Flexmarkt column, September 2022

“Our leaders do not listen”

"If I ran my business the way our political leaders run the country, our company would be bankrupt in no time.'' CEO of OTTO Work Force, Frank van Gool, denounces the “political quick fixes” in the latest column for Flexmarkt. “Follow the example of family businesses and listen to your own people.”

“Due to the absence of vision and decisiveness, The Hague is sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of mismanagement, putting out fires and poor communication. In entrepreneurial language: you can't sell your product, your staff walk away, and your customers and stakeholders have completely lost trust.

We are all aware of the accumulation of affairs and crises in recent years. But - however serious - social benefits, corona, purchasing power, asylum seekers or nitrogen are not really the biggest problem. The most serious crisis facing Dutch politics is the crisis of trust. Citizens no longer trust politics. Assertions are questioned, policies are derided, and politicians are assailed. The accusation is that The Hague is more concerned with itself than with the problems in the country. The political landscape is hopelessly fragmented, coalitions are desperately trying to survive, playing the man and not the ball is increasingly explicit and whenever a new problem emerges in the society, a committee is appointed. And if the worst comes to the worst, they call Johan Remkes.

These political quick fixes only increase social unrest. What our country needs is leadership with vision and decisiveness. Leaders who focus on the next generation, rather than the next election. Leaders who have a long-term vision for our country and the ability to translate that into action.

A bit like family businesses are run. Cherishing the accomplishments, focusing on the DNA, and doing all it takes to pass the company on to the next generations. And unlike in the Anglo-Saxon model, it is not only about the stakeholders, but also about the shareholders: own people come first. Holding it together instead of outplaying or ignoring the other.

But leadership is more than vision and decisiveness. Successful leaders are empathic; they know what really matters to people and successfully relate to it. And it goes without saying that true leaders have enough communication power to get the message across and the charisma to get people on board.

Such qualities are indispensable to run a company adequately, but in politics, you will get far if you can talk with ease and, above all, with dexterity. And that is where the shoe pinches: there is too much talking in The Hague and too little listening to the country. It may sound simple but change in politics starts with the ability to really listen. "You have one mouth and two ears (for a reason)," is what my mother used to say.


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