City experts comment on General Election result
Professors Panos Koutrakos and Andre Spicer offer insights on Brexit and leadership style.
Panos Koutrakos, Professor of European Union Law, City Law School considers the impact of the election result on Brexit negotiations, reminding parliamentarians that the negotiations must begin on 19th June.
“While the UK is trying to find out how life with a hung parliament would be, it is worth recalling that the Article 50 clock is ticking. The two-year period laid down in Article 50 TEU started on 29 March, that is the day the Government notified the European Council of its intention of leaving the EU. The EU is ready to negotiate. Its position has been clear and its approach to negotiations transparent (the European Council guidelines and the negotiating directives have been published). The only way to extend the two-year period laid down in Article 50 TEU is by a unanimous decision of the European Council, in agreement with the British Government.”
Professor Andre Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School considers the effect of the leadership styles of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on the result, saying that Mr Corbyn’s approach won the day.
“The results of the election are as much about the public's judgement of different philosophies of leadership as they are about policy platforms. Theresa May sought to embody the command and control leader who sets a direction during times of crisis and restlessly tries to achieve it. Jeremy Corbyn embodied the democratic leader who engages in dialogue with his followers in the hope of building a movement around him. May’s party gained the most votes, but Corbyn’s approach to leadership won the day.
“Each of these approaches are doubled edged swords. May’s command and control style of leadership can give consistency and certainty during a crisis, but it also can mean you alienate followers and do not provide space for the collective creation of responses to ‘wicked problems’ (like Brexit). Corbyn’s democratic approach to leadership is great for reaching out and mobilising people, but it can risk creating endless debates about direction.
“It is notable that May and Corbyn represented also very different approaches to leadership than smooth ‘charismatic leader’ which became popular under Tony Blair and David Cameron.
“During the post mortem of the election, it is likely that May’s leadership style will come out as one of the big causes of the poor results. May has acted more like a manager trying to stick to deadlines rather than a leader trying to bring people with her. She had surrounded herself with a small team of advisors and tightly controlled the agenda of other ministers’ portfolios. This alienated many within her party. She also tightly controlled her media appearances. This ran the risk of alienating the voters.
“Some will say May has been a victim of ‘the glass cliff’ - a well-known trap where women are given leadership positions when they are facing very difficult odds. We may also see the ‘saviour effect’ - where a man steps forward and offers himself as the solution to the problems which the previous woman leader was trying to cope with. Gender may have played a role in May’s misadventures, but her command and control approach to leadership is likely to have been much more fatal.
“It is not surprising there is a big generational chasm in support for both the parties. May’s command and control leadership style tends to appeal to older people who see leadership as being about strength and certainty. Corbyn’s more democratic approach appeals to young people who crave authenticity and dialogue from their leaders.
“It will be virtually impossible for May to continue to with her current approach to leadership, if indeed she does remain as party leader. She will need to focus on coalition building - both within her party and also beyond. To sure up a government with a wafer thin majority she will need to focus on engaging with others. Transactional horse-trading is unlikely to be enough. She will need to spend time building relationships. To address the wicked problems created by Brexit, she will need to involve a wider range of experts rather than rely on a tight inner circle of loyalists. These challenges will leave people in her own party asking whether May has the right set of leadership skills for the job she now faces."