Tessa Jowell sends a leadership message for London 2012

August 20, 2008

As the 2008 Olympics reaches a climax, interest turns to the London games of 2012. Tessa Jowell, wearing her hat as Olympics minister, sends an austerity message. We examine the rationale for this leadership action

According to the BBC

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has told [the BBC] that there will be no extra money beyond the £9.325bn already allocated to the 2012 London Games

Now that seems to me rather strange. The message has the merit of being clear and unambiguous. This government is not going to risk overspending the 2012 budget.

However, it also is so direct as to present the primary concern of the government as to confront any doubts about its prudence, and about it being in control of the financial implications of the 2012 Games.

Credit to Tessa Jowell for providing a clear message.

On the other hand …

Perhaps politicians, like Olympic athletes have to raise their game to achieve the highest accolades. The statement, for me, needed a bit more ‘yes and’. A bit more acknowledgment that at present many people are interested in how London 2012 will take British sporting achievements to a level that will continue the upsurge of pride in the sporting achievements in Beijing 2008.

In other words, the leader has to be creative in handing the concerns of an intended audience, as well as getting across a message from the leader’s perspective. A bit of ‘this is what I want you to understand’. And also a bit of ‘I understand what you are really worried about, and this is what I intend to do about it’.

Creativity is often manifest by a process which puts together two sets of ideas. Arthur Koestler called it bisociative thinking. Others have referred to Janusian thinking, implying a capacity for looking in different directions at once. For shorthand, I sometimes refer to it as Yes And thinking.

Perhaps the creativity required of a leader involves communicating in a manner which brings together rational and emotional messages. A lack of empathy is even easier to detect than a lack of a logical strategic case …