Monday, 24 April 2017

The Concept of Leadership - and the mess it's got us into

Another round of elections, none of which seem to make life any better, and I can hear that word being bandied around on every TV or radio channel and it leaps out at me from every newspaper article on the stand.  Leadership.  That's what it's all about isn't it?  That's the most essential quality to look for in the top job. The reason we should be going for anyone except Jeremy Corbyn. Right?
Corbyn - an honest man?
It seems it's not enough to have integrity and a set of rational, humane and economically sound policies.  You also have to have this elusive quality that gets you on TV and across the front pages of newspapers and has everyone trooping after you like the Pied Piper, no matter how daft or draconian your politics. Why are we so sure that the attributes of ruthlessness, cunning, speciousness, and ability to dominate others that we require of a leader are desirable qualities? I can't help but think that 'Leadership' is the last thing I'm looking for at the moment.  I just want someone intelligent and capable, with some kind of vision for a better future for my kids. Someone I can trust not to blow up the planet, who might just try to make sure there's still a planet there with a tolerable environment for my grandkids to grow up in.

A supreme leader
When you begin to think about it, leadership isn't exactly something to be admired.  Mrs Thatcher had it in spades.  Presumably Donald Trump has it, since so many people were conned into voting for him.  Tony Blair had it, and he followed Leader George Bush into one of the most damaging wars of the 20th century. Hitler had it;  Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot - almost certainly Attila the Hun.  So now you can see why I'm not sure it's a desirable quality. Look where it gets us.

Not a poster boy, but a very effective prime minister
Before the age of TV and mass media a glamorous image and a corporate reputation weren't so necessary in a politician.  One of our most effective prime ministers was Clement Atlee, who won a huge Labour majority just after the second world war.  He laid the foundations for rebuilding the shattered UK economy and established the National Health Service.  Atlee was not a natural public figure - a shy, clever man who, as Deputy PM in Churchill's administration, had been the one who handled the detail behind the scenes, with a tremendous depth of knowledge.  But a poster boy he certainly was not. Yet he has had a great influence for good in shaping our lives throughout the second half of the 20th century.  Michael Foot, another intellectual with no public image, didn't fare as well, nicknamed 'Worzel Gummidge' in the press.  He led Labour into an election they lost spectacularly and was quickly replaced. He is sometimes referred to as 'the best prime minister we never had'.
Gordon Brown being humiliated by the Daily Mail
Gordon Brown was vilified by the media for his lack of leadership skills and polished image.  Yet his record as a Prime Minister will bear scrutiny for a long time into the future and his integrity and honesty were impeccable.  The Tories have also had their PR problems.  They ditched Alec Douglas Home, not because he wasn't clever enough to do the job, but because he looked like Skeletor on television.

Another question that bothers me - we're supposed to be a democracy, not an autocracy or dictatorship -  rule is by cabinet committee.  So why do we need a Supreme Ego to lead us?  Why? I'm beginning to think  that until we deal with this, we're doomed to keep on electing the politicians we deserve - leaders like Donald Trump.



5 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more Kathy! It seems that very few of us want to hear the truth, the masses seem to prefer to be lied to the, by some mass amnesia, to forget what they were promised and accept whatever new elite enriching nonsense is imposed upon them!

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  2. Thank you! from one kathleen to another!

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  3. Good, well made argument. We need "strong and stable leadership" - just like North Korea has!
    I think Ursula le Guin had the best take on leadership “true leaders/ are hardly known to their followers … when the work’s done right/ with no fuss or boasting/ ordinary people say/ Oh, we did it.”

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