What Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have in common

Strange juxtaposition, but that’s what I like: making connections. One reason for the seeming rise in popularity of two figures (who could not be further apart politically) is that they tap into an emerging reality of modern democratic politics: the need to respond to what’s actually going on in the present, provide crystal clear direction -with messages to match- and come across as authentic. It’s easier to come across authentic if you really are. Corbyn and Trump are what they seem.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have seized on the need for leaders not to run ahead of themselves, but speak to what their target audiences need and want to hear. In both cases, they are rising to the challenge of the current role – effective opposition. Leadership in government will come later (so they face a bigger challenge than most to convince others they could be Prime Minister or President).

Of course, leadership – to be truly effective- needs to take people – preferably inspire people- to get to a place where they might not want immediately to be. But unless a leader connects on others’ wavelengths, people won’t be receptive to the bigger vision and more sophisticated arguments.

Aristotle said that the three key elements of persuasion were ethos, logos and pathos. Today’s world puts pathos first, winning people, specifically the need to engage first with others on the basis of an emotional response. Logos – winning the actual argument- is critical. And ultimately, you are only chosen as a leader if you are credible. That’s the test for both Corbyn and Trump, but other candidates seem now to have an even bigger challenge – to match Corbyn and Trump on pathos.

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