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Political leadership can heal or spread sickness. Right now, all is not well

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Leadership is, in some measure, a therapeutic exercise. Effective leaders must be able to make their followers feel good, whether it’s about their individual selves or the groups to which they belong.

Indeed the leaders we celebrate and admire are often those who uplift us. Bob Hawke’s larrikin charisma helped us feel good about being Australian. Ronald Reagan communicated with his compatriots through the soothing optimism of his “Morning in America” election campaign advertisement.

The comfort of leadership ... Ronald Reagan with Bob Hawke during their time in power.Credit:The Sydney Morning Herald

Sometimes the leader as therapist needn’t inspire. Reassurance can be enough. I may have disagreed with his politics, but even I can acknowledge that John Howard’s desire for Australians to feel “relaxed and comfortable” connected with the national psyche.

Then sometimes leaders act as corrupted therapists. Rather than calming us, or bringing out the best in us, they can appeal to the worst. They can channel our grievances and resentments. They can urge us to unleash our rage and anger.

No one does this more potently right now than Donald Trump. His style and methods are providing conservatives with a new political template, as Boris Johnson’s ascension to 10 Downing Street this week has proven.

Brexit street art.Credit:Ian........

© The Sydney Morning Herald