, in raising these questions I’m not imputing any characteristic on, nor implying any criticism of Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister … it’s just that these broad management and leadership questions came again to me this morning after listening to him on the ‘Today’ programme on the radio and, it seems to me, there is a learning opportunity here.

Are we witnessing in Gordon Brown’s recent performance a classic example of a manager facing crisis deliberately operating at a level lower than their job title? Is Gordon Brown operating as Prime Minister or Chancellor of the Exchequer or both?

When managers roll up their sleeves and weigh into the work of those who report to them, are they demonstrating support and solidarity or are they demonstrating a lack of confidence in the ability of the people who ‘should’ be doing the work for them? What factors affect this?

When I think of my own role:-

  • How much of my own focus and energy is directed downwards into the detail of doing and how much upwards into the broad purpose of doing?
  • How much focus and energy is directed into building robust structures, processes and people and how much towards doing the day-job in getting the service or product or project out the door on time?
  • How much focus and energy is directed towards ‘Future Proofing’, strategising, ‘out of Quarter’ planning? When I am under pressure how robustly do I defend that focus and energy against the urgent imperatives of the day?
  • Now that I’m thinking about this, what must I build into my calendar and defend if I am to make the 80/20 rule work even better for me?

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