The old style of leadership is at odds with our complex and networked world.
Now the dust has settled on Ed Miliband’s perceived leadership strengths and weaknesses, maybe we can have a more profound discussion about political leadership in the 21st century. Substance, style, background, empathy and more have been thrown into the mix. But the times demand not just a change of emphasis in how we are led but a very different type of leader – not least because to be more successful as a society we need more women to lead.
Models of political leadership mirror the wider technological and cultural context in which leaders operate, so what we tend to get is the same types of leaders in business, sport, civil society and politics. It’s no accident that the big 20th century leaders were heroic figures. From Churchill to Thatcher, from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs and Alex Ferguson and, in extremis, Hitlerand Stalin. This is because it was a century of top-down hierarchy. Big business and big government dominated the scene – and someone had to sit at the top and pull the levers to make these huge clunky machines work. That’s how change happened – from the top-down and the centre out.
But the world is changing fast. Technology is flattening these vertical structures and instead of one-to-many communications – increasingly we communicate and connect directly peer-to-peer. Knowing your place and following orders makes less sense when every day your voice matters on Twitter or Facebook. And at the same time the reputation of the old gods is being forever tarnished because no one gets away with anything any more – as hacking, WikiLeaks and smartphone snaps reveal the unvarnished truth.
This article originally appeared on New Statesmen. Read more…