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The Five Waypoints to Political Leadership: How We Get Good Politicians and Keep Them in Office

Photo by Jacob Lund Photography

The world needs trusted and prepared politicians to address urgent issues like climate change, polarization and democratic backsliding. But many dedicated community leaders face barriers entering politics and often find themselves in a toxic environment full of threats and abuse when they are elected.

The five waypoints to political leadership, developed by us after discussions with political leadership incubators (PLIs) around the world, highlight the need for PLIs to broaden their thinking beyond training and into participant recruitment, selection and activation of participants, followed by ongoing mentality and education support for alumni once they’re in office.

PLIs who do not continue to teach, support and hold accountable elected alumni risk losing their investment. There may be ways PLIs can collaborate, so each does not have to cover all waypoints.

The five waypoints were borne out of research into our upcoming report, Better Leaders, Better Democracies: Mapping the Organizations Shaping 21st Century Politicians. You can register for our 4 May launch event here.

The Five Waypoints:

  1. Recruitment: Sensitive and targeted outreach is essential to making sure the right people with the right motivations enter PLI programs.

  2. Selection and Screening: The selection process may be as important as training emerging leaders. Individuals who are ready for the journey to political office should be selected based on their potential, mindset and resilience.

  3. Training and Transformation: Intensive engagement with participants is an essential part of the training process. Training programs should be based on evidence-driven pedagogy and adult-based learning.

  4. Activation and Ongoing Learning: Candidates ready for political office will need to continue to develop skills and knowledge during and after the activation process. PLIs should consider how they can work with political parties in order to best activate their alumni.

  5. Capacity, Support and Accountability: Good politicians need to be supported to stay in office and continue making ethical decisions. Politicians in high stress environments may need mental health support, as well as checks and balances to make sure power doesn’t go to their heads. Political leadership incubators should also help politicians navigate the system, and provide innovative policy ideas.

Contact us for more information about our work.

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