Getting Squithy with it: what can we learn from Asquith?

This blog isn’t just about contemporary leaders, it also looks back at history, and what we can learn from leaders in the past.

I find this especially interesting – partly for the hell of it, my geekiness extends beyond politics into history (and other things, but let’s keep the focus tight) – and also because I believe that although we may be doomed to repeat history, we should at least try to only repeat the good stuff.

Herbert Henry Asquith is an interesting character.

A long-serving PM, largely overlooked because he was shoved out the way by the more glamorous and extrovert David Lloyd-George – but actually Asquith served longer, was far more respected and liked, was successful for most of his time in the top job, and – perhaps most importantly – is the only PM we’ve ever had from my hometown of Leeds.

He was a successful Home Secretary under the Earl of Rosebery and then Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and was the inevitable choice for PM when Campbell-Bannerman fell ill and died in office.

In fact he was the inevitable choice when Campbell-Bannerman succeeded in 1906 – there was an effort to kick CB upstairs into the Lords and let Asquith take over immediately, but his respect for the party leader led him to patiently wait his turn.

How did he become the undisputed obvious choice, and then such a dominant and confident figure for almost two decades?

And then, how did he lose it all, getting out-outmaneuvered by Lloyd-George and abandoned by his Conservative coalition partners?

I’m going to look at five things he got right, and then three things he got wrong that contributed to his downfall.

230px-Herbert_Henry_Asquith

Continue reading “Getting Squithy with it: what can we learn from Asquith?”

YouPlus: authentic(ish) leadership

Leaders are constantly being told about the importance of being authentic, and then being taught lists of key things that great leaders do.

They’re told to have vision, to lead “tribes”, or “be up to something”, and be passionate about what they want to achieve, to engage with people authentically and at the same time to apply prescriptive models and theories to inspire people and empower them to deliver results.

For all the breathy appeals to individual authenticity, training is often based on leadership techniques that mean asking leaders to behave in an inauthentic way.

When I train people on these skills and behaviours, I am often challenged about this tension between being authentic and true to oneself on the one hand, and using behavioural models and leadership skills on the other.

How can I be me, yet behave in a way that is not me?

Leadership Venn

Many answers to this question feel wishy-washy and undermine the inspiring message of developing the self, or they let aspiring leaders off the hook, letting them get away with not developing skills that are unnatural to their personality type.

Continue reading “YouPlus: authentic(ish) leadership”