Leading a way out of disillusionment

One of the marks of the successful leader is an ability to so effectively demonstrate a vision  of how things should be, the dissent over how to get there becomes secondary to this unity of purpose.

For that vision not to fall into reactive populism as it is tossed among the rapids of inevitable difference in a pluralist democracy, it demands the strength of rigourous investigation, detailed and practical application as well as demonstrable benefits. But it also requires the clarity of purpose and an ability to communicate that vision to assuage those wasteful whirlpools and side currents which beset all large ideas. Perhaps most of all, it must recognise for any vision to have longevity or solidity, it must take note of the value of cohesion; not necessarily universal but sufficiently embracing and flexible to encapsulate enough of the voices to carry the whole idea forward.

Compared to this wistful ideal the latest appraisal of Australian politics is not a pretty one. Not surprisingly the report by the Grattan Institute into the steady rise of minor parties sees a reflection of disillusionment and polarisation of many groups. What they found is the vote share for minor parties and independents has been rising for a decade. More than one-in-four Australians voted for someone other than the major parties. These figures are also indicative of a divided Australia with voters in regional and remote areas reflecting particular anxieties and disenchantment; “the further from a capital city GPO, the higher the minor party vote and the faster it has risen”.

While the Grattan report has surmised these were not the product of economic factors, as wage rises and wage do not reflect in the data, they do reflect a disjoint between the regions and their purported leaders in Canberra. The report recommends leaders need to heed the warning signs and focus on what matters to voters: “restoring trust and social cohesion”. Easy labels, simplistic branding of sub-groups and minorities and espousing glib answers to complex societal problems are all easy populist temptations but they serve to further drive the divisions.  The United States now finds it itself in one of the most polarised and in some instances, the most paralysed, positions in decades due to promulgating and exciting this attitude.

Real leadership needs to find commonality and regardless of diversity, spur action from that combined force rather than the self-destructive division of modern politics.