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22 February 2017

Guy Gumbrell, Co-Director of Executive Education, Imperial College Business School

It has been said in several places recently about Donald Trump’s election campaign that his supporters didn’t take his words literally but did believe he would follow through on the policies his words referred to, while everyone else took his words literally but didn’t believe he’d follow through. If this is the case then I find an interesting parallel, or more accurately – a contrast, with a widespread reaction to David Cameron here in the U.K. after the EU referendum. Disappointed with the outcome of the vote, I heard many ‘remainers’ declare, usually hotly, that the Brexit result was all Cameron’s fault because he shouldn’t have called the referendum at all, and certainly not at the time he did.  In saying this, the remainers appear to have forgotten (or not noticed in the first place) that the intention to call a referendum on membership of the EU was part of the Conservative party’s 2015 election manifesto.  If they noticed at the time that the referendum was an election pledge did they simply not believe that the words would ever become actions? If so, then I am sure they are not alone because for decades in the U.K. there has been deep scepticism about the words of politicians and whether they can be trusted. Whatever your social class, whatever your political leaning, there is a shared belief that all politicians speak with a forked tongue.

Whether you like or loathe his actions, Donald Trump draws enthusiastic support in part because he does what he has said he is going to do, even if it is not quite in the way his outrageous words suggest. For me, this contrasting story of Cameron and Trump begs an interesting question – do we prefer leaders who do what we agree with, or do what they say they are going to do? Life, it would seem, rarely gives us both types of leader at the same time so, hard choice it may be but who would you follow?

 

 

In Imperial Business School’s Inner Landscapes of Leadership programme, senior executives, entrepreneurs and technical managers learn how to become inspiring leaders and drive innovation and change in their organisations.

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