Grey Bear Consultancy’s Emma Clayton champions the importance of humble leadership while PM promises crack down on vaccine ‘disinformation’

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on December 6th 2020, 11:11am

Grey Bear Consultancy CEO Emma Clayton discusses why today’s leaders must adopt humble leadership models, while prime minister Boris Johnson promised to come up with a plan to deal with “anti-vaxxers” and the spreading of “disinformation” online in a week where Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine was approved for use in the UK.

Leadership in Focus

The Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland enjoys regular dialogue with outstanding British leaders in many walks of life, and what has become increasingly apparent is that the majority if not all of these leaders all agree on one thing: the importance of practicing humility within their leadership behaviour.

While humility or being humble may easily be regarded as a mere character trait, Emma Clayton, CEO of award-winning and industry leading marketing and communications consultancy firm Grey Bear Consultancy, writes that with enough practice, humility in leadership can be developed and is a necessary trait to become a better leader.

Writing on the Bear Opinions blog on the Grey Bear Consultancy website, Clayton recommends five steps that leaders can take in order show humble leadership which will help empower and persuade people, engender loyalty and nurture the best from others.

The first of these steps recommends that the leader becomes accustomed to stepping aside and allowing others to shine in the spotlight. Clayton highlights that such acts can take as simple a form as leaders turning conversations away from themselves and toward their team members and encourage them to have their voices heard and share ideas.

Secondly, Clayton calls upon leaders to be unafraid of situations where they may not have the answer or solution to the problem or have perhaps made a mistake themselves, and to be willing to show humility and vulnerability by admitting their shortcomings.

This vulnerability is valued as a cornerstone of trust and it empowers team members to make their own mistakes and embrace them as learning curves rather than being afraid of slipping up.

Clayton goes on to emphasise in her third recommendation that leaders must show a humble attitude by being willing to listen, learn and embrace the ideas of others around them, thereby tapping in to the knowledge and creativity of the team around them.

“A leader must realise”, Clayton writes, that “they may not be the smartest person in the room and encouraging others to shine and showing a willingness to listen will only inspire others.”

This, she explains, can take as simple a form as the leader asking their team members how they can help them do their jobs better, rather than simply instructing them on how to carry out the role. Clayton insists that this humble approach to leadership will result in people becoming much more engaged and connected, compared to a more ego-driven leadership style.

Clayton highlights in her fourth recommendation that leaders must also be willing to take on responsibility and acknowledge that the buck stops with them. By taking full responsibility and not implementing a culture of blame, the leader can step in where needed and offer guidance to help find a solution.

Finally, Clayton recommends that leaders guard against taking themselves too seriously, which can largely be accomplished in discovering a sense of humour.

Clayton writes: “We’ve all known business leaders who take themselves far too seriously, perhaps believing that they need to be serious in order to be credible. But a leader who can see the humour in tricky situations and laugh at themselves when things aren’t going to plan is far more human. They can lighten the heaviest atmosphere and reassure people that things will be ok, while giving them the space to think of creative solutions to problems.

“A sense of humour can help put things into perspective and the willingness to laugh at yourself shows humility.”

Clayton concludes that practicing humility and taking on a more humble leadership model will help leaders and their teams develop and grow by forging stronger connections, nurturing and bringing out the best in team members and encouraging everyone around the leader to be humble themselves.

Emma Clayton’s full blog on humility in leadership can be read here.

Leadership Today

Speaking at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, prime minister Boris Johnson vowed that he would crack down on online “disinformation” about vaccines that had the potential to deter people from receiving them.

The PM also promised to deal with the “problem” of “anti-vaxxers” spreading misleading information online, adding that a plan to combat the issue would be forthcoming.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government to introduce emergency legislation to fine social media companies who fail to curb the sharing of inaccurate information.

Telling MPs that public confidence in vaccines would be “crucial to the success” of rolling out any immunisation programme across the country and “getting our economy back up and running”, Sir Keir said: "We've got the highest regulatory and medical safety standards in the world but it's really important we do everything possible to counter dangerous, frankly life-threatening disinformation about vaccines.

"We on this side have called for legislation to be introduced to clamp down on this, with financial penalties for companies that fail to act, so will the PM work with us on this and bring forward emergency legislation in the coming days which, I think, the whole House would support?"

The PM replied: "We are, of course, working to tackle all kinds of disinformation across the internet and he's right to single out the anti-vaxxers and those who I think are totally wrong in their approach, and he's right to encourage take-up of vaccines across the country, and we'll be publishing a paper very shortly on online harms designed to tackle the very disinformation that he speaks of."

Johnson’s promise came after the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was approved for use in the UK, with the rollout of the vaccine beginning as early as next week for priority groups.

However, research carried out by University College London on 70,000 people suggested that a fifth of the population could refuse a Covid vaccine, with 30 per cent of those surveyed believing that vaccines could lead to health problems in future.

UCL said that the research concluded that there were “substantial levels of misinformation amongst the general public about vaccines”.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] said on Wednesday that the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is safe for use and announced that 800,000 doses would be arriving in the UK over the coming days.

Johnson called on Britons to agree to the vaccine when offered to them but dismissed the notion that vaccination will be made mandatory, insisting that compulsion is “not part of our culture or ambition”.

Leadership in History

On this day in 1921, The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London, becoming effective on March 31, 1922. On December 6, 1922, a year after its signing, the Irish Free State came into existence.

In 2015, the Venezuelan parliamentary elections were held, which saw the United Socialist Party of Venezuela lose its majority for the first time in 17 years.

On December 6, 2017, the Trump administration in the US officially announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordered the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

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The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a network of the most influential figures from across the country. Through detailed case studies, news coverage, podcasts and leadership events, we strive to unearth the authentic voice of British industry. Find out more About us and our Membership Benefits.


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Authored By

Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
December 6th 2020, 11:11am

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