The Cult of Leadership

ImageAll over the political spectrum there is an obsession with leadership; how do you define it and what are ‘leadership qualities’?  I personally think that there is a more important question; what value does leadership really have? The value of ‘leadership qualities’ are rarely questioned.  We’ve all attended many a meeting and discussion where people have spent hours informing us of the merits of leadership without really pointing out the inherent flaws and resultant dangers, not least to the psyche of those bestowed with leadership qualities. If one takes even a cursory glance at history, leaders can be trouble.  They are human- beings with flaws and quirks which become amplified through the prism of their position.  Every single one of them falls prey to hubris, it’s only a matter of when.  Furthermore, people are all-too willing to overlook their favourite leaders’ flaws, particularly when that leader is reflective of their own ideology and romanticised history.  John F. Kennedy is a prime example of this; a man who certainly started one war (Vietnam – okay he did inherit the problem) and almost lead his country into another (this time nuclear) but is still regarded as a great President. So called leadership qualities are nearly always defined as stereotypically masculine and extrovert.  The problem with these qualities is they don’t play well with others, are resistant to criticism and the opinions of others.  An example of how rigid our definition of leadership is the emphasise on ‘strong leaders’ (Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair) who ‘make tough decisions’ and ‘won’t give into pressure’, whereas more collegiate leaders (John Major, Gordon Brown) are criticised throughout their office for being ‘indecisive’ and not reacting quickly enough. Our emphasis on leaders is also distracting.  It is one of the primary reasons why our politics are so personality based and reflective of consumer culture.  Personality politics skews the issues and has nothing to do with policy at all; it is one of the reasons why politicians get away with breaking electoral promises and having no experience of real life.  Politicians are now ciphers; every gesture they make, opinion they spout has been learned in leadership training. Isn’t it about time that we realised that leadership is an unhealthy way of doing things?  Not only for us but those we elect as leaders.  I propose that we look for another solution – why don’t we govern ourselves?  Could we do a worse job?

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