Taking self-preservation to the Max

Sometimes leaders must be strong enough to go against popular opinion - but surely there's a limit...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Take Max Mosley, president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, who's just won a vote of confidence to stay on in his role until 2009. Mosley called the vote himself in light of the furore following News of the World allegations that he cavorted with a gaggle of prostitutes in some bizarre Nazi sex games – and sure enough, he managed to secure 103 of a possible 169 votes at Tuesday’s meeting in Paris.

On the other hand, this also means that a whopping third of delegates wanted him to step down. The American, Japanese, French, Australian and Spanish automobile federations all voted against him, as (not surprisingly, in the circumstances) did the powerful German federation. In fact, the German have now frozen all activities with FIA, while the Americans are talking about a breakaway body – surely putting more pressure on him to fall on his sword. And that’s not to mention all the Jewish groups and anti-racism campaigners that are also up in arms about his alleged activities. In some respects, you have to admire his bloody-mindedness – but there’s a difference between justified self-belief and plain brass neck...

Still, Mosley doesn’t seem to mind upsetting people. His ‘colourful’ style has clearly managed to lose friends and alienate a few people – for example, former world champion racing driver Damon Hill described Mosley’s leadership style as ‘intimidation’ with ‘a very authoritarian streak’. Since Mosley’s father was the notorious fascist leader Oswald, also known as a bit of an authoritarian, you can see where it comes from – but it doesn’t sound ideal in a role that requires a large amount of political diplomacy. And let’s face it: it didn’t work out too well for Oswald, did it?

Even 67-year-olds are not too long in the tooth to learn a lesson from history – especially if it’s family history – but on the evidence of this episode, Mosley junior has decided to ignore it. Much like he’s ignoring the wishes of the sizeable number of delegates who think he should resign immediately for the good of the sport (after all, Mosley can hardly claim to represent the views of all his members when so many of them have publicly condemned him).

Mosley’s self-preservation instinct is clearly second-to-none – but is it worth it, if he ends up bringing down his own organisation? As Max himself might (allegedly) say: that’s the rub...

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