Archives for category: Anti “Leadership”

Networking – along with typing, basic computer coding, speaking Spanish, Mandarin and English are the top skills I would like my children to have – and anyone thinking of getting and keeping jobs in the mobile world of this teenage century. I cannot give natural ability in any of them for Christmas, but all of them can be gifted via teaching. That is, all of these skills can be learned. As I pointed out in an interview for the Sunday Times about skills in business, it’s time to start looking towards what the professional of 2025 needs and that is Social Capital.


Do we ever feel we deserve our success or that our accomplishments are in fact real? Women often don’t but I suspect men don’t always either.

This week I am back from a spot of winter sun. Leaving cold England for Abu Dhabi (trust me, it’s hotter than July at midday) is no hardship. But on some level it wasn’t easy. Because I was in the company of some of the biggest and most accomplished brains out in the world of science, policymaking, development, leadership – and somewhat to my surprise, I was supposed to be one of them. The occasion? The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum’s policymaking groups, the Global Agenda Councils, Let me correct that. I am one of them. I sit on a Council and have done for three years.

But as soon as I arrived I found myself suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps I should be grateful that I am not alone – According to Fast Company Magazine, Harvard Business School students who should feel on top of the world, often feel they will be outed as academic fraudsters.

Luckily, I did not stay in this false and paranoid universe for long. For a start, the World Economic Forum is extremely well run, and places friendliness and networking at a premium. The minute you connect with another human being you forget that they may be one of the top chemists from Cambridge University or Economist from Shanghai, or that they have published more academic papers than you have books on your shelves. Finding common conversational ground is the best antidote to isolation.

But something else corrected the skewed self-image. I feel keenly interested in the topic I was there to contribute to – The Council on Informed Societies – and realised that far from being invited like a random lottery winner, I had as much to contribute as anyone else. Duh! So I became saved by common sense but also by content: It is hard to feel useless if you are craning forward in the discussion.

I hope those of you who occasionally, perhaps more often, gulp inwardly and feel horribly underdressed professionally or intellectually remember this: the operative word is not “imposter” but “syndrome”.

The digital revolutions rages on, taking casualties as large as old media empires and remaking new maps in a landscape in which new technology thrives. The world is practically saturated with mobile phones already and so the tablet dominates – both in volume of pills the over-medicated and the over-stressed pop, but also in terms of the post-desktop, post-laptop must-have. And yet. Some things stay the same. The business card has not died. And it exists primarily as it has always done, in print, exchanged by hand, face-to-face. The Eastern civilisations accept business cards with a great deal of seriousness and attach extreme etiquette to it. In Europe and the Americas it is much more transactional  than culturally emotional. I have come to respect the business card, and its endurance as a good sign of intelligence exchange: I give you something of me to remember our connection by and we will talk more.

The same cannot be said of the name badge. How I hate it. It has no real use: You still peer at someone awkwardly and only catch a faction of its contents – the name, the job, the company, never all three. It never, *ever* looks elegant or distinctive and more often than not ruins a look (and often, if it has a pin which many still do, can wreck fabric). But mostly it is impractical. You need to say to someone ‘Hallo’ at some point and if you want to follow up with the business card then that is up to both of you. Yes, it can be a talking point but frankly if you are absolutely unable to talk enough even to ask someone’s name then you need more than a badge to help you out (see

This blog also appears on Do you dress well? I try to. It’s London Fashion Week and the whole of the UK media celebrates fashion as an economic driver and determinant of British individuality. The Prime Minister’s wife always supports the men and women of fashion because it is ‘in’ to stand out and equates with our most treasured democratic value of freedom.

We are all clothed in labels and not just on our backs. Who we are as individuals in society, and what makes us stand out is language too – “I am a mother” or “I am a doctor”.  Immediately we associate status and bring opinion to bear on the clothes of identity.

So we all strive to stand out. Social media has made peacocks of us all, from Government to Vogue, from celebrities to nonentities, we all tweet and preen and strut our identity around.

Well, except some. If you are a person arriving here seeking asylum then, well, you don’t stand out at all. You might as well not exist. Try saying “I am an Asylum Seeker” the next time someone turns to you at a conference or a dinner party and asks, appraising your clothes, hair or husband “what do you do”?

The answer, if you seek asylum, is nothing. You might in fact have worked in recruitment or law or engineering or media in your own country. A country which might even be celebrated in a Hollywood movie your dining companions would see and enjoy. But now you are not a name, you are a number. And no-one wants to know you.

But you might be locked up anyway in a detention centre. And if not, locked out. Locked out of any kind of system that allows you to work, to contribute or to live. To seek asylum in Britain is to exchange whatever identity you once had for the cloth of opprobrium, suspicion, and destitution.

My heart, I should say, does not bleed liberally or blindly. I do not believe the UK can or should let unlimited numbers of migrants,  émigrés or even asylum seekers in. I do not believe that having large numbers of pressure on particular communities or community services is without stress or social consequence.

But I do believe this: the British cloth themselves in a fantasy suit of kindness, of compassion, and of political management which is revealed as naked as the Emperor’s New Clothes when it comes to doing the right thing: treating refugees with respect and as names, not numbers.

We weasel around international law protecting the right of people seeking asylum to enter the UK, but envelop most in a cloak of disbelief when they do. We then, literally, bundle them out on planes at the earliest opportunity, unless the handful of men and women who report stories turn a spotlight on what is happening.

No, Asylum Seekers and refugees are definitely not in fashion. But thanks to awards like the ‘Speaking Together’ Media Award for which I was a judge , a spotlight is thrown, albeit briefly, on a catwalk. A catwalk of shameful behaviour by a nation which pretends it is wearing silken threads of distinction.




January is the month most people are allowed to feel depressed at work. There is even an assigned day. But perhaps many workers, especially ‘Marzipan Managers’ as I call them (stuck below the leadership icing) feel depressed at work on more than just one day, or one month. Many are suffering from a lack of productivity, which is enough to make anyone depressed – their bosses, shareholders, customers, and themselves. Whilst the UK private sector is growing – between 0.5% and 0.7% according to Q4 figures from 2012 published by the current British Government – actual productivity, that is output, is not. British working output is way behind G7 counterparts, oodles behind Americans. Why? Well, think about it. How many of them enjoy what they do? Feel stimulated? Engaged? I think many many managerial workers in what we grandly call ‘The Knowledge Economy’ actually feel isolated, endangered, bored much of the time. They watch their bosses network in ‘The Global Green Room’ of Davos but they are discouraged from face-to-face networking, even social networking, as if somehow engaging with people and ideas which may yield long term results not bottom line quarter-led results is only for their ‘Leaders’. It’s time to re-engage and grow the existing economy of workers as well as worrying about creating new jobs. Let’s increase the ‘output’ of people by letting them like their day jobs more.

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