Over Christmas, I read A Journey, Tony Blair’s autobiography of his years in Downing Street.
It was many things I expected and one thing I wasn’t.
Blair provided a coherent narrative of his time in power but it was obviously also a self-serving attempt to secure his place in history, to set his legacy.
All of that, I expected but once you got past the propaganda and politics of it, Blair told a story about change, how to affect it and how to manage it.
Love him or hate him, Blair had some interesting insights from his time trying to modernise Labour Party and British Civil Service.
So, without further ado, here is the first of an occasional series about Blair on BPM.
On Leading with Vision
In his last days in Downing Street, Blair tried to set the legislative agenda for Gordon Brown’s term in office. He writes:
The truth is that Gordon was strongly opposed to outgoing leadership deciding the future of the incoming one. This was all totally understandable except for the the fact, as I kept saying to him, there was no alternative vision; and in the absence of a clear vision, the party organisation will just go backward.
From Tony Blair, page 641, A Journey
Creating a mandate for real and lasting change in any organization starts with an positive vision.
You can’t lead with a negative.
Being against something might get you elected or it might get your project funded. In many cases, it might even provide a significant short-term benefit but build to long-term and sustainable benefit requires you to stand for something. It requires an affirmative vision.
Without something new to become, the organization will naturally gravitate back to its roots and resist change.