Looking for a Leader in a Leaderless land

I had the pleasure over the last three days to attend a leadership convention in Springfield, Massachusetts. The convention was geared more toward business owners than it was toward politicians, but anyone of the leaders running in the Canadian federal election could have taken a lesson from it.

What my colleagues and I learned at this conference was not just how to build our businesses, but how to lead others to success and greatness, in essence to lead people to realize their dreams. Obviously the Canadian party leaders aren’t trying to build a business, but they are trying to build a country with the same goal of leading people to greatness. That being said, the traits that make up the two types of leaders should be relatively the same.

Some traits are more evident than others, some of the more apparent ones are things such as being honest, having vision, competence, inspiration and intelligence. There is not one party leader that possesses all of these characteristics. It’s clear they all have a vision for Canada and its future (for better or worse), but I would only associate one or two of these other traits with each leader.

Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe are all intelligent. That was proven during the debates last week by having them tear the conservatives’ policies to shreds. Sorry Mr. Harper, in my mind you don’t win a debate by simply “surviving”. I’ve yet to see a politician collapse onto the podium dead. Harper and the three opposition leaders did seem quite competent debating each other. The four of them seemed to know each other’s platforms, weaknesses and strengths. Preparation is a good test of competency.

Throughout the campaign up until Iggy started to tell people to “rise up!” I didn’t sense much inspiration in any of the party leaders. I believe that is reflected in the poll numbers that have showed very little movement for weeks. Inspiration breeds excitement and that is what attracts voters, the lack of excitement breeds apathy.

Some of the lesser known qualities of a good leader are from time to time just as important as any. Humility for example shows that the leader understands that their status does not make them a god and he will use his mistakes to elevate everyone else rather than blame another. Jack Layton is a great example of this. Other lesser known traits include dedication, fairness and openness, even a sense of humor can be vital. Stephen Harper has dedication, but has no sense of humor while Ignatieff seems to be open to new ideas, but in my view he lacks dedication.

Honest Abe & Winnie, two natural born leaders

You’ll notice I haven’t yet mentioned the most important trait of a good leader; trustworthiness. That is because it’s not clear to me that any of the party leaders are indeed trustworthy. Harper and his government clearly aren’t, his government was brought down on contempt charges after all. As for the other leaders, they haven’t been in office so it is impossible to judge their honesty, trust is something that is earned after all.

There is perceptibly much that goes into finding a good leader and it’s a shame that it isn’t something that is really taught in our schools. There have been very few born leaders throughout human history, the Lincolns, Ghandis and Churchills are hard to find, so if we can’t breed them, maybe we should teach them. Imagine Canada having a Prime Minister that is honest, competent, inspiring, and intelligent who has vision. What a country we could have.

One comment

  • There are intelligent, honest, trustworthy, competent and inspiring people out there – they’re just not dumb enough to get involved in politics. The whole system needs to be changed I think if we’re going to get good leaders. Serving in government used to be perceived as an honourable profession, nowadays politicians get about as much respect as a used car dealer. Of course its their own fault, but if we could somehow raise the bar I suspect we’d get better candidates.

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