Top talk

Top talk

Top talk

It is going to take a long time to impeach President Trump. It is even possible that it may not happen, though it seems more than likely. When it does, the system that allowed a Trump to capture the most powerful job in the world will still be in place. It will remain in place until the voters decide they’ve had enough. They are close to that now.

The American people’s present dreams do not fit into the current US Ballot Box.

Come to think of it, that is true of a good many voters’ dreams, regardless of where they are. The British voter, fed up with poor political judgment after poor political judgment, is on the brink of ditching Brexit altogether. After an agonising lesson in what it actually means and a more-than-adequate look at those who will negotiate it (if that isn’t too grand a word for the pathetic manoeuvrings to date), they see that the enemy is external not internal. Globalisation is dead, long live neighbourliness. What is the difference is unclear.

It seems odd that at a time when we talk endlessly about leadership we have some of the worst examples of it in fifty years. Part of the reason is that the followers aren’t playing by the rules any more. They saw that Obedience, Deference, Compliance and Obeisance lead to Oppression, Deprivation, Corruption and Obfuscation. These are harsh words because the situation is as harsh as I have ever seen it. Panic will not solve it.

Nor will instantly better leaders. A leader has always had to work within what is possible and that means what is acceptable enough to the majority of people to avoid causing riots. More than ever leaders are being driven by followers who have not thought through what they want, what is possible and what is decent. Many leaders have asked for this. Ever noticed the arrogance of some top people?

They behave as though everyone else they come into contact with is inferior – except those who can make them richer or more important. With this last group they are often obsequious. “Nouveau promu”, the French might call it. Power, like wealth, needs careful handling if it is not to spoil those who acquire it. Understanding that fortune’s smile can be quixotic helps keep feet on ground. You got where you got as much by luck as by judgment.

Recent answers to what happens to the brains of those promoted to high positions are reported by Jerry Useem in The Atlantic Magazine. After years of study a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, Dacher Keitner, discovered that those in power often became more impulsive, less risk-aware and less adept at seeing things from other people’s points of view. My anecdotal experience is that many of them seem to see less well almost physically. They glance at the person they are speaking to but they don’t engage. They certainly don’t project creative scenarios which might be biasing their respondent.

And here’s the thing. Engaging is not a public relations gimmick. It is caring about, listening to, seeking to understand, being genuinely curious over – and having a mind-set that is resolved to find a solution. Good people care. We all know that.

Now leaders and followers alike have to demonstrate it. All the time.