There is much to learn from the goings on in the UK right now. Unlike the Presidential system, elections in a Parliamentary system can be only the beginning. There are likely many things to learn about leadership as we watch the leaders of the UK try to sort out a way forward. Two issues however stand out for me.
The first is the art of power sharing. Without a clear majority, no party can form a government. In fact, given the three way split in election results, the Liberal Democrats, with fewer seats than either the Conservatives or Labour, now hold the key to forming a majority. I can only imagine the conversations taking place in what were once smoke filled rooms. I bow to my colleague Scott Eblin on this topic. Scott wrote an excellent and actionable piece on power sharing on his Next Level Blog today.
The other topic is one of dedication to a vision for the future. How many leaders would resign their position if they thought it would support the organizations the lead to fulfill against their vision?
Gordon Brown, knowing that he was personally an impediment to his party coming to an agreement with the Liberal Democrats, has stepped down from leadership of the Labour party. The cynic in me says that he knows he is done and is just grandstanding about the inevitable. But in his remarks, Brown said, “As leader of my party I must accept that that (the election result) is a judgment on me. I therefore intend to ask the Labor Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.”
In short, Brown was willing to take accountability for the situation and to move aside early enough to be certain that his party has the opportunity to engage in negotiations for power sharing. Given the history of mean spirited battles for election outcomes in the US in the past few years, it is inspiring to see a politician who puts his party’s concerns above his own. How many of us would step aside for another candidate or even resign our positions for the benefit of fulfilling against the vision of the organization we lead? Here was an opportunity to make action speak louder than rhetoric. It was likely fated that Gordon Brown would have to step aside and he certainly was not going to keep his office at 10 Downing street. But credit where credit is due. He was able to avoid the all too common ego and even hubris that would have him fight to the last, and in so doing, potentially take his political party down with him.
Even if it was not his idea. Even if he was somehow coerced into the announcement, there is a lesson for those leaders whose leadership is in service to something bigger than themselves. Sometimes, the vision has to be more important than my own picture of how we get there- and even the role I will play in the process.