Strategy & Leadership

Does Rutte have vision?

September 13, 2013

Does Rutte have a vision? He comes across in his Schoo Lecture as a little facetious. Especially of course with regard to a vision as a 'blueprint', being a liberal, he should not have anything to do with that. A vision 'as a point of view' is acceptable though. Does he convey this? Well, a little, but it is not particularly impressive. And it is inadequate, I fear, for bringing about real change.

Our prime minister leads a government of a country in crisis. The Dutch economy is still in a recession, partly maintained by the continuing reluctance, by its own population, to spend more. Something is apparently preventing us from using our (considerable) savings and purchasing Rutte's proverbial car. I do not understand cars and only replace mine if it risks becoming dangerous. I do know a thing or two about change however and what it takes to mobilize people. A lot. In a nutshell: a painful whipping or a juicy carrot and preferably both. Let's see how Rutte, the leader of change, addresses this in his speech.

Rutte is clear about what the 'whipping' is: low growth, less security, rising unemployment and bankruptcies. Oh dear. "It threatens our prosperity!" is his wake up call, which is meant to shake us up and make us prepared for change. Unfortunately however, Rutte the optimist unintentionally undermines the urgency of his own message of change by 'sandwiching' it with praise ('the Netherlands is in the global top 5') and encouraging parallels from the past such as successful transformations in the mining and shipbuilding industries. He is justifiably proud of such Dutch resilience but alas, that does not constitute a reason for me to break into my piggy bank. Perhaps it will all work out by itself, just like in the past? Sleep easy.

So he used the carrot. What does perseverance and overcoming our fear of spending then deliver that is desirable? Well: 'maintained prosperity' and 'growth' and 'The Netherlands moving forward' (read: becoming wealthier). Rutte's vision appears not to reach much further than this 'point of view'. He simultaneously outlines his dream for the culture of that 'strong Netherlands' of after the crisis - a culture for which he now demands our sacrifices. This means that 'security must be set aside', people must be more independent, children must partly pay for their studies themselves and more individual contributions are needed in terms of care and assistance. *Gulp* Are you enthusiastic about helping him combat the crisis in return for all that?

Rutte, leader of change, finds himself in a tricky situation, that much is undeniable. Unfortunately, Rutte the person is an ineffectual bogeyman and his change, austerity. Who is going to fall for that?

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