Matthew Barzun, the outgoing Ambassador of the United States to the Court of St James’s paid a thoughtful compliment to President Barak Obama in an interview earlier this week.
He described the outgoing President as ‘humble enough to be self-critical, and confident enough to be self-correcting.’
(Look, Mr Barzun is a Diplomat. However much we might yearn for it, we’ll never hear a salacious and sardonic comparison with the President – elect and his Twitter habit from this source.)
Let’s think about that summary of combined humility and confidence.
How is it grown, how is it encouraged?
Because they’re not just leadership behaviours. They’re the kind of qualities we’re all going to need in the roller coaster months ahead. If we are to keep any kind of stability, protect independence of thought, and remain true to whatever rag-bag of beliefs and values we hold dear, we’re going to have to be able to self-critique and self-correct.
I think Mr Barzun could have hazarded a comparison.
I don’t think it would have been career limiting to point out the obvious. This combination of confidence and humility flourishes around a particular leadership style: the ability to create a working environment where everyone feels psychologically safe.
And that feeling will grow wherever the alchemy of team trust and support and respect makes us feel safe enough to think out loud, try stuff out, make suggestions, and play the fool when that’s how it needs to be.
That’s the leadership difference; creating the conditions for psychological safety.
It looks as if very different conditions are about to be created from a certain golden tower far, far, away.