a leader worthy of the times?
And, rather more quickly than I had anticipated, I found an answer in the cross-hairs of two insights:
"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership." [my emphasis]
"We have, in my view, reached a position which is potentially of great historical significance. We are witnessing a decline in confidence, and sometimes a growing mistrust, not only in political processes and politicians, but in social institutions such as the media and journalism, the police and religious organisations. Inequality is rising on many crucial dimensions. We have, for many, a confusion or anxiety around moral or social values, and community or individual identity. In my own subject of economics, we have less confidence in our ability to understand processes of growth, employment and change. We must seek growth that is sustainable in relation to our natural environment. And these difficulties are not confined to our own country; they are reflected in many societies, rich and poor, around the world. These difficulties affect us all, from young people looking for work, to older people worried about the future of their healthcare."
I was fortunate enough about a year ago to hear Lord Stern talking about his work on 'Prospering Wisely'. His summation centred on 'anxiety', that most corrosive state of being, gnawing away as we wonder where the money will come from, who will care for us when we are old, whether we will ever be able to have our own home, if the fighting will ever stop... And it stretches, he suggested, to a planetary level: how do we acknowledge and access and then address our anxiety about the planet - the only one we have, the one that we seem hellbent on poisoning?
Anxiety. The spirit of the age.
A leader - the one who can confront that anxiety, who can name it for us, who can stare at it with unflinching gaze. Who can help us to work out what to do.
I can barely imagine such a person emerging from the current panorama of politicians. There are, to be sure, some wonderful, even inspirational individuals among them; and though I subscribe to the proposition that politicians are coming from an ever narrower subset of the population (and may even be members of a 'chumocracy'), I am in general admiring of politicians: most of those I've actually met really are trying to make the world a better place.