In my company, Speakers Corner, we are privileged in that we get to listen and talk to some of the most inspirational people in today's world. They share with us their adventures, anecdotes and lessons which can lift and inspire even the most cynical mind. Luckily for us, we then have the privilege of ensuring their stories, thoughts and experiences reach the relevant individuals and companies. They come from sports, expeditionary and military backgrounds (to name a few), meaning there are never two stories, or days in the office, which are the same!
However, I was watching the budget the other day and followed this by researching analysis from key business leaders and politicians in today's society, the results of this led me to a rather depressing conclusion. At what point did the world reach a tipping point where 'the public' had to have everything sanitised for their viewing? When did we decide that being inspired took second place to eliminating risk? And when did we start prioritising formal presentation and lack of mistakes over inspiring soaring hearts and minds?
Don't get me wrong, as I stated above, I know there are unbelievably inspirational people in our society, but they are generally individuals who have achieved extraordinary things or have been placed in circumstances which have required heroic actions.
When I refer to the inspiring characters we are lacking, I am talking about those people who occupy everyday spaces, yet still manage to galvanise the support and aspirations of the general public.
There are two names, one in recent memory and one in today's world, that I feel do fulfil these criteria. The first person who springs to mind when I think of inspiring people is Steve Jobs. The 'Cult of Steve' took the Apple brand to unheard of heights and elevated them to the position of the biggest company of the world. The other person is Richard Branson who continues to inspire entrepreneurs and encourage people in business to achieve more and aim for higher goals. The combination of his excellent self-promotion, alongside the ever-expanding Virgin brand cements Sir Richard as one of today's most influential figures.
So, while these inspirational figures do exist, one of the most striking similarities about both of them is how tightly Steve Jobs and Richard Branson controlled access to themselves, above and beyond when they have a message to deliver. Apple were, in the days of Steve Jobs, notoriously restrictive to the media, refusing to comment on articles or reports in the press, but only speaking when Apple (and Steve Jobs) saw fit.
Their speaking opportunities saw them wow the world with beautiful presentations, new products and importantly, this was all released in a tightly controlled environment. Richard Branson is infamously known as a self-publicist who performs ostentatious activities in order to promote his 'yes man' attitude and ultimately the Virgin brand. However, while other people might speak about individual areas of the Virgin brand, Richard Branson is not usually present at these types of conversations.
We live in a saturated media society, where even the breaking news stories broadcast on the 24-hour channels are out of date before they are announced due to the immediacy of social media platforms. This constant stream of news and reporting means that there are plenty of opportunities for leaders from all walks of life to not only inspire us, but also promote their visions.
However, this does not happen as today's leaders are fearful of the outcome of making a stand. Leaders are concerned that sharing lofty goals with the public does not tally with our modern society which demands instant results. This environment, where the key requirement is immediacy, results in leaders mainly being concerned about their potential explicitly broadcast fall from grace. As such, leaders in today's society default to the lowest risk position, which is avoidance of any decision they might be held accountable for.
Politicians who should be leading society, spend their time being media trained to such an extent, that they never have to commit to any specific goals, and they never present visions of how to improve our society. We are left with a tightly regulated message with no room for innovation or inspiration.
Traditionally, politicians are meant to be the leaders of countries, not just leading the business world, but solving issues in society and looking after the environment too. We need our leaders to take entire countries to better places, and aid their people in achieving higher goals. However, our current leaders lack the inspirational qualities which lead generations to aspire in their footsteps.
Politics, certainly in the UK, appears to be in a place where the 'grey' area works: 'we don't need to lead, we just need to avoid mistakes'. Politicians are currently adopting the position of hiding in the background, rather than making big statements and decisions. They are of the mindset that we don't need to take our people on a visionary journey which potentially runs the risk of failure, but rather, we merely need to ensure that the messages being delivered are controlled and steady.
We are living in uncertain and uncomfortable times, where feelings are divisive and there is animosity prevalent everywhere. To solve these problems, we need leaders who inspire, we need leaders who can give us bold visions and statements who will guide us through this journey with courage and conviction. This is my rallying call to the politicians of today.
But, what gives me the right to make this rallying call? I am making it because I am someone who wants to be inspired by my leaders, and I urge you to do the same. I want my leaders from the world of politics to put aside the fear of mistakes and risk of public ridicule to set out visions and dreams and allow us, the public, to dream alongside them. Because, then, and only then, will we have experiences and learnings that will take us all to new and, hopefully, better places.
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