We need leaders who we can follow

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When I take Maxx out for a walk, it carries a lot of responsibility.

Maxx is a terrier, which means he’s easily distracted by any sudden movement: a bird jostling through the hedgerow, a cat emerging from a garden, or an empty crisp packet raised like Lazarus by the breeze. Quicker than Usain Bolt out of the blocks, Maxx is lunging towards it.

He’s also startled by large vehicles, particularly buses. I can only assume that as a rescue dog, recovered from wandering the streets as a young pup, he’s had a near miss with them and this has hard-wired a fear of them. His response it either to cower behind me, but more often than not he chooses to launch a verbal attack at the offender.

For these reasons, Maxx is never off the lead, though I use one that can be extended to thirty feet.

So, Maxx and I have an unwritten agreement (he can’t read anyway). I dictate the route and decide when he can have the lead extended to enable him to investigate the world as it exists within a ten yard radius. In return, he does almost exactly as he pleases within that control zone.

This arrangement suits us. We both get some much-needed exercise and fresh air, I get to see parts of the country that I would miss if I just drove past, and Maxx can retire home safe in the knowledge that he had protected my from that nasty crisp packet.

Leadership, I think, is a bit like dog walking: setting a destination or purpose, combined with a plan that brings others towards that outcome. Striving to ensure everyone is safe, first and foremost, but then engaged enough to join the journey. The leader should be the one in control: assessing progress, mitigating against potential hurdles, maximising the resources available to them and most importantly allowing those they lead to thrive, prosper and grow.

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I despair somewhat when I look at the current leadership at a political level.

To keep with the dog walking analogy: the controlled walk seems a thing of the past.

The lead is either kept very short, or removed completely. So, it’s “my way or no way”, or a complete free-for-all. No obvious destination, no plan to bring people along, and no sense that those they try to lead are valued or allowed to contribute.

When I say “those they try to lead”, I don’t mean members of their party. It’s us, the general public, that they have a duty to look after. Too often the vision we are given is “vote for us, or get them”. Hardly uplifting or inspiring.

I think there is such a fear of upsetting one group or another, that politicians have become policy impotent. Scared to make, or even suggest, big, bold decisions, they trundle along in mediocrity. Today’s manifesto commitment is tomorrow’s drawn out consultation paper and next week’s chip wrapper.

Where is the aspiration, hope, opportunity to develop to our full potential?

When I look at those we have elected to the European Parliament (no, I don’t think I could name too many either), Parliament in Westminster, devolved administrations (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and local councils, there’s not too many I would trust to take Maxx out for a walk.

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.” Brené Brown

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