Ed Miliband and Tony Blair speak before Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince Philip arrive in Westminster Hall on March 20, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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This new era demands collective leadership, not heroic individuals

The old style of leadership is at odds with our complex and networked world. 

Now the dust has settled on Ed Miliband’s perceived leadership strengths and weaknesses, maybe we can have a more profound discussion about political leadership in the 21st century. Substance, style, background, empathy and more have been thrown into the mix. But the times demand not just a change of emphasis in how we are led but a very different type of leader – not least because to be more successful as a society we need more women to lead.

Models of political leadership mirror the wider technological and cultural context in which leaders operate, so what we tend to get is the same types of leaders in business, sport, civil society and politicsIts no accident that the big 20th century leaders were heroic figures. From Churchill to Thatcher, from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs and Alex Ferguson and, in extremis, Hitler and Stalin. This is because it was a century of top-down hierarchy. Big business and big government dominated the scene – and someone had to sit at the top and pull the levers to make these huge clunky machines work. That’s how change happened – from the top-down and the centre out.

But the world is changing fast. Technology is flattening these vertical structures and instead of one-to-many communications – increasingly we communicate and connect directly peer-to-peer. Knowing your place and following orders makes less sense when every day your voice matters on Twitter or Facebook. And at the same time the reputation of the old gods is being forever tarnished because no one gets away with anything any more – as hacking, WikiLeaks and smartphone snaps reveal the unvarnished truth.

The old style of leadership sits at odds with the changing times of the 21st century as digital networks connect up everything everywhere. We can know what we want, talk to whom we want and start to making change happen for ourselves. All of us are smarter than any one of us. Collective intelligence and collective leadership are now within our grasp.

The implications for leadership in the 21st century are profound. As Richard Wilson and many others are now pointing out, instead of being the hero, the new leader is the person who helps build the platforms and creates the spaces for people – together - to do things for themselves. We need wisdom, guidance and resources - a shepherd that stands at the back of the flock. As the poet Maya Angelou wrote "a leader sees greatness in other people. You can’t be much of a leader if all you see is yourself."

But there is another critical dimension to the leadership of the future and this is the role of women. So far the debate has been dominated by men and it’s been about been about male leaders. But in an overlooked Harvard Business Review article, two management professors make the case that in leadership teams it is not just the diversity of some women in the team that helps organisational success – but the more women there are the better the performance.

One of the researchers, Professor Anita Whoolley, says of effective groups that its not enough that the members are all really smart "but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic." These are the traits that will define the successful leader of the future and the more women in top positions the more likely this will be the case.

One of the great political conundrums of our times is that to lead in politics today requires a tool set that doesn't allow for the changes society needs. Party political structures are top-down when change is increasingly being driven from the bottom up. We have 20th century leaders in a 21st century world. The levers no longer work, no matter how hard you pull on them. A complex and networked world is going to require a complex and networked form of governance to manage it.

So how can the culture and space for leaders who know their task is to enable others be created? The answer can only lie with us – not them. We have to grow up and take responsibility for our lives – we cant outsource it to others. It never works. We must demand and enable a new form of leadership. So, yes, a functioning modern democracy will take more meetings – but they don’t have to be meetings of boring politicians droning on about what they will do for us. Instead they can be fun and creative, practical and problem solving, innovative, collaborative and sharing. Democracy must become a circle of chairs for discussion, not rows of them where we only listen. The new leader metaphorically, and in reality, sorts out the chairs. After all, we are the people we have been waiting for. It’s all about us – not them.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones. 

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times