Can Theresa May Rebuild Her Leadership Brand?

The headlines in this morning’s papers can’t make easy reading for Theresa May following her disaster-stricken conference speech yesterday. “May on Final Warning after Speech Shambles” reads the front page of The Times, “A Tragic Farce” exclaims The Telegraph, “Carry on Conference” says The Independent likening the unfolding drama to a carry-on film.


Regardless of your political leaning, there’s no denying that the longer Theresa May’s speech went on the more it seemed to resemble a scene from a disaster movie. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong – from the P45 prank, to the hacking cough and finally the falling down sign. No one could miss the irony in her closing words, “The test of a leader is how you respond when tough times come to you.” Well these are indeed tough times for Mrs May, so what steps can she take to try to rebuild her leadership brand?


What is Your Leadership Brand?

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, describes your leadership brand as “what people say about you when you are not in the room.” And as we have already seen from the front pages of today’s papers, “Brand May” has taken a severe battering. The Prime Minister will need to harness all of her emotional intelligence to make some radical changes to her leadership style if she hopes to win over the hearts and minds of her party and the country as a whole.


How To Communicate Your Leadership Brand

When you are communicating your leadership brand, you need to draw on your emotional intelligence to manage your spoken word, tone of voice, interactive style and body language. The secret is making sure you do this with authenticity across all touch points – whether it’s formal presentations, phone calls, 1-2-1s, emails or during informal conversations.


In the case of Theresa May, her leadership brand has been to communicate that she is a task focused, self-controlled individual who can provide “strong and stable leadership.” This is in sharp contrast to the way Jeremy Corbyn has communicated his leadership brand, as shown in his conference speech when he said, “I recognise strong leadership as equipping you with more power.” I believe that if Theresa May wants to inspire and engage the people of the UK, she would benefit from developing her people skills and demonstrating she has boosted her levels of empathy. She then needs to make sure she communicates this warmer approach by aligning her words, tone, interactive style and body language. After all, as Adlai Stevenson said, “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge, if you think you look funny on a horse.”


It’s only by learning from the mistakes of yesterday, and taking positive steps to communicate a change to her leadership brand that Theresa May can hope to stay in the game for the long term. She should take inspiration from the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who after reading a premature obituary that described him as the merchant of death, decided to change his legacy by using his fortune to set up a series of awards for people who have made the greatest contribution to humankind. As a result of his actions, the Nobel brand has now become synonymous with peace rather than warfare, showing once and for all it is never to late to try to rebuild your brand.

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