Kids Company and the curse of the charismatic leader
Few of the writers covering the demise of Kids Company could resist veering off into a personality study of its high-profile leader. Camila Batmanghelidjh is the poster girl for visionary, charismatic leaders as Sir Alan Sugar is the shorthand for her autocratic opposite.
If personality is as important as power when it comes to building leader trust, it’s no surprise that employees and supporters of Kids Company have rallied round its flamboyant figurehead.
But what I’m picking up is a negative vibe towards Ms Batmanghelidjh’s personality and leadership style, as if it were the sole cause of the charity’s problems. There’s more than a suggestion that her supporters were under some sort of spell, an old-fashioned ‘glamour’ to which even Prime Minister David Cameron was not immune (in the words of the Independent, he was mesmerised to the extent that he overrode ministers’ concerns).
Amidst the talk of financial mismanagement and safeguarding failures is a lesson in effective leadership. The fact that not everyone is cut out for management will not be new to internal comms people – nor will the importance of a flexible leadership style.
I like the six emotional leadership styles from the 2002 book Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. Of the six styles – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Commanding and Pacesetting – it’s obvious where Ms Batmanghelidjh’s strengths lie. (If you want to spot your CEO, read more here.)
TV presenter George Lamb, who has run camps for Kids Company, summed up the situation in The Guardian this weekend: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Camila isn’t someone who should be running a 600-strong company, but then you don’t just let her collapse because of that, you put some guys in who know how to run companies with 600 people.
“That’s not what she’s good at, she’s good at going out and raising awareness and making things happen and commits to it.”
And that’s it in a nutshell – whatever your leadership style, you need the right team around you to take care of the operational details.
What happened at Kids’ Company may be yet more proof that not everyone is suitable for management. But what it must not become is an argument for a return to the days when bosses had to be scary to be successful.
Want more on trust and leadership?
Trust in Leadership – report from Top Banana, IoIC and Westminster Business School
Trust: of dads and dragons – Kate on the traits of great leaders
Leaders and employee engagement – a fab round-up from Rachel Miller on her All Things IC blog.