EU Leadership

European Leader Wanted!

, by Florent Banfi, Maïa Bouthors

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

European Leader Wanted!

The European Union is a new political creation, built in order to achieve peace within European people following WWII, but seen as lacking of emotion and appeal. Now that peace in Europe seems ensured and doesn’t represent the engine of the European Union anymore, Europe needs to find another project to gather the support of the citizens. Peace amongst Europeans was a first step; we need to go forward without forgetting our common roots.

The problem is that the EU has an image of a bureaucrats and experts organisation, far away from the citizens’ concerns. Sometimes, it might be too objective and impersonal, and can also be judged as dealing with unimportant issues. The EU has to change its own image, and one way to achieve this moult can be designing a European leader.

What is a leader?

Leadership can be defined as the capacity to manage and motivate a team, to create dynamics and to give a sense to a project, in order to achieve a goal. Leadership seems to be based on both natural qualities (like charisma, optimism) and skills which can be learnt or simulated (like eloquence, self confidence or honesty) and different kinds of leadership bring to complementary advantages.

The first one that we can define is ideological leadership which gives sense to the struggle, to a campaign or to a project by building a strong political basis. It can help justifying the hard-work of people for the general interest. The moral duty strengthens self confidence and creates pride in belonging to the group.

Charismatic leadership cries out for people to subscribe to a cause. This kind of leader generally emerges in situations of crisis and often appears as the only one able to find a solution. People get rid of their critical sense and strengthen around the leader. Such situation can lead to despotism or manipulation, if the leader is not as honest as he seems to be. Moreover, the leader drives people on his way, and let few spaces to consensus.

The last one is transformational leadership that allows people to move toward deep changes, because they are led by a leader in who they strongly trust. These three types of leadership are models and are usually mixed.

What leader for Europe?

The emergence of a European leader might be a solution to the actual crisis by providing the European project dynamism and sense and by having enough power to promote democracy.

The first challenge of such a leader must be to impulse a new wave of dynamism thanks to a clear vision. The EU could overpass national interests and be driven by powerful values - an ideological leader could formulate with coherence these values which are expected to arouse citizens’ agreement and commitment.

The second challenge is to find a leader able to seduce all Europeans. He or she cannot represent all European countries, although he or she must be backed by all Europeans. This leader must outshine classical national splits and embody the ideal European citizen, whilst also seducing all media. If European citizens become used to seeing on TV or Newspaper the European leader, they can identify to him/her and this can be a way to strengthening their feeling of being European citizens. The European leader must be able to arouse emotions in citizens’ heart and use this route to convince them of the well-being of the European project.

The third challenge is to move European citizens from a national way of thinking towards a supranational and federalist one. This leader must become a European “guru”. He/she could bring emotion in the European debate by personalizing it, by embodying a European model, and it can be an efficient way for changing things.

Only a leader, who is able to communicate the European project and to arouse citizens’ commitment, will be able to deepen this project, and to provide an effective direction in the European Union, and especially in its citizens.

Image:

- I love Monnet, source: LaPeniche.net, le webzine des étudiants de Sciences Po.

Links of interest:

- ’The EU’s leadership vacuum’ article from the International Herald Tribune.

- Leadership of the EU, a short explanation of the current structures and proposals of the Constitutional Treaty by the Federal Union.

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