16 April 2009

There is a view that politics and business should not mix, however as politicians directly affect every aspect of our working life sometimes it is a little hard to be a spectator; especially when you see people in the highest office in the country behaving in an intolerable way.

In my opinion it is the job of a politician to influence their peers and the public and make changes that are solely for the “greater good.”

In recent years it has become increasingly more apparent that there are a few politicians who have put their own interests above those they stood to represent.

When a politician starts to use the powers of office to influence people unfairly this is an abuse of office. The same applies in every walk of life, in every profession, teaching, medicine, business, quite literally everywhere.

At the heart of every organisation, team or company are “core values”. In businesses these are quite often made public and businesses will recruit and train with these in mind.

These core values are key to the success of the organisation.

There is a danger that if core values are not stated clearly an organisation will flounder and bumble along until the more dominant traits appear, usually from the more dominant characters with in a business.

In the UK we have an obsession with putting the loudest most gregarious person in charge because society portrays them as leaders. In reality this is a fundamental flaw in the basics of leadership.

A great leader is someone who will not take the credit for success regardless of their importance within the achievement.  They are not people who crave or covet the limelight. They are potentially shy unassuming characters.

How different is the picture I am portraying to the stereotypical image you have from the Hollywood leader?

The other more deadly danger of when core values go horribly wrong is when you set values that you just cant live up to.

So often businesses suffer when taking a new CEO or high powered executive into an organisation. This is often because the vision of the new CEO and his core values are completely different to those which are instilled in to each and every one of the 1000’s of employees, who are eating, living and breathing the business values.

The conflict starts in the boardroom and diffuses through the business like a poison of contradiction and confusion.

The worst thing that can happen is when you have set values that you think other people will be impressed with or because your main competitor lives them. If the managing director or person at the top does not demonstrate these values in every aspect of their working lives, the structure below collapses.

For example  if one of your core values is “passion” and you, the CEO come in every day after 9.00am passing all your colleagues at their desks, you then take long lunches and leave before everyone else, people will question your passion and will either oust you or worse still water down their own previously high levels.

If you think loosing your job is worse at this point, you are not a leader. A leader will always want what is best for the organisation. A point worth considering in this case, a great leader would not be coming in after everyone else and leaving before the day is done!

A great leader leads from the front. The core values emanate from every pore and as such people follow and will stand by your side through thick and thin.

At times of adversity people will turn on a bad leader and fling themselves from the sinking ship, long before the outside world will know that the vessel is heading towards the rocks. An unscrupulous leader will happily throw comrades overboard before taking the brunt themselves.

I read in the Times yesterday that one of Gordon Browns chief advisors Damian McBride resigned over appalling behaviour towards fellow MP’s. Yet, Brown distanced himself from McBride’s actions claiming he didn’t know about his antics.

However you look at this, alarm bells ring for me.

If he knew, he should stand up, and take it on the chin. It is not proper conduct for a man in his position to use smear tactics to further his political gain.

If he didn’t know, there is a much deeper problem. For a senior advisor to think it acceptable to behave in such a manner, means that either the core values within Number 10 are potentially sinister and subversive which I find hard to believe or they have no clear defined values and as such, the louder, visibly stronger personality rises to the top and exerts his or her beliefs on the organisation, or simply runs wild.

In the case of McBride’s recent escapade, even by his standards, wild is an understatement. Yet I cannot believe he is alone in his guttural activities, even though he stands alone and takes the punishment for the others lurking in the shadows.

So what makes a great politician?

As a child, a chorister at Durham cathedral, being lucky enough to be invited to Westminster Abbey, I recall with absolute clarity looking up at the kind face of the statue that towered above me. I asked the verger next to me “who is that?”

“That young man is Wilberforce, one of the greatest Britons who ever lived.”

So what made Wilberforce such an amazing politician? Simple, he aligned himself with what was right and proper for the good of mankind at the time.

He took the worst thing that he felt needed fixing, and no matter how unpopular this made him, he started to change the way people thought at that time in the UK, knowing one day, the rest of the world would follow.

William Wilberforce dedicated his entire parliamentary life to pass an incredibly unpopular motion, the abolishment of the slave trade. Yet year after year Wilberforce persevered, often ridiculed and shunned by fellow “house-mates.”

Although in his life Wilberforce made a fraction of the 1000’s of changes modern politicians like Blair and Brown make, Wilberforce’s single great act has more positive impact on society than today’s politicians can ever dream of.

In a 1000 years will children be looking up to statues of Brown, sadly I think not!

Whether or not you are labour, tory or a political agnostic, the saddest thing for me and the question I ask is;

“How can men so privileged with such power, do so much towards achieving so little?”


If you are not familiar with Wilberforce the philanthropist, have a read of his Wikipedia biography. He is a true icon who changed the world more than any other politician, he is the wheel in the evolution process that drove the vehicle one step closer towards true civilisation.


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