This past week I met a young man determined to make his mark as a career politician. He
had his feet on the ladder and the immediate goal was Westminster. I asked him why he
wanted to be a politician, his answer was laden with the expected, ‘to make a difference, do
good, serve my community’ type clichés that we are all too familiar with when it comes to

Today I read of Ohio Republican, JD Vance, who has attracted former President Trump’s
endorsement as he pursues a seat in Congress, and in doing so has done a remarkable
about-turn in his views. Vance, 37, a former marine and Yale law graduate, roundly
condemned Trump in 2016, tweeting, “Trump makes people I care about afraid. Immigrants,
Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible. God wants better of us.” This was
only one of several such tweets (all of which have since been deleted) where he made clear
that he was no fan of Donald. But now, with his own ambitions clear he is happy to accept
kingmaker-Trump’s endorsement if that helps propel him towards his own goals and serves
his own ambitions.

Of course, this is common amongst the vagrancies of a life in politics where compromise and
about-turns blur and obscure any initial sense of altruistic purpose and intent. This is not
unique to politics but is evident whenever position and power become the end goals. There
are plenty of corporate examples queuing behind the numerous political examples that
point to this distortion. Now more than ever we need leaders who have a clear sense of
purpose around the good that they can contribute and then who, undeterred, are able to
navigate their journey guided by their ‘north star’.

Naïve? Maybe. But clarity of purpose coupled with a determination to adhere to that
‘calling’ accompanied by both transparency and accountability, are sadly all too infrequent.
Friends of mine recently wrote a book titled, ‘What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being A
Better Leader’ (Reynolds, Houlder, Goddard & Lewis) – it is a body of common sense and
wisdom that severs to point us in the right direction. Sound philosophical reasoning is long
overdue in the marketplace of politicians and leaders. How urgently we need the kind of
decision-making that doesn’t chase short-term popularist objectives and a cringeworthy
willingness to embrace powerful allies that feed our own ambitions, no matter how dubious
or sullied their reputations.

We (TomorrowToday) have always maintained that the essence of (good) leadership is to
‘lead out of who you are’ assuming of course, that the ‘who you are’ enfolds a lifelong,
authentic focus on building emotional intelligence. Of late there has been an increase in talk
of the ‘humble leader’ but little in how we have traditionally gone about leadership
development and holding leaders accountable, embraces this worthy notion. If we are to
produce leaders fit to lead into the challenges of the 21 st Century, we really will need to
revisit how we groom and develop leaders; we will need to rethink much of the ‘leadership
environment’ and how we measure and hold leaders accountable.

The good news is that the green shoots for such are visible. There are examples of leaders –
both in the murky waters of politics and the complexity of the corporate world, that help
point the way. Those responsible for preparing leaders – or those with the opportunity to
talk about what good leadership is and how to nurture it, need to be bold. They need to be
willing to ignore and challenge those things that get in the way of a fresh appraisal of ‘what
it will take’ and to free themselves from a slavish adherence to outdated orthodoxies and
pedagogies that are unfit for the challenges ahead. It sounds simple, but it isn’t!
Perhaps a start would be for you to take some time to revisit the ‘why’ to your own
leadership? If it is true, that ‘the mind works best in the presence of a question,’ then here
are some questions you could consider contemplating in the light of your own leadership
position / responsibility:

  • Who is the self that leads?
  • How have you kept / detoured from your original sense of purpose / motivation?
    Why is that?
  • What is it you would like to be known for – remembered as in your role as a leader?
  • What do you need to learn, unlearn and relearn to sustain your leadership influence
    and journey?

And to that young man setting out on his political journey I say, “good luck, be bold, and
hold steady to your motivation!”…and who knows, just maybe he will succeed in all he is
setting out to be and do? I certainly hope he does!

The world needs a new leadership response to a global context of change, complexity and uncertainty. Leadership Thinker (and author of this article), Keith Coats is passionate about helping audiences around the world to understand what this response looks like and to equip leaders with the tools needed to respond to this changing context.

Keith’s research and global experience of over 20 years has helped him identify the key-defining factors of a successful leader in the 21st century as the ability to learn, grow and be adaptable. It is his great privilege to help leaders access new frameworks and thinking in order to successfully lead into the future. Chat with us if you’d like to explore how he could help your team prepare for the future.

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