The results are in, and the United Kingdom has a new government. Keir Starmer has been elected Prime Minister, and there have been many shakeups across various constituencies. With so much change coming to pass in a very short amount of time, the British public will have a lot to contend with as we progress into this new era.

This is not too dissimilar to the change that a business experiences when new leaders are brought in, and management is transformed as people try to install their preferred processes and ways of thinking. Looking at the general election, how it has been received and the changes we might see coming for our country, it is clear that the UK is heading for change.

Studies show that only a third of major change initiatives fully meet the goals defined by the company. This is very similar to a political party attempting to deliver on their manifesto; the Conservatives even only managed to deliver on a third of the 39 key commitments of their 2017 election manifesto. Business leaders should look to political change and the efforts utilised to pass measures if they wish to see success in their own companies.

A turbulent year for politics

The change from a Conservative to a Labour government after fourteen years of Tory rule is going to have wide-reaching effects. No matter what you consider of the current position and personal politics of both parties, they do still approach basic issues very differently.

This is not the only turbulence expected across Western politics this year. At the time of writing, France has just passed through a chaotic parliamentary election. Thanks to tactical voting, an alliance of left-wing parties has blocked Le Pen’s far-right National Rally from becoming the majority. This has created a hung parliament that might take some time to sort out. With the Paris Olympics just around the corner, even the question of who President Macron might appoint as his new prime minister might become knocked aside by more pertinent questions.

We also can’t forget the looming US presidential elections. Though Americans won’t take to the polling stations until November, at the moment it looks to be another showdown between current President Joe Biden and former Donald Trump. Whatever the outcome of that rematch, it seems likely that global politics will feel the ripples of the aftermath.

The British polls

So, what can we learn from the British polls?The results from each polling station can be illuminating and can give insights to both the electorate of the local area and the bigger picture across counties, each home nation, and the UK at large.

Studies have shown time and time again that psychology and emotion can play a big part in the election results. One study by Bono and Anderson (The Advice and Influence Networks of Transformational Leaders, 2005) expressed that a leader’s emotional messaging — tied to markers such as optimism, resilience, and hope — helped to determine followers’ perceptions of leadership effectiveness and trustworthiness.

Many of us don’t even decide who we want to vote for until we are right there in the booth and ready to cast our vote. This 2015 article from the British Psychological Society breaks down the many, many factors that could affect someone’s decision to vote and some of them can be as simple as the weather or the physical location of the polling station. If something as fickle as whether or not the sun shines affects the outcome of general elections, it is easy to see how difficult it can be to lead change effectively.

What the public wanted

The British public was ready for change, and that is obvious by the rhetoric being promoted by many of the parties and candidates in the run-up to the election. After fourteen years of a Conservative government, people wanted to see change. While Labour has been a major opposition of the Conservative party for over 100 years, we have moved beyond a strict two-party system.

(Image courtesy of Ipsos)

The 2024 exit poll showed a big change in seats for the smaller parties. The Liberal Democrats were due to gain more seats, the SNP were due to lose many, and fringe parties like the Greens and Reform were due to pick up more.

As with all exit polls, the results were slightly different, but they did show an interest in stepping away from the established norm of two parties. The British public is ready to see real organisational and successful change, hopefully crowned by effective leadership from Keir Starmer.

What can change leaders learn?

So many countries have taken to the polls in 2024, and this is creating massive currents of change. It is easy to focus on just our country and the people living in it, but the reality is that this is not like local elections. The outcome of national elections will be felt all around the world as new governments define their own policies and set the standards they wish to hold themselves to.

This all happens much in the same way that new leadership might come in and aim to shake things up. Successful change leadership will recognise that change brings disruption with it. While a new way of looking at things and new processes may bring about eventual positive change, as we hope the new Labour government will do, the reality is that many people might be resistant to it along the way.

Successful change leaders need to recognise that inherent resistance and work to dispel it and reassure their workers that though change might be difficult, it should bring about something good in the end. A general election—and a new prime minister—is a time for a lot of different promises, but not all of them will come to pass. A lack of progress is likely to lead to change fatigue unless a new way of working can be discovered.

Three practical takeaways for change leaders are:

  1. Align with team needs: Just as politicians address societal issues, business leaders must understand and align with their employees’ needs and expectations.
  2. Manage expectations: Not all promises will come to pass. Leaders must manage expectations to avoid change fatigue.
  3. Foster a common goal: Securing support for a common goal is essential for achieving successful change.

Change is difficult, but can be overcome.

To truly succeed, leaders need to confidently engage and align with the needs and expectations of their employees. Just as we can see politicians begin to tackle society’s issues as they lay out plans to deliver their manifestos, so many business leaders think about how to bring about real and lasting change for their companies.

Let ChangingPoint help. Our Universal Change Leadership programme is designed to help leaders face the mountain of challenges that is organisation change.

With the practical help of our experts, you will face and change your own mindset and behaviours to help you become a more confident and successful leader overall. Contact us today to find out more.

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Written by Jayne Ruff

Jayne Ruff, Occupational Psychologist & Managing Director at ChangingPoint. To find out more about how ChangingPoint can help you align minds to transform your business, get in touch.

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