I have heard the phrase “a lightness of touch” used twice in the last few days.
The first occasion was on BBC radio when someone was describing what had led her to include a particular piece of music in her 8 records on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. A musician with lightness of touch.
The second occasion was in a conversation about our current crop of national political leaders. The point being made by the person who was speaking was that too many of them seem unable to portray anything other than “I am always right, the other side is always wrong, and I am going to win because of that … and I can shout louder than you”. Shades of the playground. There was, my friend said, no lightness of touch.
But what about leaders in public services? There are times when clear and bold direction is needed, but I do believe that a lightness of touch will often achieve the outcomes being aspired to. For lightness of touch in leadership to succeed it must be rooted in trust. The trust and confidence of the leader in those supporting his or her role.
The need that leaders sometimes exhibit to be to the fore all the time, to be the person centre stage, the one doing most of the talking, in control may actually have the effect of weakening an organisation rather than making it stronger.
A strong organisation is one populated by empowered people who get on and do a good job without micro management from the top in the shadow of the great leader. Discuss, as the exam papers say.