Running organisations is easier than people think – which is just as well, because otherwise more people would do it and we wouldn't get so well paid.
There are two basic tricks. First you have to get your strategy right; second, you have to sell that strategy to your staff. Simple. Do that and you'll be OK. Now I think everyone understands about having the right strategy – it's pretty obvious if your strategy is crap you can't succeed. What people don't understand is how important it is to get your own people on side to support that strategy. The reason New Labour has failed, for example, is not that they didn't have the right strategy – maybe they did maybe they didn't. Their problem is one most politicians have. They never understand how to deliver.
Assume your strategy is ok. What interests me is: how do you sell it? How do you get your people on side? One of the reasons I joined the BBC was precisely to find out if those same ideas worked in a big organisation, in an organisation employing 30,000 people, as they had done in smaller organisations. Could I make a difference to that many?
As a leader you have to recognise that leadership is about the stories told about you – either positive or negative – by others in the organisation. You'll be judged more by them than by anything you say or write. So if you want your staff to support you, you need their trust and they probably need to like you – or like what they know of you.
I recently came across a professor at London Business School who had been teaching leadership for 20 years. She told me that until recently she believed your staff didn't need to like you so long as they respected the way you operated. She told me she's changed her mind. She now believes the most effective leaders are those who are literally loved by their staff.
So it's about the stories they tell about you. As a leader you are always in the spotlight, and are judged constantly by both the big and little things you do. If you don't acknowledge people, if you're not chatty with the receptionist, if you treat people badly that's the story they will tell about you. That's why leadership jobs are so exhausting if you do them properly – you are always being judged.
Taken from a speech given yesterday at the launch of the Index of Leadership Trust 2009