Personal observations #2: we need to listen more to leaders like Malala and Shiza Shahid

Raleigh Addington
Raleigh Addington
editor at Chartwell Speakers

Malala and her colleagues have much to teach us

Watching Donald Trump’s hollering red face is to be reminded that anger is a bad look in politics. Trump will realise this, but too late. Like many people successful in business, Trump over-simplifies politics. American democracy – democracies everywhere – have become too nuanced, too diverse, too untidy for someone as self-obsessed and unbending as Trump.

Hillary is far from perfect but she is a symbol of progress, and her election would empower women everywhere. As the world becomes more crowded and connected, our political systems need to change, and feminise. OK, Trump is an unusually headstrong, ill disciplined example of the male of the species but having a big ego, possessing a strong sense of entitlement and being willing to intimidate ones opponents are rarely female characteristics. When women do show these sorts of behaviours, it’s normally because they deem it necessary to succeed in patriarchal systems.

Shiza Shahid is co-founder of the Malala Fund. This year, aged all of 26, she is stepping down as its Chief Executive to focus on new opportunities. When I met Shiza last week she reminded me that there are 60 million girls around the world who are missing out on school. She’s been spending time with NASA, working on new technologies which could have an exponential impact on improving outcomes for girls around the world. By empowering girls and young women, leaders like Malala and Shiza are helping to bring more forgiveness and gentleness into our societies, and into our politics. Of course love and kindness are not exclusively female virtues, but they are easier to find among public women than public men. Hillary Clinton has been including calls for more love and kindness in her stump speeches. Nicholas Sarkozy and David Cameron once called for social well-being to be used as measures of government performance, but neither followed through. A Happiness Index is easily dismissed as a fluffy stunt, especially if its proposed by a politician.

And global capital is unsentimental stuff, attracted by good RoI and impressive GDP growth growth – who’s got time to hang around waiting to see if the Germans are more contented than the Irish. And who cares anyway? Cynicism and disdain are the least dangerous posture to take for anyone operating in our public spaces, on and offline. Too often, men and women working in opinionated, dynamic environments like financial markets or journalism fail to think as themselves (vulnerable, empathetic human beings) and instead adopt the lofty, care worn perspective of the large and world weary enterprises they work for. Thinking this way stops you getting fired. It also creates a feedback loop that creates dangerously little room for anyone to question how the current system operates.