Learnings from Political Leaders
By Karen Tidsall, Founder and Director, InterCHANGEpd
Observing recent events, we have witnessed a surprising swing in the pendulum of power when it comes to our political leaders. We expect politicians to use their power wisely due to the great responsibility they hold. We have recently witnessed Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn using their power very differently indeed. I have been reflecting on and comparing their approaches to discover insights, which may be useful to our development as leaders.
Connecting with the people
At times, Theresa May appeared to lose connection with her wider team and the people. This was not helped by her reluctance to join in with the leader’s debate, as some have suggested, she appeared to withdraw and hold a more inward focus. She is often criticised for sounding robotic, repetitive, i.e. the ‘strong and stable’ mantra, with a less than authentic voice. Whether you support her political agenda or not, it could be argued that the PM has not used her power very wisely, as she seems to miss the beat of the national mood.
Compared with Jeremy Corbyn, his approach could not be more different. It has been widely acknowledged across the whole of the political landscape that Corbyn has excelled at empowering and involving various sections of the community, especially the younger generations. Appearing on stage at Glastonbury, Corbyn’s voice as a leader was clear – a passionate heartfelt speech which resonated with huge crowds. His authentic voice succeeded in connecting with the people.
Standing with the people
Although Jeremy Corbyn was criticised for using a political agenda by appearing at the scene of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, hugging survivors, he succeeded in reaching out to wider communities who felt unheard by the government and local authorities. If you compare this approach to the PM’s initial visit to the area, where she sidestepped the opportunity to support and connect with survivors in their time of crisis. Instead, she chose to meet with the emergency rescue teams rather than offering the community strength and leadership in their hour of need. Many have suggested that May’s approach often appears controlling, narrow and blinkered, as she seems to distance herself from the very people she needs to influence and collaborate with. This may well prove detrimental to her leadership as time moves on.
Listen and empower = wise power
In my previous blog, Wise Power, I explored what drives the impulse to overpower and control. The idea that having power and influence can trigger echoes of our ‘omnipotent child’, “a time when infants think they are the sun and the rest of the family are planets orbiting about them” (Dr Thomas Millar), can result in destructive patterns of excessive control. Theresa May’s efficacy and influence has certainly suffered because of her overcontrolling approach during the election – we could say her ‘omnipotent child’ was running the show evidenced by her name being blazoned on the campaign bus! However, her ‘humility and resolve’ response to losing the Tory majority demonstrates the importance of leaders admitting errors of judgement and showing a willingness to learn from them.
Despite challenges from other politicians and the public in relation to the Labour Manifesto, there can be no denying that Jeremy Corbyn has inspired many since the General Election. He has managed to retain his integrity and authenticity, remaining firm and unwavering in his beliefs and enthusing a generation to vote the first time. By listening, involving people and articulating their concerns, Corbyn has gained a phenomenal amount of support post-election. Whether you like his party or his policies, Corbyn does show the hallmarks of being an inspiring and inclusive leader.
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If you have enjoyed this article, why not read our other blog on this subject – Wise Power.