Leadership opportunity

The need for change has never been so obvious. Nor have the opportunities ever been so numerous.

The Euro crisis formed a unique opportunity to transform Europe from a mere union of money and numbers into a humane political, social and economic project.  The interim solution as it stands today fails on all fronts and condemns Greece to decades of poverty.

The Syrian refugees offer a new opportunity.  Europe responds with solutions of the 1930’s. Climate change, youth unemployment, the masses of older people living in solitude, … how many more opportunities do our European leaders need to understand that none of today’s problems can be solved on a national level? That the framework of countries within Europe claiming sovereignty on all fronts is outdated and outpaced?

When I see Europe, an economic force of 500 million people, struggling to integrate and provide a future for up to 4 million destitute refugees, I can only conclude that Europe has some work to do. Four million doesn’t even amount to 1% of Europe’s current population. While the current inflow might be disruptive, its long-term effect will be positive on all fronts. If Europe can’t cope with this, how will it provide a future for 25 million young unemployed? How will it provide care for the tens of millions of septuagenarians (and up)? How will it keep from being marginalized on the world’s stage?

If I didn’t know any better, I would have to agree with John Gray’s claim in Straw Dogs (2007) that progress is a myth and morality is a fiction. However, the spontaneous flow of support for the Syrian refugees has corrected Europe’s political course. We need to build on the momentum and continue to seize the opportunities. Our economic, social, political and cultural challenges are excellent drivers for change and growth. All we lack is leadership.

You would think that leadership would be available in abundance. Over the past 50 years, no subject has been better studied and documented. Gazillions of leadership books, courses, consultancy programs and guru’s have created a leadership industry. Is Leadership such a hard nut to crack?

In its simplest form, Leadership is about embracing the need for change, developing a framework for a better future, elaborating a strategy to implement the journey towards that future but above all it is about transforming the people’s mindset to set the change in motion. Leadership is about maturing people’s minds to different ideas, capitalizing on random opportunities. Leaders rise to the occasion and people respond.

Our European leaders seem to have none of this, not even the thought leadership. They clearly have lost sight of the objective of Europe as they only see obstacles in the form of nationalistic barricades. Managing these obstacles with recipes of the past might prove popular but is penny-wise and pound-foolish. It’s time for Europe to step up. The leadership opportunity knocks…

Today I leave you with a satirical reflection of Randy Newman on the Great Nations of Europe, just to add some historical perspective to our glorious past. Don’t we want to do better from now on?

Great Nations of Europe by Randy Newman

The picture by courtesy of the Huffington Post.


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