As a part of my current mini side project #NotAWebinar I was watching a clip from the psychologist and former NBA star John Amaechi. In it he talked about how behaviours that would be otherwise unacceptable in modern life are tolerated if not positively encouraged in the world of sport.
He talked of a hypothetical example of a child coming home from school and recounting how in French they had been pinned up against the wall and yelled at by the teacher at very close range for failing to successfully conjugate their irregular verbs. Other than bringing back memories of my own terrible language lessons (but hey, it was the 80s) John’s talk has got me thinking about whether maybe something similar applies to politics.
The reason is because in the world of modern management, unless you are Elon Musk, it appears most people now accept that if you want people to change what they are doing, you will be most successful if you engage with those people in a way that brings them on board with you and gives them a sense of ownership of the change. If you repeatedly just manage by proclamation, your success will be limited and what results you might get will quickly diminish over time. People don’t like to be bossed about.
In politics, however. Well at present we are repeatedly seeing a government that issues diktats and then appears surprised if not actually affronted when whatever it is doesn’t actually miraculously happen. Whether it’s the creation of testing provision, the strategy around care homes, the launch of a tracing app or the reopening of schools, pronouncements without any consultation leads to things not happening and then either waffly excuses, or flat out lying.
To some extent this is something in which we are all culpable. The model of leadership that societally we expect from politicians is unrealistic. They aren’t omnipotent gods in human form. They are just human, with human frailties and traits (in some cases it seems more pronounced than others – there are some very brittle egos on display). But for as long as they play up to that idea of omnipotence, they can’t be completely excused.
Nobody knows with any certainty at the moment what we should do next. Not politicians. Not scientists. Not businesspeople. Not clinicians. Not teachers. But the only way we will get through this is by working together. And the naivety of approach to successfully making change happen being demonstrated at the moment I find deeply, deeply disturbing.