The most valuable trait in a politician…

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingd...

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What is the most valuable trait in a politician? What makes people feel proud to vote for one? Back in 1997 people spoke of voting for Tony Blair with passion and belief. It was not just the Tories losing the election. David Cameron and George Osborne now refer to Tony Blair as “The Master” and so did people perceive Tony Blair to have this special trait?

Some have tried to research the worthy traits of politicians

left-wing voters preferred politicians to be higher in agreeableness and openness to experience than right-wing voters. Regardless of voters’ ideology, conscientiousness proved to be the most valued personality trait for politicians. With respect to specific political leadership traits, left-wing voters considered pacifism and friendliness more important, whereas right-wing voters preferred politicians to be higher in machiavellianism, conservatism, and achievement drive.

Yet others have some up with a very different conclusion

superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others are common to psychopathic serial killers but these traits are also common to politicians

So some traits are important for some voters while some traits are important to all. Understanding the traits important to all should tell us something about successful politicians. A unifying answer to the question of the most valuable trait can be found in Derren Brown’s new book, Confessions of a conjurer.

The single most valuable human trait, the one quality every schoolchild and adult should be taught to nurture, is, quite simply, kindness. If you prefer, compassion.

A fuller quote can be found at Solution Focused Change which shows he goes on to say that

in all the contrived effort we go to in order to make ourselves remarkable, we miss how simple the answer really is

And it is indeed that simple. Successful politicians are often seen as compassionate (when they start out) as Tony Blair wrote in 1997 “I want a society in which ambition and compassion are seen as partners not opposites”  and “one nation in which our ambition for ourselves is matched by our sense of compassion”. Another electoral success has been Barak Obama who went into the election with John McCain being seen as the more compassionate candidate.

Compassion may be an electoral asset but I believe it is more important than that. In a representative democracy where we give power to others to wield over us, I believe it is the most important trait as it is morally right to understand other peoples’ situation and how decisions will affect them; and for those decisions to be made with this in mind.

Praise should be given to the Australian government who became the first national government to formally adopt the Charter for Compassion and Cameron for his ‘compassionate conservatives’, however, saying you are compassionate does not necessarily make you so. Our political system does not easily allow for compassion and kindness. This excellent video on compassion has some very serious implications for politics and particularly foreign policy and so it is a brave politician who is able to show he genuinely is.

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2 Responses to The most valuable trait in a politician…

  1. Pingback: Blair: “It is time to wake up” and have “an honest debate” about … something or other « Tony Blair

  2. Pingback: We need leadership based on compassion « Solution Focused Politics

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