Hero of the (11th) Hour: Gordon Brown?

Last week, executive coach Gill Corkindale in London wrote that "the financial crisis has well and truly exposed [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown as a ditherer, incapable of making decisions under pressure."

Today, she writes that Brown "has emerged as a dynamic leader, now depicted as a modern-day Atlas holding up the world...He has succeeded in persuading the world that he is the man with the plan."

Corkindale is not alone in her remarkable re-assessment. She cites plenty of heavyweights in her latest entry who've suddenly reversed their opinion on Brown.

But could that much have changed in one week? Could Brown really have been incapable of leading and then suddenly, beyond capable?  I'm skeptical.

Indeed, Brown's actions over the past few days to stabilize Europe's economy seemed markedly different than his leadership (or lack thereof) during the previous weeks.But on the other hand, leadership doesn't spring divinely into one. It was there. Circumstances simply brought it out.

Why hadn't that leadership shown itself before? That's probably complicated.

Corkindale's--indeed the world's--reversal on Brown speaks more to inherent defects of the nonstop news cycle (make the loudest judgment, now!) than it does to any real change in Brown as a person and leader. His dismissal as a feeble leader was a product of an insatiable appetite for instant punditry, as is his current lionization. The truth is always in between.

The Internet is emerging as a polarizing and exacerbating force. Is it any accident that the markets are swelling and diving like the Irish Sea in winter, now, when information about those markets is ubiquitous and instantaneous? Can anything happen before dinner to make the economy 11% bettter than it was at breakfast?

Not really. But that's how it works now. Act react act react act react. And we tell ourselves we can handle it, until we bottom out.

But if you detach yourself from the ravenous news cycle, for just a minute, you'll find measured, thoughtful discourse. Silver linings in the crisis. Reflections on how the current pain is a necessary step in restoring balance.

We're starting to unravel the story of how we got here. The story started 50 years ago.Think about that the next time you hit refresh on your browser and Gordon Brown is the worst leader in the history of Western Europe. Or the greatest. Or the market's down another three percent.Or up five.

We like to say that the world moves at Internet speed; we're the ones with our foot on the accelerator.

By Scott Berinato  |  October 16, 2008; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Economy Watch
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I think what is often overlooked in the assessments of Gordon Brown is the style (or lack of) with which he delivers his message. Compared to his predecessor, Tony Blair, Brown is flat in both his tone of voice and delivery. As the presidential debates (Obama/McCain and Biden/Palin) have shown us, the delivery usually matters more than the content. I summarized and offered examples of these points in my own blog last week(http://scotteblin.typepad.com/blog/2008/10/lessons-from-the-vp-debate.html).

The bank subsidy situation allowed Brown to exercise his skills in strategic positioning without needing to rally the British people through his communication skills.

Posted by: Scott Eblin | October 16, 2008 3:42 PM

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