Scotland is a long way from London and I would not normally follow the workings of the Scottish Parliament or find it remotely interesting. But today the country’s new leader is making their first appearance in the house and for the first time this post is held by a woman. In fact, the one candidate she was up against was the female leader of the opposition, and her anointment in the role took place the day before in a procedure led by the first female Presiding Officer in Scotland. With the lead players at Holyrood all women I decided to watch the live streaming on BBC News of Nicola Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister taking her first Questions. She was impressive. Her language was different to what I normally hear coming from a politician’s mouth.
Anything positive spoken about a woman can be taken as a criticism of men. It’s not. I am wired to look and listen out for difference. The more we can understand the difference that women bring the better for all of us. As we search for new ways to conduct business and politics it is important to recognise the special contribution that is available by having more women in key and leadership roles. Not just because equality of opportunity is a good thing but we need to understand, name, respect and leverage feminine qualities that will help take us all in a new direction. What struck me about Nicola Sturgeon was her language and her invitation for a different approach to dialogue.
She said she wanted to avoid “the usual defensive ding dong” that is traditional of political discourse. “I am open minded to any proposals that come forward from any side of the chamber as to how the government can do things better.” The topic of healthcare was raised and specifically the postcode lottery of uneven access to life-saving cancer drugs. Again appealing for consensus, the First Minister, added: “On this issue, possibly above all other issues, it’s important that we don’t divide on party lines – these are matters of life and death for many people.” She referred to the problems being complex and not professing to have all the answers herself inviting anyone to come forward with ideas and she would make time to sit with them and listen.
I can’t ever remember a Westminster politician or male minister admitting to not having answers, saying they were open-minded and willing to listen to the opposition, or wanting to be participative and non-combative. How refreshing! I would much rather vote for a politician who said they did not have answers. We know they don’t know but they won’t admit it. What we need is their listening because it is in that open creative space of dialogue that we will find the answers that society is looking for to the myriad challenges we face. Tell the truth I say. Name the reality.
“I’m lost …. we are lost … but let’s get together and talk about a way forward … let’s use our combined intelligence and wisdom and see what emerges from that.” Now that is the kind of speech I am interested to hear from a politician of any colour and I am inspired to discover a female leader emerge in Scotland who has the courage to ask for help. Bravo Nicola. It seems she is demonstrating what Professor Vlatka Hlupic, author of The Management Shift, would call “emergent leadership” which her research indicates is our only way forward if we want to create a sane, solvent, sustainable world.