Lessons in Leadership From a Friend
Political strategist Lord Philip Gould is an idealist anchored in reality who believes leaders are defined by their moral compass
“Every now and then, life kisses us on the lips.” So wrote Spanish poet and composer Joan Manuel Serrat to describe those magical moments, or people, that unexpectedly transform our lives. Philip Gould has been one of those enlightened beings who through words, actions and interactions, has enhanced the life of all those blessed by his friendship.
I met Philip six years ago. He was a British representative to an advisory board I chaired. His business card read: “Lord Philip Gould.” He was my first Lord—Baron Gould of Brookwood—so I felt a wisecrack was merited. “We fought a war over titles like these, and we won. So, if you do not mind, I will call you Philip,” I said. That was the beginning of a relationship that help me define the word leadership.
Philip, who studied history at the London School of Economics and developed communication expertise in the advertising world, became a political strategist and consultant in 1985. He eventually became one of the architects of New Labor and one of Tony Blair’s closest strategy and polling advisers. In his role, he helped co-write the New Labor manifesto, which confirmed the move of the party from the left to the center, and pledged minimum wages, human rights and regional devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. His 5-year-old daughter, Georgia, appeared on the cover of the document.
I frequently spend hours talking to Philip about leadership. He is an idealist firmly anchored in reality. Philip believes that leaders who have a clear and hopeful vision for the future can communicate that vision in ways people understand and feel inspired by, while also having the political know-how and fortitude to carry it through to completion.
Philip is a believer in the power of the human spirit. A true progressive liberal, Philip is convinced that people will surpass their self-imposed limitations through opportunities, encouragement and support. He is relentless in the pursuit of a worthy vision and believes that resilience is an essential quality in a leader—“If at first you don’t succeed you must try and try again!”
At the root of his philosophy there is one basic thought: leaders are defined by their moral compass. We live in a world of increased complexity, where leaders in every corner of life are impacted by information overflow, globalization, and macro-economic challenges. To balance the conflicting priorities of an ever-changing world and multiple stake holders, a leader needs to be anchored in purpose.
Purpose is the driving force of our life, the work that will define our legacy. It is what we want to be remembered by, not by the world necessarily, but by the people who love us. Purpose is the impact we have on the things and people we touch. According to Philip, purpose or moral compass is defined by the answer to several questions, such as: What are we here to do? What is our motivation? How do we intend to carry ourselves through the process? Do we have the “never break” principles in the journey?
Philip believes in the dialectic of history. To every action, there is a reaction that leads to synthesis. His views on the dialectic are not conceptual or cerebral but personal. As leaders we are defined by the circumstances or actions that affect our lives, but more importantly the reactions that we have against those circumstances. Man is a writer, not merely an actor, in his own life.
Sadly and most recently, Philip has had the opportunity to showcase these principles in his own life. My friend has been fighting cancer for two years. Throughout the ordeal, Philip has been determined to respond with resilience. He does not use his time to complain. Rather, in every phone call, he takes time to explain what his current experience means and the lessons he is learning.
In his fight, he is taking time to evolve the “dialectic model” and its application to modern leadership. His illness has provided a journey of self-discovery and exploration with the dialectic. He now believes that the root of all leadership issues lies on our ability to integrate the material side of our life with the spiritual.
These are his words: “I have always viewed the world of political life through the lens of Hegel’s dialectic, seeing politics not in terms of the immediate moment but as a continuing flow of events, not linear but interactive, each event a consequence of something that has happened before, and in turn a cause of something that will happen later, part of a sequence of action and reaction that does not end and cannot end.
It is by living a life of purpose and finding purpose in the life that we live that we are able to bridge the divide between material and spiritual. It is how we make our lives whole. It is how we become what we truly are.”
Nothing else needs to be said.
Popularity: 46% [?]