In separate interviews, we heard today that Prime Minister Gordon Brown had openly cried when discussing the death of his daughter in a media interview, and we also found Spinmeister Supreme Alastair Campbell losing his composure during another, rather mild, TV interview. And we’re not talking about losing his composure in a ‘throwing the lapel mike to the ground, stamping on it and cursing the interviewer’ way – it was a tearful breakdown as he defended Tony Blair.
I quite like men (and women) to show their emotional side; I think it shows them to be human, and it takes a big person to demonstrate true emotions in public. But this sudden outburst of emotion and angst from leading politicians makes me rather uneasy – let’s just say that the making public of these episodes so soon after Peter Andre broke down on Sky News, and only a day or so after John Terry was apparently in tears after losing his job and allegedly paying his ex-girlfriend several hundreds of thousands of pounds to not tell her story seems to indicate either a sudden outbreak of male emotional awareness or a cynical use of the media to garner sympathy.
And I’m afraid that I’m going for the latter. Whilst it’s perfectly understandable for anyone to cry and break down in extremis, I’m afraid that there are times when I don’t expect to see it. This is particularly the case with Campbell; the war is history now and tears shed at this stage seem to be tears for Blair and himself rather than the human tragedy of the war. Feeling sorry for one’s self and blubbing in public like this is just not what I expect to see from a man who has spent much of his professional life spinning the truth about political decisions. It just comes over as a cynical ploy to garner sympathy and support, especially with the Chilcot Inquiry and the forthcoming General Election.
What has happened to the stiff upper lip; crying and publically displaying emotion may have become more acceptable but this doesn’t mean it’s compulsory. I want my political leaders to be strong in public – if they want to have emotional outbursts then I’m afraid I expect them to happen in private. Part of the job of leadership is to be aware of the emotional impact of what you’re doing, and deal with it. If you’re involved in a decision to go to war, then crying about it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a high ‘EQ’ – it might just mean that your initial views of what war was like were immature and the reality shocked you.
So. To all my leaders. Lead. Look strong in public. Look like you know what the heck you’re doing. Please don’t turn on the waterworks because if you do I’m likely to think you’re looking for sympathy or my vote.