The outcome of the Dominic Raab bullying probe has quite rightly been big news in the UK over the past week. Much has been written about the rights and wrongs of the outcome, with some feeling that Raab has been the victim of activist left-wing ‘snowflake’ civil servants intent on undermining the Tories’ ability to govern, whilst others see Raab as the tip of the toxic Tory party iceberg.
The full report provides some fascinating insights into the leadership style of someone who operates at the heart of government and whose performance as a leader has the potential to impact the lives of people across the UK. The key question addressed by Adam Tolley KC in his report is whether Raab’s behaviour amounted to bullying and he reached the conclusion that, in some instances, it did. In short, he found that some of Raab’s behaviour was abrasive, difficult and aggressive and caused others to feel intimidated and insulted.
But what does this report say about Raab’s abilities as a leader of people? How does he measure up against essential leadership qualities such as: self-awareness; empathy; great communication skills; a curious mindset and flexibility in their thinking and approach; and the ability to motivate, empower and get the best out of the people you are leading?
Well, it’s clear from Tolley’s report that he falls short on all of them. The report suggests that empathy isn’t his strong point and he has little awareness of, or interest in, the impact his behaviour is having on others; he is inflexible and adopts a one size fits all approach; his communication style can be intimidating to others; he has fixed views and opinions, isn’t a good listener and is quick to dismiss views that don’t align with his; and he is easily frustrated and is prone to unconstructive, undermining and demotivating criticism.
These traits might (arguably) make a good politician, but they don’t make a good leader of people, and that for me is the crux of this whole saga. Raab has been found to have bullied people on occasions and has chosen to resign, but I think the bigger question that this report raises about his future political career is whether his apparent lack of ability as a leader of people renders him unfit for a ministerial post in the future.
In our work at ibex gale we frequently come across people who are promoted into leadership roles on the basis of their technical abilities despite being poor leaders of people, and often they end up in situations just like Dominic Raab. This case should act as a reminder to all organisations to ensure that their ‘leaders’ are not leaders in name only. After all, a ‘leader’ is only truly a leader if people want to follow them.