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 Sturgeon’s leadership style examined: there’s more to it than being a communicator

Sturgeon’s leadership style examined: there’s more to it than being a communicator

by Jane Lax
article from Tuesday 6, October, 2020

ON THE DAY that Nicola Sturgeon denounced Margaret Ferrier for her incomprehensible decision to not self-isolate after testing positive for Covid, Twitter has been rife with comments on her leadership.  This is based on her willingness to condemn the MP and having expressed the opinion that Ms Ferrier should step down. 

These comments came from the likes of Humza Yousaf (her Justice Secretary), Tom French (Director of Communications for the SNP at Westminster), Piers Morgan and Mike Dailly (a high profile SNP member), all referring to Sturgeon’s tweet. 

Is this good leadership?  Does good management of staff mean that when they mess up, you advise them that they should step down?  Or does good leadership mean developing colleagues and subordinates to make the right decisions in the first place? 

As Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” 

Let’s take a look at what Margaret Ferrier is purported to have done.  She felt she may have Covid symptoms so had a test on Saturday 26th September.  It has since transpired that she also visited a gym, a gift shop and a beauty salon on the same day. 

Feeling better on Monday 28th, she caught a train to London and attended Westminster.  On receiving her positive result for the test during that day, she then decided to take public transport back to Glasgow on Tuesday 29th September.  At some point along the way, she advised her party of the test result and the police of her misdemeanour. The Speaker’s office at Westminster has said it learned of the positive test on Wednesday 30th September. 

We can’t get into Ms Ferrier’s head but we can all ask what on earth made her make the decisions she did.  Surely she had heard everything that Nicola Sturgeon has been telling us for the last 6 months, but furthermore has she not received this as many of us have as employees/colleagues in email format?  

Why then did she not make the right decisions?  We may never know but let’s look at the “leader”, Nicola Sturgeon.  Is she maybe not as good a leader as she and many others believe? 

Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager was known for his hairdryer treatment of players who messed up.  Even the great David Beckham was on the receiving end of a boot which Ferguson had kicked after a bad game.  Ferguson was considered to probably be the greatest manager a football team in UK had ever had (I’m not a football fan so let’s not get into discussions on that).  He certainly got results.  How did he do this?   He was considered ruthless and a tough boss, but he took the teams which were performing badly and he turned those players around, made them believe in themselves and brought out the best in them.  He saw their abilities and got them to be better under his leadership. 

As Peter Drucker (pictured), the father of modern management, said, “Leadership is getting things accomplished by acting through others. Regardless of your own abilities, there are many important goals that you cannot attain without the help of others.  No one can be a leader without trusting his team or having the responsibility to encourage the team to be stronger.” 

And this is where Sturgeon fails.  She does not lead.  She is a figurehead who believes that she is the only one who can represent the SNP.   As an example, she does not trust any of her colleagues to present the daily briefing.  She doesn’t even allow the experts to reply to journalists’ questions without making her own statement first.  Whether this is due to her believing that they are not capable or concern that they might do it better than her and usurp her, who knows?  Probably a bit of both. 

Perhaps Ms Sturgeon should read about Andrew Carnegie, that famous Scottish-born steel magnate who had a single sentence engraved on his tombstone, “Here lies one who knew how to get around him men who were cleverer than himself.”  

Sturgeon of course believes that she is the only one in her party who is competent and has no desire to nurture her team of SNP politicians. Rather than develop their skills to make good choices and to be better under her leadership, she claims the limelight and reduces everyone else to bit parts.  They are purely there to get the seats in Holyrood or Westminster, all to achieve the aim of independence.  

After all, that is what it is all about.  They are purely activists who have one aim in life – to achieve independence.  What they don’t seem to realise is that Mr & Mrs Murrell see them as pawns, nothing more. 

Many of the recent SNP politicians in Westminster and Holyrood were chosen based on their belief in the cause, not on any ability or education.  One only has to look at David Linden who believes that we can use and print the pound Sterling after independence in spite of being taught the error of his ways by Andrew Neil.  If, as the leader of the party, you really wanted to do the best for your country, would you not invest time in new politicians to educate them and make them good at their job?  Or does that not matter if you believe you can gain your ultimate dream regardless?  

Nicola Sturgeon is no team player and definitely not a good leader.  She sees all others as a threat to her fame and adulation.  A telling line in her daily appearance on Friday 2nd October was, “whether you love me or loathe me”.  That is not anything a competent and capable leader would even consider.    

The SNP has had three leaders since 1990, Salmond twice, Swinney from 2000-2004 and Sturgeon since 2014.   Does this show a lack of depth to the party; is there a cabal within the party?  How many of the SNP politicians outwith the top tier do we ever hear from or of?  Sturgeon herself knows these MSPs and MPs are not competent.  Why else would you have to bring in a code of conduct which requires a pledge that elected politicians will not “publicly criticise a decision, policy or another member of the SNP at Westminster”.  This was proposed by one of the few other ‘greats’ of the party, Angus Robertson who was leader in the House of Commons at the time. 

This cartoon from the Courier at the time sums up life in the SNP very well.  Do as you’re told and keep your mouth shut.  

Let me remind you of the quote above from Peter Drucker, “No one can be a leader without trusting his team or having the responsibility to encourage the team to be stronger”.    It is evident that Nicola Sturgeon is not a leader.  She does not have faith in her politicians to allow them to work for the party and challenge any decisions made by her. They are merely pawns who serve a purpose for her. 

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and unfortunately for Sturgeon, her chain has more weak than strong links.  That may yet be her downfall.  

To read more by Jane Lax visit her blog here.  

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