Bad Vibrations: Why David Cameron Failed

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Historians will probably evaluate the contribution of David William Donald Cameron – the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 11th May 2010 to 13th July 2016 – almost solely in the light of the EU referendum. But this überpoll – which amounted to a career-ending defeat for the Witney MP – may only be a symptom of a bigger problem.

Notwithstanding Cameron’s auspicious entry into big-time politics – becoming leader of the opposition eight-and-a-half years into a Labour government headed by Tony Blair and just a little before the 2007- global financial crisis – he never managed to fulfil his potential. Cameron failed to gain an overall majority in a 2010 general election that seemed impossible for him to lose; when the 2015 election loosened the coalition shackles, he still felt insecure enough to push ahead with a referendum that was seemingly designed to shore up his own intra-party authority.

All this pronounced underperformance requires some explaining, but after some contemplation, we at Mediolana think that at least part of the reason behind it may lie in a very simple lacuna: a lack of personableness. According to a Financial Times source who is apparently a close colleague of the former Conservative icon, visiting David Cameron’s office was a basically unpleasant experience: ‘Nobody comes out of Dave’s office feeling better than when they went in.’

This matters, because it serves to highlight a key competitive advantage that organisations can harness: vibes. We live in a world where talent is mobile; moreover, in many highly-skilled sectors, structurally-unfilled vacancies are the norm. So unless (or increasingly, even if) organisations can offer a substantially higher salary to attract top talent – something which may not be financially and/or politically possible – they will have to offer something else to their (prospective) employee or contractor.

That intangible something is vibes. It goes far deeper than the oft-cited and undoubtedly important factors of first impressions and aesthetics: vibes concerns the very essence of the people and mission that constitute the corporation. It is practically impossible to fake, because it is a direct reflection of character; kindness, openness, generosity and thoughtfulness are very hard qualities to institutionalise in a mechanical fashion.

Good vibes enable buy-in and cooperation; bad vibes are scary and sinister. The latter may facilitate compliance, but it also encourages revenge. The demise of David Cameron merely exemplifies the importance of ensuring that those in your presence really, really want to be there.

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Filed under Business, Politics, Psychology

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