MAIT RAAVA Where are the four musketeers in Estonian politics?

Mait Raava
, management consultant, Pro Consultations (Right-wingers)
There really is no justification for the absence of good teamwork in politics.
There really is no justification for the absence of good teamwork in politics. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu
  • Dumas' four musketeers are a prime example of a successful team.
  • Good teamwork often deteriorates due to a loss of trust.
  • The musketeers would be successful in politics because they can handle complexity.

The behavior of Jürgen Ligi and the Reform Party with regard to the voting rights of Russian citizens would be fundamentally different and progressive if they adhered to the principles of teamwork and behaved like the four musketeers, management consultant Mait Raava writes.

Research has revealed some truths about teamwork, adherence to which would make political parties much more successful in addressing complex issues facing society.

Jürgen Ligi's departure at the end of the Tallinn coalition agreement negotiations (PM, April 13) was anything but good teamwork with his party colleagues and partners. His excuse that local governments do not deal with national level issues was contrived, as he rigidly opposed these two levels instead of seeking common ground and synergy between the two. His decision weakened the coalition agreement and he was not honest, as he drew a red line only at the end of negotiations and then changed his mind, promising to vote for the coalition agreement anyway.

This is a typical example of a lack of teamwork in politics, with one person dominating, disparaging and misleading others, while their colleagues passively observe and shy away from engaging in meaningful discussions that could lead to optimal decisions.

The musketeers Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and d'Artagnan trusted each other because they were confident that each was capable, benevolent, and honest in their role.

Trust, open communication, vision, and mutual support

Teamwork has been studied extensively, and it has been found that mutual trust among members initiates teamwork and that successful teamwork is driven by members' open exchange of information, a shared vision of a better future, and mutual assistance.

The four musketeers by Dumas represent a model of successful teamwork, in contrast to the Cardinal's trio, which exemplifies failure in collaboration.

While the musketeers Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and d'Artagnan trusted each other because they were confident that each was capable, well-meaning, and honest in their role. In contrast, Cardinal Richelieu, Milady de Winter, and Comte de Rochefort did not trust each other because they were not as capable, falling short in their schemes compared to the wits of Athos and d'Artagnan, and because they were malevolent and dishonest both with others and among themselves.

While the musketeers openly shared their thoughts with each other and were all dedicated to serving the king, the members of the cardinal's trio schemed among themselves and pursued self-interest, whether for power or revenge. Unlike the Cardinal's trio, the musketeers could always rely on each other («All for one, one for all!») and generally outmaneuvered the Cardinal's group.

Jürgen Ligi's opposing solo act reveals that the Reform Party lacks trust, open exchange of information, and a common understanding of the issue of Russian citizens' voting rights, not to mention helping each other analyze the issue and find the best solution.

If good teamwork were impossible in politics, the Reform Party's behavior might be considered right. But it is entirely possible.

Competence, benevolence, and honesty

When people come together as a team, they initially trust each other. However, since the issues to be resolved are often complex, initial enthusiasm soon turns to disappointment, and members start blaming each other for incompetence, thus diminishing mutual trust. Unfortunately, most teams fail to restore trust, as studies confirm, either leaving them in a state of persistent dissatisfaction or disbanding. This is true in companies, government agencies, and politics alike.

However, this does not happen if members are sufficiently capable, well-meaning, and honest. These three qualities enable everyone to be successful in their roles and together as a team. It is what made the four musketeers a successful team.

A practical suggestion for the Reform Party is to take time to discuss the issue of Russian citizens' voting rights among themselves in an open and informed manner.

Mutual trust is based on the manageability of the issues needing to be resolved, and therein lies the secret of successful teamwork. Since a sense of manageability is the strongest internal motivator, members' willingness to cooperate in solving complex issues is all the stronger. And if everyone is competent, it is quite easy for the entire team to be well-meaning and honest.

And conversely, if capability is insufficient yet a desired outcome must be achieved, unfortunately, the only option may be to resort to brute force, causing harm and acting dishonestly. Essentially, poor behavior is primarily due to a lack of capability – the inability to achieve results through positive means.

A practical suggestion for the Reform Party is to take time to discuss the issue of voting rights for Russian citizens among themselves in an open and informed manner. If necessary, experts should be involved who can help analyze this complex issue thoroughly and devise the best solution. Only in this way can a benevolent and honest solution be achieved, thus avoiding sudden reversals.

The musketeers in politics

The first lesson about teamwork in this case is that there really is no justification for the absence of good teamwork in politics. Similarly, there is no broader justification for the view that politics is dirty and the end justifies the means.

This means that voters have no reason to settle for Cardinal-style politics. Nothing can stop capable, well-meaning, and honest people from coming together, communicating openly, and creating a credible and compelling common vision of a successful Estonia, and helping each other achieve it. If this is done in manageable steps and more capable people are involved, it becomes quite simple to maintain benevolence and honesty, no matter how complex the issues may be. Those who do not wish to enter politics can still support politicians who practice good teamwork.

PS! Since it is known that people usually respond well to good actions, benevolent behavior is generally the best choice. Voters are likely to give their strong support and votes to the party that resolves the issue of Russian citizens' voting rights in a way that is good for Estonians and respects Russian citizens who are loyal to Estonia, thereby uniting all pro-Estonian people. The musketeers would certainly be able to handle this challenge.