“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use, do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon
The conversation around what good political leadership looks like, is an important one.
The idea of what it means to be a good political leader is something that’s often not actively or optimistically discussed in everyday ordinary conversation. But if this past year of COVID has taught us anything, it’s that this is a crucial time for thinking about what good leadership looks like, the difference it makes and how we go about recognising it and supporting it. Not just in the realm of politics, but within the realm of our communities and even ourselves.
Why accessibility, transparency and accountability matters.
What might be reimagined when we think about a new approach to leadership? We’ve all seen the the scandals, the whistleblowers and the constant need to demand transparency and accountability when it comes to how politicians lead. But still, we seem stuck in this endless loop of two party political debate with us as community citizens looking in from the outside.
It’s easy for ordinary people like us, to feel disconnected and powerless when it comes to politics.
The good news is that social media and technologies that connect us all, are catalysing structural shifts and changes within grassroots community action groups. They are inviting ordinary people into important conversations and enabling us to access and understand information in new ways that might previously have been too difficult or complex to engage with.
What we could learn from the Black Lives matter movement.
For those who have engaged with the Black Lives Matter movement, much has been talked about as it relates not just to the systemic issues around policing, the criminal justice system and community responses — but also the cultural codes and practice that invite some progress whilst simultaneously continuing the nominal lip service that allow these divisive systems to continue. In this movement we’re seeing much deeper pushes around how we think about the development of these cultural codes, the practices and language that enable and facilitate racism, and how we might start to think about dismantling them. Perhaps these new conversations might also lend themselves to the re-imagination of political leadership postures, and the role of ordinary citizens within this relationship.
Leadership is also about how we relate to each other.
Traditional politics is dominated by the values and mission of each party; and despite the tenets of democracy, current politicians remain necessarily bias and hierarchical. But isn’t leadership fundamentally about relationships, not authority? Perhaps we need to get out of the mindset of a leader coming in to tell us what needs to be done or to have all the answers. The very idea of two party politics can work against the very premise of supporting, fostering and encouraging genuine community involvement. Perhaps a new approach is required, one that is more collaborative and inclusive?
Perhaps we need a more collaborative approach that includes contributors from every level, not just politicians. After all, these issues go right to the heart of what democracy is all about. It begs the question . . whose responsibility (or right) is it to drive the necessary social change and build connections that will help ordinary people to engage in political leadership and decision making, in a meaningful impactful way?
When we start to think about politics like this, we see quickly that traditional political models of leadership are lacking.
To affect real change demands something of ordinary people like us. It demands that we step in from the sidelines to join the conversation.
The rise of independent community politics and action groups, leans on the idea of distributed thinking and communication as tools of inclusion.
Independent political grassroots community groups seek to not only understand political complexities within a different or broader context, but also how to navigate them, knowing the role community action groups inherently have to play is in disrupting, in challenging the status quo. Inherent to their purpose is to listen, strategise and problem solve — collectively, on behalf of the community.
If there is to be true transformation, perhaps we need to reimagine the way we relate and form relationships with our political leaders and the communities they represent. We have to identify and make accountable, the enormous impact of special interest groups and lobbyists on political decision making, and perhaps most importantly, we need to reimagine the role that communities play in this equation.
Perhaps letting go of career politics is a form of leadership in itself.
How do we think about a new kind of political leadership that drives change and action with the community it represents in mind? At some level, it requires a letting go of politics as a career or a profession, as an end in itself . . so that it might focus on the ultimate purpose, to understand and engage with the people it represents, to drive change within the landscape of expert science and advice, and to adopt a new approach with sustainability and community collaboration at the core.