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The time has come for Purpose-Led Politics not Point-scoring Politics

November 11, 2019

By Peter Hawkins and Giles Hutchins

In the UK, as we enter the intense period of electioneering, we are witnessing politicians from all sides trying to score points, rather than lay out a vision for the country and our interconnected world for the next five years.  We have many promises of spending more money whether it is on Doctors or Child Care, Police or infrastructure.  Much of it feels like repetition of unfulfilled promises from previous elections.

Trust in politicians has reached an all-time low and yet there is a yearning for political leadership that provides a clear way forward – one built on values and which is purpose led.  A way forward that addresses the root-and-branch challenges our country is facing.

We need national and international leadership to urgently address the most critical global and local  threat we all face, that of the climate crisis. This is no longer a threat to future generations, for 2050 and beyond; its effects are already with us.  The climate crisis has the potential to cause more human death than either of the world wars, let-alone the carnage it wreaks on other-than-human life – yet it hardly features in main-party election debates and speeches.  UK politicians speak with pride about how they are doing more on carbon reduction than other countries, but that is meaningless if everyone is doing far too little and too late, to avert global catastrophe.  The UK goal to be carbon neutral by 2035, with no measurable firm commitments before that date, is hardly a wise response to the climate crisis, regardless of how it compares to other nation-states. It is reminiscent of shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic.

It is impossible to create the world wide and national alliance necessary to create the radical action needed to limit the impact of the climate crisis, without also radically addressing global and social inequality. We hear talk about immigration, the fear of which was cynically used to win votes in the Brexit referendum, yet there is little or no exploration of how migration will be exponentially effected by widening global inequality and the unfolding climate crisis.  Adequately dealing with social inequality means tackling an out-dated economic paradigm, which many leading and well-respected economists the world over are working on in detail. We have the thinking, the models, the solutions, but no political will. These new economic approaches are absent from today’s political ramblings, mired as they are in yesterday’s economic logic. The political will, it seems, for root-and-branch transformation is sorely lacking.  This gets us nowhere fast, at a time when we need to be transforming at pace.

All we currently have on offer are empty promises – from both left and right party politics – empty promises that are essentially materialistic: how you can have more for less, not how we learn to consume less while deepening our humanity and becoming more purposeful, equitable and wise.

True leadership, does not lie in individual leaders, it is created by three elements, a clear purpose, articulated into a call to action by collective leadership, in a way that aligns and orchestrates individuals to take a collective and collaborative course of action.  Without a shared purpose we are left with a popularity contest, and politics reduced to Twittersphere and reality TV:   “Who will be the last to be voted out of the Jungle?”

So much needs to change.  The old ways of doing things are no longer fit for the future.  Whether its leadership in business, economics, institutions or politics, the systemic challenges humanity now faces demand a new way of leading, not just in the UK but across the world. This new way of leading draws upon next-stage leadership consciousness – Regenerative Leadership Consciousness – which is significantly different from the old ways of leading.    The epic challenges we now face as a nation, as a human race – from climate change to social inequality and from mental health to biodiversity loss – demand leadership of a different order.

There is hope.  Where there is breakdown, there is the potential for breakthrough, if we have the courage.  This mess that has been created in UK politics might just create the very conditions that stimulate a breakthrough innovation in UK democracy; a step-change in the kind of leadership consciousness humanity now needs. This new kind of leadership consciousness is actually already emerging in all sorts of places within business, community development and social change.   This new kind of leadership conscious is what Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm write about in their new book Regenerative Leadership – a way of leading that is not just nourishing, developmental and life-affirming for the leader, but for everyone the leader serves and the wider society and ecology of life on Earth.

This way of leading puts purpose at the heart of what the organisation or political initiative is all about.

It is the quality of purpose that creates the quality of the leader, and the quality of the leadership team or political party, not the other way round.

What we now need is purpose-led politics, not opportunistic point-scoring politics.  Many hard-working politicians go in to politics to serve their communities and nation-people, yet end up spending a lot of energy on point-scoring, power-playing, vote-winning sound-bites; purpose gets lost along the way, along with the soul of politics and the soul of leadership.

It begs the question – so what is the real purpose of politics?  What is the real purpose of society, of civilisation?  To satisfy ego-urges and material-needs or to serve our diverse communities and rich interwoven ecologies of life in ways that actually enhance evolution, that actually leave a better future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and the rest of life on Earth?    We can no longer leave politics to politicians. Its times for us all to participate in how we can refocus politics on  purpose – by the questions we ask, the conversations we engage in, and the way we campaign, collaborate and dialogue.  Yesterday’s politics is not longer fit for purpose.  Something new can (and must) emerge out of this current breakdown.


This blog-article is co-written by world-renowned leadership Professor Peter Hawkins of Henley Business School and Chairman of Renewal associates and  Regenerative Leadership specialist Giles Hutchins  We share our perspectives on the timely and important topic of leadership in politics.


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