On July 12, the veteran broadcaster John Simpson tweeted that, of all the world leaders he had interviewed throughout his long career, there were three who had stood out for their personal and leadership qualities: Vlodomyr Zelenskiy, Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela.
All three statesmen are well known for their stories outside politics, as the actor-President, the playwright-President and perhaps the 20th century’s best-known political prisoner. It is worth thinking about the skills that Havel and Zelenskiy will have brought to high office from their backgrounds in the creative and performing arts.
These vital skills will be important on less exalted levels, too. I was reminded of Stephen McNair’s piece in East Anglia Bylines naming six ‘essential skills’ for professional life: collaboration, communication, creative thinking, information literacy, planning and problem-solving. Studying any creative subject will provide plenty of opportunities to practice these, particularly the first three. In contrast, the fact-obsessed curricula in England – produced by an establishment outsourced, as it seems to be, to Messrs. Gradgrind and Squeers – perversely, and maybe intentionally, ignores them. Is it failing to nurture future leaders by doing so?
And so, back to Simpson’s list of three. As the planet boils, where can we begin to look for the leadership that later decades will require? Jail, perhaps?
Dr Clare Sansom
Cherry Hinton, Cambridge