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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 14-Jan-18


Sunday 14-January-18

Getting the job: the least worst candidate, Theresa May and the hoped-for great saviour

Sometimes, when you are looking for a job, it is more important to not be disliked than be outstanding in any areas. In this way, average, bland and uncontroversial people get the job rather than those who might be more effective.

A common time when this kind of appointment is made is where there are strongly differing views among those who have a hand in the appointment process, and in particular where any individual or group have the power of veto. In such cases, the likely successful candidate will be a person to whom no selector objects.

This is a common pattern in political appointments, where factions and power players can all veto any appointee, and none more so than when people are seeking a new leader. An example of this happened in the UK after the Brexit referendum, where David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and enmities between people like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove made them insufficiently popular with all sides. As a result, the moderate and flexible Theresa May got the job of guiding Britain out the EU, even though she voted against it. Yet without the fanatical support that strong leaders get, she has floundered as in-party warring has continued unabated. This, during a time where unity is essential for successful Brexit, could well lead to national disaster.

This least-worst decision-making appears in many other choice scenarios, from business strategizing to buying a family car, where keeping everyone on board beats innovation and high-potential risk. The averaging effect of compromise destroys companies, brings down governments and kills passion. It creates grudges as behemoths lumber on, even to their doom.

In balancing this dismal state of affairs, there is an answer which can seem impossible when all parties are entrenched in blinkered views. This is of visionary leadership that speaks to all and breaks through the impotent gloom. Great leaders bring people together, speaking to their deep fears and desires, yet not being beholden to them.

There is a theory, sometimes debunked, that explains this, proposing that a 'Great Man' will arise when there is great need. Despite the old sexism of the idea, it is a common pattern in times of stress, where we seek a magical saviour who will deliver us from anticipated evil times ahead (and look no further than recent presidential elections for evidence of this). Practically, this is unlikely to happen as the Conservatives are paralyzed by a fear of socialist Jeremy Corbyn winning another election. Better the weak leader they know, it seems.

Never mind the cynicism, we desperately need such a person now, and not just in Britain. Let's hope our Churchill (an oft-quoted example) will step out on the shadows soon.

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