It’s been a week.
There I was, hurtling towards Liverpool to facilitate a two-day event with a fantastic group of leaders from around the world. I usually love these 7am train journeys. They’re a chance to reflect on the work that is to be done. And to look forward to working with senior leaders who are intent on making a positive difference.
A week ago, however, I found it truly difficult to focus. Mr Trump had won. I could not get my head around it. “What is it that a man has to say and do to be deemed unfit for office?”, I tweeted. It felt like a terrible indictment of us all. The narratives gave permission to hate, no, to despise differences. The Oxford English Dictionary have even announced that ‘post-truth’ is the new international word of the year. ‘Post-truth’: when facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
Reflecting on the narratives of Brexit and President Trump
The toxic narratives in the run-up to the US election reminded me of some of the worst moments of the Brexit debate, times 10. I think everyone will have their story about hearing the result. About where they were, what they felt and thought, as though someone had died. Something had died. It was the idea that ‘the only way is up’ (as the song goes) when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Of course, as with transitions in business, the reality is much, much messier. There are abrupt and dramatic reversals, like a giant organisational game of snakes and ladders. As we’ve been reminded of this, so powerfully and so unsettlingly, the only interesting question now is “What are we going to say and do about it?”
The Trump triumph was a lot to take in on a two-hour train journey. By the time we pulled into Liverpool Lime Street, I was considering what it all meant in terms of our work on inclusive leadership. Yes, there have been moments in the last week or so when I’ve held my head in my hands. Or when I’ve wanted to curl up just as much as Hillary Clinton. But I’ve also seen some fantastic and positive responses to these epoch-making events. I’ve had some great conversations with senior leaders about what they (and we) are going to do to counteract the racism, sexism, homophobia and a whole lot more that has been unleashed. Positively, practically and creatively.
The work goes on.