Arguably the best book on leadership I have read is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns; the Abraham Lincoln political biography. It masterfully depicts the challenge, heartache and passion that goes into leadership in the face of cruelly fierce opposition. Lincoln’s steady strength and fortitude became an inspiration for me and I can’t help but think of him as I observe Jeremy Corbyn approach his new task of leader of the Labour party.
I care nothing for political parties but care deeply about the outworking of politics. And so in Corbyn I see a man who’s policies resonate with me and who also appears to have been thrust into a position of power he never previously had ambition for. At this he already differs from Abraham Lincoln – who had longed for the office of president, in order to achieve the abolition of the slave trade, his entire political career.
The most intriguing part of Team of Rivals is where Lincoln is having to bring together the huge bruised egos of flawed characters to form a cabinet that can see his nation through civil war. The stakes are not quite as high for Corbyn – he is only leader of the opposition, the talent at his disposal is generally unproven, and the critical situation of the United Kingdom in 2015 cannot be compared to that of the United States in 1860. Nevertheless, Corbyn will need to employ all the guile, stubbornness, wisdom and resilience of Lincoln if he is to pull together an effective shadow cabinet that he can lead through to achieve some of the political goals that he has fought for his entire life.
I really wish Jeremy Corbyn every success. Certainly because I desire to see in this nation and world many of the same things he is working for, but also because he deserves it. He has brought a real honesty, vulnerability and humility to the messy and brutal world of 21st century politics. These are characteristics of a true leader and if he is able to persevere can only be a good thing for this nation and beyond.