Okay, America. We can all see where this is going.
The question is: Whose side are you on?
The persevering, no-nonsense Mother Abigail … or the overly florid but eerily compelling Randall Flagg?
The former was born and bred in the rural heartland and has deep support from minority communities. The latter has an affinity for casinos and treats women like dirt.
Remind you of another dynamic duo who recently swept aside the competition in New York?
Stephen King’s The Stand is the first leadership book I ever read, and I still love it. These days we rarely talk about leadership in terms of a showdown between good and evil. We feel that sort of talk is … I don’t know, judgmental? In poor taste? Unsophisticated? We tut-tut about The Donald’s xenophobia and Hillary’s trust problem. We say politicians are all playing the game, there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, and on election day we plan to hold our nose and vote for the least bad one–or maybe just stay home.
Novels and TV series are the only places, today, where we can shamelessly cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. And even there, what we mostly get are heroes with deep flaws and villains with a soft side. Lately I’ve been binge-watching Scandal. The whole point of that show seems to be that no one wears the white hat.
The great thing about The Stand (and indeed many King books) is that, despite the apocalyptic setting, the situation is all too familiar. Good and evil walk right up to us every day: on the street, on our screens, in the office. Hi! Nice to meet you! I’d like to be your man–or woman. Vote for me. Support me. Follow me.
And every time that happens, a little voice inside tells us: Good leader … or bad leader. White hat … or black hat.
Do we listen to that little voice? Or do we drown it out in a lot of sophisticated talk about trust problems and flawed candidates and no-such-thing-as-a-perfect-leader?
You know what they say: The devil’s greatest trick was convincing us he doesn’t exist.
So come on, America.
Make your stand.
For more timeless stories about good and evil leaders and how to recognize them, check out my latest book: The Greats on Leadership: Classic Wisdom for Modern Managers (London/Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, May 2016).