Charismatic leader of the Month: Alexis Tsipras

September 30, 2015

Alexis TsiprasAlexis Tsipras survives as the new protector of Greece’s austerity programs. He becomes Leaders We Deserve charismatic leader of the month

On September 20 2015, Alexis Tsipras becomes the leader elected by his country to implement the austerity programmes he was elected in January to oppose.

His story illustrates the success of a charismatic leader in retaining trust regardless of sudden shifts of policy he may make.

Background

The Greek election of 2004 had seen the success of Kostas Karamanlis of the New Democracy party, defeating George Papandreou of PASOK. It was very much business as usual, as the two were from the dynastic tradition in Greece, of political families providing the country’s leaders since the new era of democracy in 1944.

Syriza as a political party emerged in 2004 as a coalition of left wing groups (implied in its acronymic type name) challenging this tradition. The coalition held six seats but its members were engaged in various power struggles (hardly surprising as the radical alliance could count around twelve groupings within it).

After several years of internal struggle, a young Athenian politician Alexis Tsipras eventually gained the leadership of the Greek parliamentary opposition. His track record was as a student activist who had considerable media visibility through his energetic campaigning efforts which demonstrated his considerable personal charm and audience appeal.

Greece and the domino theory of collapse

Greece went on to suffer from increasing financial difficulties exacerbated by the global economic crisis which called for austerity measures imposed externally. By 2012, had Greece became the first domino within the theory of the collapse of the EU. The financial crises had a Darwinian feel to then, with the weakest national economy facing tough austerity measures or default from the club.

According to the domino theory, the default on the weakest economy would increase pressures via creditor institutions, on the next weakest. The IMF, the European Central Bank, and the World Bank were in complex ways influencing financial and political measures taken by national governments. The weakest economies would face increasingly painful decisions which acquired the euphemism of taking austerity measures. Opposition to such measures were simplified into anti-austerity policies. The next dominos included Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France. The most secure economy in the European Union was Germany. Increasingly German economic power was seen as dominant, and Angela Merkel seen as the most powerful political figure in Europe, and chief architect of the austerity measures being imposed on Greece. Greece was seen as fragile enough to make its exit from the EU (‘Grexit’) likely.

By then, Tsipras was attracting international attention for his anti-austerity speeches. Across Europe more extreme parties on the left and right were gaining ground. Disenchantment with austerity measures and the old political alliances was high. The country faced pressing demands to implement further demands in order to renegotiate a financial bail-out, needed to protect the very viability of the internal banking system.

Promise of a heroic rescue

Tsipras promised a heroic rescue. The Greek voters turned to Syritza and Tsipras’s anti-austerity proposals in an election of January 2015. He was sworn in as Prime Minister with a mandate to renegotiate the resented austerity measures.

Tsipras became the poster boy of youthful political protest around the world. At 40 he was the youngest Prime Minister of Greece and arguably the leader of opposition to the EU’s austerity programmes. His election promises had been greeted with incredulity in European leaders concerned with the wider financial stability of the Eurozone and their own internal political pressures. His success in the election was even more of a surprise.

The young hero flung himself into the battle with the forces of austerity. Any sympathy for his cause was weakened in the EU by his lack of diplomatic concealment of his contempt for his perceived protagonists. He was further weakened by the even more abrasive style of his chief financial negotiator.

In the first month of difficult negotiations Greece’s European lenders agree to extend its second bailout by four months with additional evidence of good faith by the newly appointed Greek government.

Neat footwork or stumble?

By June, the EU negotiators appeared to have been making progress, when Tsipras found a way of wrong-footing his opponents (although possibly wrong-footing his own cause as well). Facing unacceptable demands, he announces a hasty referendum on a possible bailout agreement. In July The electorate again supported Tsipras in rejecting the EU latest terms Tsipras assured the voters that the result would not be ‘Grexit’.

The timing resulted in further pressures on the Greek economy, but Greece agrees a bailout deal allowing more austerity measures. The government is in disarray and destabilised by defections.

Another snap election

Then in another piece of wrong-footing, Tsipras resigns and declares he needs a mandate for implementing the deal. A snap election is called for September, as he seeks a new mandate.

On 20 September, Alexis Tsipras wins but without a majority of seats. He is able to form a coalition and survives as the new protector of Greece’s austerity programs which he originally came to power by opposing.

He becomes Leaders We Deserve charismatic leader of the month for September 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dilemmas of Leadership Digest Nov 5th – Nov 11th 2011

November 12, 2011

Leaders We Deserve summarizes a week’s headlines and blog posts dealing with leadership stories

The week’s headlines were dominated by news of the continuing financial crisis in Europe.

George Papandreou

At the start of the week, George Papandreou of Greece was coming under pressure to resign.

Sporting headlines

Overthe weekend, the sporting headlines paid tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson to recognise his 25 years as manager of Manchester United.

Before the match at Old Trafford he received a surprise as the North Stand was publically re-designated the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

Andy Rooney dies

US media reported the death of Andy Rooney, a celebrated and at times controversial broadcaster. He had suffered from an internet campaign which included articles written in his name to damage his reputation.

Hailey’s Comet

Anglo-French electrical goods retailer Kesa announced plans to sell off its Comet stores for just £2. The buyer is a venture capital consortium “Hailey”, rare sense of ironic humour in such matters…

Berlusconi to step down

After 50 failed attempts to bring about his political downfall, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi goes the same way as George Papandreou of Greece.

Teresa May under pressure

In the UK, Home Secretary Teresa May struggled to survive politically after the bungling of a pilot trial of looser border controls at airports.

Poppies at Wembley Stadium

The week ended with a football match at Wembley stadium which had become a news story over the wearing of poppies by the English players.


Papandreou, then Berlusconi reluctantly agree to go. Are we seeing a financial version of the Arab Spring?

November 9, 2011

The global financial crisis is claiming its victims as political leaders reluctantly agree to go. Revolution is in the air. Attempts to cling to power appear to be unable to resist the forces of change

It has been a week in which the G20 financial summit fell short of finding a road-map out of the global financial crisis. Yet the meeting triggered off radical changes to the regimes in the most vulnerable Nation States.

First it was Greece

Over the weekend [Nov 6th-7th 2011] it was Greece and Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Then Italy

Then, within days, Italy becomes part of the widening crisis. (Or maybe the wider crisis existed, and attention turns in Domino fashion to the next weakest market?). The once all-powerful Sylvio Berlusconi, survivor of fifty votes of no-confidence, faces one challenge too many.

The rise of the technocratic leader

One interesting theme is that the revolutions are not being led by those seeking to replace the defeated leaders. Rather, there is talk that the new leaders must by ‘technocrats’.

I am reading this to mean that old-style political figures have been ill-equipped to grasp the subtleties of the 21 Century global financial situation. The power-brokers are looking for a new kind of leader beyond the dynastic and partisan.

A rather obvious concern is that the departure of old-style dynastic figures appear to favour advocates of the prevailing financial system. in Greece and in Italy, commentators insist on the need for a technocrat with financial leadership experience to cope with the new circumstances. Elections are in the air.

The Arab Spring

It is tempting to draw an analogy with the so-called Arab Spring (Was it all kicking-off only a few short months ago?)

I do not chose to draw too close a parallel, but the mood for ‘regime change’ seems comparable, the changes themselves inevitable if unpredictable in their consequences. Maybe Angela Merkel is playing the role of NATO, imposing financial no-fly roles to support desired changes?


The news stream flickers by as Papandreou grapples with his greatest leadership dilemma

November 4, 2011

As the day progressed, news of Papandreou’s struggles with his greatest leadership dilemma seemed to change by the hour…

Thursday November 3rd 2011. The Coffee Shop, Manchester Business School West.

A small group of business academics were holding a meeting, ironically enough, on leadership. Above them, the most critical leadership story of the day, and maybe the year, was being played out silently on a TV screen. Images of Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece, and of the other political leaders meeting at Cannes, were accompanied by a news stream, which was informing us of the rapidly-changing sequence of events

The looming debt crisis

The previous days had seen the tortuous effort of the European leaders seeking steps to reassure world markets they were dealing in a coordinated fashion with a looming debt crisis. This had become focussed on the plight of the Greek economy, and in domino-like fashion, the other weakest States of the EU and their banks.

As agreement appeared to have been reached, Then Papandreou had seemed to catch everyone by surprise, even his own colleagues, by an announcement that he intended to call for a referendum in Greece to ‘let the people decide’ on the matter.

He’s resigned. Or has he?

As the MBS coffee-shop meeting got underway, we learned that the Greek Prime Minister had resigned. Less than an hour later, the news reported that he had not resigned but was preparing to meet the country’s President, to confirm plans for the referendum.

By the time we broke for lunch, Papandreou, facing opposition from his own colleagues, also faced the possibility of being forced to resign. Early afternoon, the news stream reported that the referendum was not now going to take place.

Small potatoes

It made our agenda of reviewing progress on our marking responsibilities feel pretty small potatoes. We ended the meeting with the fate of George Papandreou, and maybe the fate of the European Community still in the balance.

His greatest dilemma

The news from Cannes and Athens continued to change rapidly throughout the day. In the evening, Papandreou was quoted [Sky News] as saying he had been struggling with ‘the biggest dilemma of his life… It was either obtaining complete unity [among his government colleagues], or a referendum’.

With a little help from our friends

Other reports were emphasising the influence being brought to bear by the other leaders, and particularly by Germany’s Angela Merkel, and her closest political ally Nicolas Sarcozy of France:

The linkage between a possible No vote and continuing membership of the union proved too much for many of Mr Papandreou’s supporters, including his Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who this morning [as we watched he news unfold at MBS] withdrew his support from the referendum plan.

Many Greeks still feel they should be at the heart of Europe, and the sharp response to Mr Papandreou’s referendum plan – particularly from France and Germany – put that role in jeopardy.
Speaking to his party in parliament [that evening], the Greek leader said he had been told during those Cannes talks that not only would a “no” in the referendum mean leaving the euro, but that the question of rejoining would be off the agenda for at least a decade.

Even bigger than Steve Jobs

During the day at our tutors’ meeting, we had discovered that our business students around the world had selected one news item above all others to write about recently. That was the sad death of Steve Jobs. At least, one of us commented, the EU crisis would have given them an option with even richer possibilities for studying leadership and its dilemmas.

Willful blindness?

See the comments below for a discussion on leadership and wullful blindness


Prime Minister George Papandreou wrestles with his biggest leadership dilemma

November 2, 2011

When a leader’s actions seem irrational, it’s time to look for the toughest decision that has to be made

The tumultuous events in Europe’s financial markets took a turn for the worse as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou appeared to agree the refinancing plan in Brussels and then appeared to destroy it in returning to Athens.

What’s his biggest dilemma?

Ekathimerini suggests he faces political extinction if he goes along with the EU plan, and maybe political extinction if he rejects it:

A day after calling for a referendum on whether Greece should adopt the debt deal it agreed with its eurozone partners last week, Prime Minister George Papandreou faced a fight for his political survival as he came under intense pressure from within his own party and from opposition politicians to ditch the idea and call snap elections or form a coalition government.

The prime minister appears to have challenged the ministers who disagree with him to bring his government down in Friday’s vote. Sources said that Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis expressed objections to the idea of holding a referendum.

The first setback ahead of Friday’s ballot was dealt when Socialist deputy Milena Apostolaki said that she was quitting PASOK’s parliamentary group to become an independent. She referred to the referendum proposal as “wrong and divisive.” Her decision reduced the government’s presence in the 300-seat Parliament to just 152.
A further blow to PASOK’s majority before the vote cannot be discounted but even if the government survives Friday’s ballot, Papandreou’s referendum proposal will have to be put to another vote in Parliament. Again, a simple majority would be needed but it seems unlikely that the government would be able to garner even this.

The referendum and vote of confidence

Severe internal pressures for him to resign meant that he had to find some action to fight for his political life. If he could only find some way of showing he was on the side of the Greek people and their ancient commitment to democracy that has been so troubled from time to time. How about a referendum?

Creative leadership?

Perversity? Duplicity towards his EU partners? You could even say it’s a creative move in a desperate position. And like chess, the political game can drag on into a stalemate where there is no win/lose outcome, but everyone escapes with something to show for their efforts.