The new North of Tyne Mayor - what makes a good leader?

On May 2nd, devolution will see the election of the first ever North of Tyne mayor who will be responsible for working with the new North of Tyne Combined Authority. As the election approaches, it’s useful to identify the traits that strong leaders demonstrate and which values and behaviours members of the public should look for from the various candidates.

Accountable leadership

At a time when trust in the government, media and business is at an all time low, leaders who found their work in purpose and are looking to achieve a wider social benefit outside of purely money making are the ones cutting through the noise. They’re also the ones most aligned with the values of the public sector.

We must learn the lessons of Trump of the 2016 US election. Yes, authenticity is important, but it must come with a strong track record of success, financial rigour and a focus on making things better for everyone, rather than a single sector-led approach.

Accountable leadership is crucial – the new mayor will need to take responsibility for outcomes without blaming others or outside forces. The ideal candidate will ideally be used to influencing on behalf of the wider business community on a national level and have the credibility which comes with that.

Barriers to entry and to delivery

Leaders within local government are well versed in the challenges and opportunities facing the North East. Any candidate setting their stall out as mayor needs a similar understanding, solid policies which aren’t being developed on the hoof and to recognise that business interventions and solutions to perceived issues need to be well researched and substantiated.

There also needs to be a recognition that the existing system creates constraints to work within. Anyone stating they can ‘fix’ the North East is not only working from the negative assumption that the region is broken but is offering a glib answer to something that is inherently complex, which probably isn’t deliverable. We’ve learnt from Brexit to beware of politicians over reaching or bearing false promises.

Collaborative

One of the most important traits of any leader is the ability to listen and have empathy.

Leaders in local government regularly face challenging situations and often need to deliver news that different groups of stakeholders might perceive as negative. They need to understand the impact of their decisions and actions and communicate in a way that is open and inclusive.

The North of Tyne Mayor needs to be able to walk into a room and work with people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, politics and races. Genuine engagement with stakeholders and good expectation management is critical – any candidate who appears divisive is only ever going to create greater challenges.

Decisive

Strong leaders are able to make difficult decisions but do so based on insight and fact rather than opportunism or instinct. They also need to do it with the best interests of the wider community at heart. Key here is the ability to balance emotion with reason, engage relevant stakeholders and catalyse action. To achieve this any new mayor needs to be able to command respect, not ridicule.

Ethically sound

Finally, a fundamental trait that leaders need to show is strong ethics. Trump has crippled US politics rather than being a force for good. The new mayor should display a strong moral compass and a shared vision for the success of the newly formed North of Tyne Combined Authority. A capacity to recognise personal flaws shows humility and an ability to build a team that plays to strengths and also shores up any weaknesses.