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What makes the perfect leader?

Despite the countless business books and advice columns, there is no such thing as a perfect leader.

Our views even vary on what a good leader looks like, but often elements such as honesty, trust and compassion are used within a definition.

It was therefore understandably shattering when allegations were made by the British press of numerous Downing Street parties while the rest of the country was in lockdown.

I will not waste column inches or your time on explaining why these parties were ethically and morally wrong, I think the stories of relatives not being able to say goodbye to their dying loved ones while a suitcase of wine was allegedly ferried into Downing Street covers that.

But what these parties have brought to the fore, as well as anger, is a failure in leadership and how betrayed we feel when a leader operates unethically. Our cover story (part 1 and part 2) looks at this issue in greater detail, analysing the moral framework we build around leaders, why some are judged more harshly than others and why resignation is not always the best policy.

I firmly believe the heartache, loneliness and pain of the pandemic is permanently etched into the each person lucky enough to come out of it. From Downing Street to Dundee, how our leaders behaved mattered then more than ever. They may not have always got it right, but a genuine leader will have worked to listen to their people, make decisions in their best interests and followed the rules they had set out. 

We have not gone through this period for us to learn nothing about what human beings need to thrive both at home and in the workplace. The best leaders of 2022 will reflect deeply on these learnings and let them guide their decision-making. The worst leaders, well, they need an enquiry to do that for them.


Jo Gallacher is editor of HR magazine


This piece first appeared in the January/February 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.