Study shows Nick Clegg should collaborate with critics to end the stinging attacks on him
In the wake of Nick Clegg's troubles in charge of the Liberal Democrats a scientific study of worldwide leaders has found that those who use "collaboration strategies" can overcome strong criticism.
With Mr Clegg's position as leader of the Liberal Democrats being openly questioned in the media, research in scientific journal The Leadership Quarterly has found that engaging in collaboration with critics can lead to a successful resolution.
In her paper entitled Criticism and outstanding leadership: An evaluation of leader reactions and critical outcomes Dr Dawn Eubanks says collaborating with their critics was the most successful method employed by worldwide leaders in resolving any criticism they had received.
The Warwick Business School academic studied 120 leaders ranging from Gandhi, Pol Pot, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, Lloyd George and Leon Trotsky and looked at how they dealt with different types of criticism.
The paper outlines five types of "leader response strategies" consistently used to deal with criticism and they are: confrontation, collaboration, persuasion, diversion of attention and avoidance.
Dr Eubanks, who is an Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Strategy at Warwick Business School, which is part of the University of Warwick, said: "My research found that engaging in collaboration can lead not only to supportive reactions from others, but a successful resolution of the criticism event.
"The confrontation response strategy led to unsupportive reactions of others initially but eventual positive resolution of the criticism, while avoidance and persuasion response strategies were related to an unsuccessful resolution of the criticism. Persuasion initially received a positive reaction, but in the end unsuccessful resolution of the criticism.
"Collaboration strategies included indicating an adaptive nature through a willingness to change policy, seeking support from allies, asking others for suggestions, offering to work with others to jointly develop a solution or offering a mutually appealing course of action."
The research looked at 600 criticisms of the 120 leaders studied, five per leader, to draw her conclusions. But Professor Eubanks admitted that Mr Clegg finds himself in a unique position as a leader.
"Being part of the coalition Government probably means he has to be collaborative with the Conservatives," said Dr Eubanks. "But he also has to appease his own Liberal Democrat party that may have different views."
Dr Eubanks says it is important that leaders have a response strategy to criticism as it will play a big part in how they are perceived by the public.
She added: "While the challenges leaders face and the criticisms endured are unlikely to disappear, the successful or unsuccessful resolution of these events may be somewhat controlled. Response strategies do make a difference to not only the perceptions of others, but the way a criticism is resolved. This is noteworthy for leaders as they seek positive relations with others and advance their agendas."