With the trial of Rebekah Brooks in the news, rumours about Blair’s affairs with both Brooks and Wendy Deng once again surface, as does general interest in Blair’s style. In this context, Ross McKibbin (labour Party historian) says that he didn’t “think what people think of him has ever worried him too much”. Now there’s an interesting question! As a leader, how much should you worry about what people think of you?
Worry too much and leaders can limit their effectiveness because they don’t want to appear in what they consider a bad light. They put too much effort into appearances. Worry too little and they can become alienated from their various publics and be seen as arrogant. For most ‘followers’ arrogance is a real turn-off, and no leader can lead without followers.
In reality, it is vital for a leader to know what people think of them. If a leader has to ‘bring people with them’ and help them define their direction and purpose, how can leaders do that if they don’t know what people think of them? What do people see as the leader’s agenda? What do they think of their morals? Or in this case, does anyone care whether Blair slept with Brooks and/or Deng?
More importantly, perhaps is whether Blair’s image matters to key players in his role as representative of the UN, EU, the US and Russia in trying to try to find a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. If what Middle East leaders think of Blair influences their willingness to participate in peace negotiations, clearly it matters a great deal.
For leaders, the question is not whether you worry or care about what people think of you, but do you actually know?
As with most issues in leadership, the answer must be up to each individual to decide.