When there is a cacophony of voices all preceding their remarks by saying that they are acting in the interests of the British people, but then bitterly disagreeing with each other – you know you have a problem of ego as well as of leadership. One manifestation of it are the number of people who are claiming that the negotiations could have been so different if only they had been in charge of the negotiation (which uniquely in the Brexit debates includes some of those who appear to have had that role formally!)
The furore over the recent draft Brexit withdrawal agreement has taken us into uncharted waters in terms of parliamentary leadership. Arguably you do not get to become a politician unless you can bring significant ego and adversarialism into play in the first place. Mix that with difficult questions of economics, constitutional governance, constituency pressures and affiliations, and national identity, and you have the perfect recipe for a sense of chaos and a leadership vacuum. And politicians who are indeed in danger of losing touch even more with the people they are supposed to be leading.
What will happen next is unpredictable, but psychologically I suspect the gap would ideally be filled by someone who can capture a new narrative that builds on the deeper elements of British identity and someone who reflects greater humility in political leadership. Sadly, as the last US election perhaps demonstrated, one also has to contemplate the option that we may just be confronted with a bigger ego waxing about their turn for the leadership limelight.
‘British Identity, the Brexit Bubble and Big Egos’ would form a useful title for someone to write on the psychology of the last three years, but I am too modest to claim I should write it …
Dr Karl Mackie CBE is CEDR's Founder President and one of the most experienced mediators globally. To learn more about Karl's mediation practice visit his website and to book him as a mediator contact the CEDR Commercial Team on 0207 536 6060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ego always looks for information that confirms what it wants to believe. Basically, a big ego makes us have a strong confirmation bias. Because of this, we lose perspective and end up in a leadership bubble where we only see and hear what we want to. As a result, we lose touch with the people we lead, the culture we are a part of, and ultimately our clients and stakeholders.” [Harvard Business Review, Ego is the Enemy of Good Leadership, 16 November 2018, Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter.]