Leadership in High Places

14 May 2014

As a leadership coach, mentor and eternal student, I found the recent study by Princetown and Northwestern Universities on the US Political system as fascinating as it was predictable.

The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, concluded that the US is an oligarchy ruled by an elite rich and powerful which serves special interest organizations, instead of voters.

By using extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans, it says "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

It makes sobering reading on the leadership of the world’s most powerful nation – though something that could easily be leveled on many other democracies in the world.

‘Leader are dealers in hope’ wrote Napoleon Bonaparte, a philosophy that is as applicable to a council, corporation or country, but when a system is so antiquated and stuck in a status quo as the US political system is, then it is no wonder that the vast majority of its public have little hope – or trust - in its politicians.

And it also raises the stark question of whether real democracy exists any more in the United States than it does in many hierarchical monarchies of the world. For when power is conferred on the richest 2% of society, as it is in the US, many will conclude there is little difference.

What that 2% of society, hereditary monarchs or, indeed, benign dictatorships do with that power is, however, the central question. And the true test, trust in and longevity of its leaders.

I am a great admirer of the US and so much of its society and people. But its political system, in my opinion, reeks from head to foot. Change will happen eventually, however, for the good news is that in today’s rapidly evolving and information available world, people question matters more than ever before - and leaders cannot get away with things that they used to....

My personal thanks to the Universities of Princetown and Northwestern – the programme for which will be taught from September in their universities.

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