On Thursday, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned and called for new elections. The problem was that he couldn’t deliver the promises to the Greek people on which his leftist party gained power. They included an end to the austerity measures their international debtors had demanded as a condition for continued loans; loans needed to prevent Greece from default and ejection from the Eurozone.
This is the challenge for leadership in complex environments. Ideology promises simple solutions to the world’s problems. Donald Trump will solve the migration flood in the western hemisphere by the erection of a big fence. Mr. Tsipras and his Syriza party promised to simply refuse any further austerity measures. Simple solutions have enormous appeal. Just think of the various superfood fads that have swept the U.S. and similar business obsessions.
When Tsipras got in office, he was faced with a different challenge: that of governing a country within the community of nations. He had to think about the future of Greece’s economy as it is affected by current decisions. Simply, he had to think about the consequences of policies and could no longer linger in the courts of demagogic pandering. This put him in the awkward position of needing to move his own body politic to face difficult realities. His resignation and call for elections appears to be his move to do that.
Would Donald Trump similarly awaken to the polarities involved in leadership if elected? One can never tell. Our recent history is marked by moves that show political action is the result of convoluted convergences: Nixon opens China, Bill Clinton presided over NAFTA and the Defense of Marriage Act. Trump’s level of media-seeking bombast raises questions about whether he is capable of the attention needed to understand the multiple competing forces at work in our world. He demonstrates powerfully the appeal of living in a (mental) world of one’s own construction. Ideology is playing god, albeit in a very small universe.