I’d sooner forget…

Training Primary Care NHS GPs I'd sooner forget...

News and Comment from Roy Lilley

It’s hard to imagine how our punk-politics can get any worse.

A week ago, Wednesday, I watched the 4 hours of exchanges in the House, with a growing incredulity.

Exchanges used to be elegant, insults clever and reposts witty. Now they are bellowed, bumptious and bullying. Feelings were running high.

What is said, the context and how it is said is sometimes, as important as the content.

It is the language of leadership that is missing.

There is a lovely, old, management aphorism; a tourist asks the way of a publican who directs him past the Dog and Duck, left and the Crown and Cushion and right and the Queen Vic.

Another tourist asks for the same directions, this time from a priest, who replies; left at St Marks, right and Our Lady Queen of Heaven and left at St Michael’s.

The answer you get depends on who you ask.

Not so of leaders. Leaders have to have a clear language, shaped in a way that there is no ambiguity for the listener and everyone can understand.

That is the language of leadership. You have to talk like a leader.

The language has to be clear. Messages don’t have to be impressive they just have to be clear and if they can be concise, so much the better. Leaders don’t ramble-on, wander around the topic. They get straight to the point.

Tone and texture is important. The way the message is delivered; starts with the body language and flows through intonation and authenticity.

Leader’s messages have to be well reasoned and thought through, believable. That means a leader’s message has to be truthful and usually optimistic. Framed in the ‘can-do’.

That’s all part of the leader painting a compelling picture, vivid, inspiring and pointing the direction. A vision.

See all this in the context of what happened in parliament and you have to admit Johnson hits all the right buttons. We will leave the EU, for a better future, and we will do it, come what may, at the end of October… he says.

You may not agree, but leaders don’t expect everyone to agree with them.

Contrast that with the messages from the Labour front bench. I have no real idea what their position is. Referendum, election, vote of no confidence, vote of no referendum or referendum for an election.

No matter whose side of the argument you support, the language of leadership is much better on one side than the other.


Until… you get to some more of the prerequisites of the language of leadership; emotional intelligence and thoughtfulness.

Emotional intelligence… being able to judge the mood of the room, the meeting, the House of Commons. Sometimes a leader can make a point in one way, using a particular lexicon. On another day the same message has to be delivered in an entirely different way.

Thoughtfulness… antagonising people with a different view, being hostile seldom works. Persuasion by facts, stories, vision so much better than persuasion by friction, shouting and excoriation.

And, let’s not forget respect. Making sure all the voices are heard. It’s OK to disagree, respectfully and mean it.

To say; ‘Here’s something to think about’, is so much better than ‘Here’s what I think’.

How about; ‘What do you think will happened, if…’ works better than, ‘That won’t work...’

Here’s my view...’ might work but ‘

What do you think’ might work better

The language of leadership is based on respect. Leaders should reject the language of bully and bluster, finger pointing and accusation. It’s not just a matter of niceness or political correctness, neither is it about power.

It’s about a strength that comes from learning, openness, diversity, different opinions and respect for the people who disagree with you.

Words shape our memory of what happens and the memory of Parliament, last Wednesday is one I’d sooner forget.

Contact Roy – please use this e-address – roy.lilley@nhsmanagers.net

Know something I don’t – email me in confidence.

Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Roy Lilley.