BRAIN FOOD: Speaking out - Tom Bentley, Director, DEMOS

BRAIN FOOD: Speaking out - Tom Bentley, Director, DEMOS - Demos used to be called the left-wing think tank. The soubriquet has been dropped, either because it doesn't want its credibility tainted by political prejudice or in deference to its former direct

by KHALID AZIZ, chairman of spoken communications specialist theAziz Corporation - www.azizcorp.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Demos used to be called the left-wing think tank. The soubriquet has been dropped, either because it doesn't want its credibility tainted by political prejudice or in deference to its former director, Geoff Mulgan, who has taken up residence at 10 Downing Street. Mulgan was always going to be a hard act to follow. The darling of politicians and opinion formers, he could turn dry statistics into 'news you can use'.

The present director, Tom Bentley, seemed firmly fixed in detail as he struggled to enlighten an audience on Demos' survey of industrialists' perception of leadership. It was an unimpressive performance from the start: slouched, hand-in-pocket, he seemed not to care. He bumbled through key findings in what I'm sure he thought was an informal manner But informal can be code for unrehearsed and ill thought through. As he lost his audience he took refuge in statistics. The survey asked respondents to rank leadership traits in order of importance. They were, in descending order: inspiration, strategic thinking, forward-look, honesty, fair-mindedness, courage, supportiveness and knowledge. Bentley raised a laugh when he said that in ranking knowledge lowest, they weren't advocating ignorance as a key requirement.

There were interesting insights. For example, flat structures make it difficult for an organisation to know where it is, and it is hard both to lead and be led. His solution: more audits.

Key moment: Senior people rate leadership much higher than those at a junior level.

Key lesson: Rehearse in front of someone who can tell you whether you're getting your key messages across.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth? Foot in mouth.

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