Jarding: We Need Leaders Who Believe in Politics

“Politicians have forgotten about public service”


Steven Jarding

Steve Jarding, Harvard Kennedy School of Government: “Politicians should be focused on the people they serve” / Photo: Javier Arias

“Society needs more leaders dedicated to public service and thinking about future generations. We have too many politicians who have locked themselves into short-term thinking and only worry about winning elections.”

“Politics is about serving citizens, and we should recover that essence. That’s the only way politics is going to regain its legitimacy.”

These were amongst the messages shared by Steve Jarding at the fifth IESE Communication, Leadership and Campaign Management Program, celebrated in Madrid in January.

Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Jarding is a leading voice in international political strategy and electoral campaigns.

Jarding lamented the growing skepticism and lack of confidence in the political class felt across many Western democracies; something he attributes to the fact that politicians have “forgotten the central tenet of public service.”

“Politicians should always have the well-being of the people who elected them front of mind. They should know how to represent citizens, impart justice and be conscious of the responsibility that their posts carry. Today I don’t believe that this is what they are doing, which is why people don’t trust politicians and no longer believe in government. And if citizens don’t support the government, then we have a big problem,” he warned.

Believing in Politics

The solution, says Jarding, is to train leaders who “believe in politics and are capable of turning the situation around.” Politics should not be focused on public servants, he stressed, but rather on the people it serves; especially those who “fall through the cracks.”

“Politicians should be leaders who use their position to try to improve the lives of others. They should be capable of promoting social change.”

Sounding a note of optimism about the future, Jarding said that he believes society can still deliver a road map to “return to legitimacy in politics.”

“The human being is powerful. If we join forces, we will see a return on our enormous investment. Great leaders share the idea that together we can change the world, and that’s where we should invest our efforts. Because despite the fragility of our democratic system, I firmly believe in it.”

Governments have enormous impact on societal change, but citizens should become the agents of that change, he said. “If citizens don’t get involved, it’s very difficult to change the system.”

The Communication, Leadership and Campaign Management Program took place at IESE Madrid earlier this month. Addressed to campaign managers, candidates and election officials, the program covered a broad spectrum of topics from strategic planning, budgeting, team and time management, through to political communication and the use of new technologies.