The referendum can prove to be redemptive at many levels. My mum had a saying in trying to console me in my teenage years as I was battling the exacerbated angst of injustice everywhere around me (as I was growing up in the context of an emerging democracy, post-communism): ‘you can learn just as much from the negative examples you meet in life – learn how NOT to be.’ Smart advice that can often keep cynicism and bitterness at bay.
Looking back at the political landscape of our country in the last few days, weeks and months – I see some pitfalls that are best avoided in leadership:
- the negative message and the shouty tone. It seemed like the focus was to feed fears in the two camps and confuse the the undecided even more. That’s both lazy and toxic. Good leaders ought to inspire, looking forward, and do so with a passionate yet gracious and sensitive tones. They need to stop and really listen and make sure that their answer is a reflection of that listening process.
- the lack of pre-planned strategies after the event. It seemed like they spent so much time and energy in fighting for a result – without having a constructive response to the either outcome. The void that was created gave so much room for infighting and confusion. Good leaders always plan ahead.
- the lack of redemptive ownership. While one can see the ‘stepping back’ of some of the key players from both camps as a sign of humility, I think it can be the opposite. There is a tendency to run away from the mess – maybe hoping for another chance in the future or trying to do immage damage limitation. Good leaders are always ready to be part of the solution, ready to rebuild in a crisis.
- the disconnect between grassroots and top end. Politicians often can be trapped in investing more in securing their position and enhancing their image. The day to day constituency work can often seem trivial, frustrating and unnecessary. People become election targets a few times a year and remain a neglected voice the rest of the time. Good leaders are good listeners, ready to see people as THE most important focus of their work.