Leadership is in the news. First, in the US Barack Obama has been re-elected to serve a second term and in the UK George Entwistle has just resigned from the top job at the BBC. One has been endorsed as the leader of a major economic and political power and the other has lost the mandate to run a broadcasting organisation. They seem to be completely unrelated stories, yet both men’s stories could so easily have been swapped.
There are more similarities between the two men than at first seems likely. Both have serious intellectual capacities and had spent their earlier careers in relative obscurity before being thrust into the limelight: one of the roles Entwistle had had before becoming Director General of the BBC was controller of knowledge; Obama had been a teacher. Entwistle was uncomfortable being interviewed, particularly the fateful one with Radio 4’s John Humphreys, and the normally eloquent Obama disastrously lost the first debate in Denver. There’s just one year difference in their ages. By all accounts they are decent men who were determined to do a good job and yet only one of them is being allowed to carry on.
Both men’s jobs come under a great deal of scrutiny and after just 54 days at the top George Entwistle had faced two crises and been judged not to have responded to them appropriately. Obama had four years in office to establish his credentials: amongst his achievements is his healthcare bill which he will now hope to nurse (sorry!) through to a meaningful implementation despite continuing Republican opposition. But on the other hand unemployment increased significantly during his first term, causing suffering to so many families.
Unlike Entwistle though, Obama has been given a chance to finish what he started and to put right what he hasn’t fully acknowledged yet. Amongst the latter category I count climate change which commentators have pointed out was hardly heard about during the campaign. Obama mentioned it in his victory speech however:
‘We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.’
I’m sure we would all echo those sentiments for our own corner of the world and hope he demonstrates by his leadership, his willingness to collaborate and his determination that he really is the man for the job.