The insipid slime that engulfed 65 square miles of the beautiful countryside of Somerset bears a sad analogy to a malaise that internal comms is going to have to deal with.
I know Somerset well and have friends in the Levels. They are not your normal, comfortably dependent, go-with-the-flow types that make up much of our UK.
They are farmers, new-lifers and rural entrepreneurs – proudly independent latter-day pioneers.
They lead difficult lives; but they thrive on the challenges of weather, nature and economics and are driven by a passion to overcome adversity and succeed.
But there’s one suffocating challenge they didn’t account for: the mediocrity of modern correctness.
Someone in the safe affluence of Tony Blair’s Government decided fighting the elements to preserve such odd specimens of humanity was no longer appropriate.
The land belonged to nature and the modern world no longer needed to defend people so determined to do their own thing.
So the dredging stopped and, by definition, someone must have calculated that the sludge would descend and the mavericks would give up the ghost to be absorbed by the beige bog of conformity.
Meanwhile in California David Marcus, the president of PayPal, is the subject of a similar dilemma.
Angry at the apathy of some of his San Jose staff, he sent an email from the heart – urging them to get passionate or find new jobs.
Highlights include: “My team and I are here because we believe we have the opportunity of a lifetime to build something that will transcend us, and will impact hundreds of millions of lives around the world in a meaningful, lasting way.”
“If you are one of the folks who refused to install the PayPal app or if you can’t remember your PayPalpassword, do yourself a favor, go find something that will connect with your heart and mind elsewhere.
“A life devoid of purpose, and passion in what you do everyday is a waste of the precious time you have on this earth to make it better.”
It was, of course, leaked and now there are wails of protest. He has been branded an intolerable bully and told he should quit.
So where does this leave us?
IC demands accessible, “human” leaders. Executives prepared to show they are real people, and to give an insight to their thinking.
Engage for Success identifies the importance of: “Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative.”
I would argue real leaders – game changers – are inherently passionate. Heartfelt passion is one of their qualities and should be celebrated.
Like the Somerset Levellers, they confront adversity on a daily basis and dare to be different. It is their drive, determination and ability to see a gleaming light beyond the fog of mediocrity that gets us through to a brighter future.
So to IC practitioners, I say there is a clear message:
Our fashion may be to thrive on the comfort of consistent and constructive messaging. But we should never be afraid of a leader who speaks his mind and sometimes upsets the applecart.
That it is their job – and it’s what gives our organisations the edge.
Our role is to help them to articulate their passion and to help our people to recognise its value. Enjoy it.
Because the alternative to living with the challenge of maverick determination is to disappear beneath a slime of mediocrity.