A Journey, Tony Blair - leadership thoughts

02 Sep 2010

Our former Prime Minister's memoirs went on sale today. I have some reticence to blog about this given that he causes so much polarity of opinion, but, from a leadership standpoint, here's my two cents worth.

Blair was and is a man of conviction and principal, who stands firm to his values; is charismatic and a superb debater; a man who won three elections for the Labour party. He was a "leader" in most ways. But one issue will forever define the Blair premiership, his leadership and his legacy, that of Iraq.

My views on Iraq have never wavered in that I think it was an unwise, reckless and unjustified invasion, that caused the unnecessary deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis and made the World a more dangerous place than it was even with the despot in charge before. That is my view, many will agree, some will disagree and his book is unlikely to change anyone's opinion, even with the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion.

But what drove Blair to commit to Iraq is a source of unending debate and fascination to those of us who study leadership. From one end of the scale a man of conviction prepared to make tough decisions; the other end a man who lied or misled the British Parliament and people over WMD. From one end a man who wanted to make the World a safer/better place; the other a self-believing "messiah" guilty of hubris who is now desperate to protect his legacy.

A great definition I like of leadership is that "leaders promise a better future". That is whether its 5 minutes on a sports field or generations to come on a nations prosperity. Tony Blair will forever say he 'did what he believed was right', but I believe he failed in this criteria - and that this explanation isn't good enough when you commit your nation to the ultimate sacrifice, that of going to war.

One great attribute of real leaders also is their willingness to admit to mistakes - or say they are sorry. The unfortunate reality is that power, ego, legacy and self-interest tends to override this simple act of humility and humanity. And for such reasons, it is unlikely we will ever hear these words from our former Prime Minister...... 

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