What is the narrative of leadership?

“Without a narrative, life has no meaning” – Neil Postman. The End of Education – Redefining the value of school


Postman is referring to education and postulates that without a narrative education has no meaning and we have lost the plot when it comes to what is the purpose of education.  The same concept applies to business/society.  Unless you know the purpose of your business/society, it has no meaning and by deduction, no narrative.  Too many businesses have been hijacked into believing their only purpose is to provide a financial return to shareholders/stakeholders.  Somehow we have let the accountants take over and rule business (and at the moment it would seem the country). 


In 1979, Pink Floyd wrote a rock opera “The Wall”.  The opera was a protest against rigid schooling and was a narrative that challenged the education system within Britain.  This year, globally, we have seen protestors coming out against the greed culture of corporates.  I never heard one of the protestors get upset at businesses making a profit, rather they were protesting against what they see/saw/believe to be, excessive profits and the main instigator of their angst was the banking industry.  It’s a shame a group like Pink Floyd don’t write an opera pointing out the folly of chasing profits at the cost of society.  The protest fell over, much like communism.  Maybe this is the era when ideology is hitting a wall.


There is a line of argument that there is a need to be practical and accept the world as it is.  Why?  The ideology of equal distribution of wealth has been well shot in the foot: the global communism experiment was a noticeable failure and many people died, were tortured or suffered excessively while various communist governments tried to force their ideology onto the people.  One of the many downsides to ideology is inability to see strength in other points of view.  Once you reach your ideological paradise, what next.


Postman (Pg61) says: “If a metaphor may be permitted, we can make trains run on time, but if they do not go where we want them to go, why bother?”  There was a time when going to work was for the sake of community, of social interaction as well as being rewarded in a manner that allowed you a certain standard of living.  The American influence, especially through various media has shifted the expectation of what is a normal standard of living.  At Easter I was in Kerikeri (and yes the fishing was brilliant) and I couldn’t help but notice ramshackle houses with Sky TV aerials.  Having a TV is no longer considered a luxury, but rather a necessity.   We have moved as a society on material matters, but what about our sense of community and caring for one another – has that improved or deteriorated?


The global recession has not bought about the realignment of our community in the way I personally thought would happen.  We have seen the collapse of some minor business and the there is no question the false financial gods took a hit.  In saying we haven’t seen a significant collapse, we have not seen any business or community stars arise, apart from what would be normal patterns.  As a country the question needs to be asked: what narrative will historians in fifty years’ time write about New Zealand in the recession.  My suspicion is that it will make very boring reading.    I don’t hear any commentators asking what is the purpose and meaning of New Zealand.  I have to wonder if that is the reason many of our bright stars are leaving our shores- there is no sense of direction.  And I’m not taking a pot shop at just the government, but at all of us who live in New Zealand.  It is too easy to lay all the blame at the governments’ door, but that is a cop out.  When New Zealand was a young national the role of government was different to a national that is adolescence. 


It appears that New Zealand, as a nation, is still back in the same state of affairs as education was when Pink Floyd wrote “The Wall”.  Surely it is time to move past that point and to do so it to determine that we define the purpose and meaning of us as a nation.  I should also qualify that I am not debating the republic concept, as what I am advocating is probably too big for political debate.  The reason I believe it is too big for political debate in that politicians think in terms of getting supporting votes and a three year mind set.  Politicians are not renowned for being aspirational.


I think we need someone to come forward and start the debate as to what the vision for New Zealand could be.  Personally, I think we have the potential to be world leaders in Education/Training and innovation.  All three concepts are interwoven and would improve the lot of all New Zealanders.  The purpose is that we have within the country people who are amazing stars in these categories already.  To raise the standard in all three areas gives us as a nation some meaning and creates an environment where we stand for more than sport. 


Please engage in the debate and tell me and others what you think?  To sit back passively and let out nation slip like it currently is – well the responsibility falls on all our shoulders and what are we leaving for future generations.  I’m not asking everyone to agree with me; let’s just start the debate.  You might deem me a hypocrite in that you could see this as an ideology, or it could be you see what I am trying to say as pushing for a vision for New Zealand.