Leadership For A New Era

"For democratic structures to endure, and be worthy of endurance, they must listen to their citizens' voices, engage their participation, tolerate their protests, protect their freedoms, and respond to their needs.". Larry Diamond

Governance is about how we are organised together and make collective decisions. The current system of UK governance, which largely defines our contemporary understood model of leadership, is a liberal parliamentary democracy; exercised appropriately at all levels of our national, regional, town and community life. Democracy is an experimental system that has evolved and developed over centuries; not fixed and unchanging, rather responding throughout history to crises, challenges and evolving values. First appearing as a term in 5th century BC Athens, it was defined as the "rule of the people". Today, according to Larry Diamond, American political sociologist and widely regarded as a leading contemporary scholar in the field of democracy studies, modern democracy consists of four key elements: a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections, the active participation of citizens in politics and civic life, protection of the human rights of all citizens and the rule of law - in which laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens (source).

The current system of UK democracy has neither changed in its fundamental structure, nor the essential style of political leadership, since the Industrial Revolution (1730-1750 approx), although becoming progressively more inclusive and participatory, while the US Constitutional system was established shortly thereafter in 1787. Both systems might now be considered to be in a moment of crisis, arguably coming into conflict with Diamond´s four key elements. Perhaps a clue to why this should be so, can be found in the words of John Locke (1632-1704), a leading Enlightenment thinker, known as the "father of liberalism" and a member of the group of men who established the intellectual principles of the Industrial Revolution: "There is no practical alternative to majority political rule, i.e., to taking the consent of the majority as the act of the whole and binding every individual. It would be next to impossible to obtain the consent of every individual before acting collectively ... No rational people could desire and constitute a society that had to dissolve straightaway because the majority was unable to make the final decision and the society was incapable of acting as one body." (Source).

And yet that is precisely what is happening now in both the UK and the US, as Brexit and the rise of Trump have unleashed forces that have divided society into aggressive warring factions, undermined the rule of law, shattered the preservation of human rights and are totally failing to address the rapidly escalating crises of environmental destruction and species extinction. It seems certain that this movement is designed to financially benefit a very few powerful individuals, and sod everyone else. The system is failing. The Global Commission on Adaptation, a multi-national body convened by 18 nations including the UK and contributed to by the World Bank, the UN and others, has recently reported that the world´s readiness for the effects of the global climate crisis is "gravely insufficient" and will inevitably lead to an "irrefutable toll on human life". The study decisively lays the blame for this on a lack of appropriate political leadership. (source). What therefore constitutes appropriate political leadership for a new era?

The current system has its recent origins in the ideology of Neo-Liberalism, embraced by Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and all subsequent governments; a system built upon treating competition as humanities main characteristic, defining citizens as "consumers" and regarding market forces as society´s organising principle (source). How might these three principles indicate a way of redefining a new political leadership direction that can enjoy widespread support? Firstly, a study of the natural world demonstrates an interlocking and interdependent web of life; a planetary eco-system in which all life forms co-exist and support each other to manifest a breathtaking diversity of awesome beauty and wonder. Co-operation rather than Competition, leading to diversity, is the organising evolutionary principle when looking at the eco-system as a whole, rather than regarding different species as separate and isolated from each other. We therefore need political leadership which aims to foster co-operation, rather than competition, throughout society, to deal with the shared threats we all face.

Secondly, consuming is a thing we are encouraged to "do", rather than being what we "are". Excessive consumption is destroying the natural world, and therefore us. What a human being is, as shown by the history of psychotherapy, is a bio-psycho-social being whose natural evolutionary impulse is towards self-fulfillment. Only leadership that recognises and supports this principle can endure. Thirdly, while market forces have guided political leadership in the industrial era, falsely trying to persuade us that fulfilment comes through the accumulation of more stuff, the only form of leadership that can avoid global catastrophe in the very near future is one that supports the evolutionary impulse of human nature in co-operation with the natural world.

Millions of people of goodwill throughout the world are horrified at the direction that our political leaders are guiding us towards. Rather than, as needed, collaborating together in a spirit of co-operative response to the mutual dangers we all face, our so-called leaders are engaged in open warfare against each other. Their only objective appears to be the acquisition of power; their methods the manipulation of the electorate by techniques such as bribery, propagation of fake news and outright lying. The fact that so many people now no longer trust them tends to act in their favour, by nurturing the cynicism and apathy that allows their dark agendas to flourish unimpeded.

It is now time for a change in the way that we choose our representatives; identifying those human qualities that can best respond to the crises of our time and foster the spirit of collaborative goodwill that can lead us from darkness to light; "behaviours such as tolerance of ambiguity, openness and frankness, patience and suspension of judgement, empathy and unconditional positive regard and commitment to learning" (Raelin, 2016)


Raelin, J. (2016) "Imagine There Are No Leaders: Reframing Leadership as Collaborative Agency", Leadership 12(2)

Change Agents

New Group of World Servers

Let us drop our antagonisms and our antipathies, and think in terms of the one family, the one life, and the one humanity..

Corinne McLaughlin

Visionary Leadership: Do You Need More Vision in Your Leadership - Or Leadership for Your Vision? Author of "Spiritual Politics".