Introducing Guest blogger Gord Cummings!
I am excited today to introduce Gord Cummings as my guest blogger. Gord's post today has us look closer to home for those of us in Canada. He invites us to examine some of our leaders and what they can teach us. Enjoy the post!
And if you are interested in guest blogging on my site, contact me!
The State of Leadership in Canada by Gord Cummings
Rob Ford in the news
It would be easy enough to fall into the trap of ridiculing Rob Ford. Don't get me wrong, this article is not meant as a defence of him, but to look at the other excellent case studies that exist in the Great White North. Of course, the most obvious study of leadership is the crack smoking mayor of Toronto (the fact that I even get to use those words in the same sentence should be humiliating enough for him), but there are other lessons to be learned about Leadership from other citizens.
Chris Hadfield shares his views
Today on CBC Radio, Chris Hadfield gave an important interview. It had less to do with his spacewalk and more to do with how we terrestrially relate to one another. In the interview Chris discussed different things that he'd learnt throughout his storied and continuing career. These were not with regards to leadership or how to get ahead, but simply about the importance of humility. He outlined an excellent equation where one behaves like a “plus one”. If one behaves as a plus one and comes into a room with the knowledge that they are a plus one and beats everyone over the head with this status, the others in the room will only recognize you as a “minus one”. For Hatfield, who certainly deserves treatment as a plus one due to his competencies in more things than I'll ever be interested in in my life, shoots to behave at the level of zero. This is not meaning disrespect for the self but refers to a equilibrium with which he interacts with others. Other people who are being themselves are also at that equilibrium. This is without special status. This isn't where the equation ends for Mr. Hatfield. From the context of the words he used and his internalization of his experiences, we get the strong figure of one who is open to learning from any sort of situation. When he opens himself to that equilibrium of status, this allows for mutual respect and free flow of information, wisdom, and insight. In fact, it doesn't even need to be in the company of another person. It can be one in the company of one's self which can teach life's best lessons. Chris Hatfield is speaking about the humility enough to be open to new experiences and new lessons wherever they abound. This is the action learning that's missing from the symposium you attended last week or the bonus you're going to get at Christmas. What compels learning is the method of thought that we navigate the world with. This is the humility to the situation or to the other.
Naheed Nenshi shows us another perspective
In the wake of what's going on with Toronto's mayor, we're ignoring the trials of a completely competent mayor in Calgary who is facing probably a make or break moment for him both personally and professionally. Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi is facing a six million dollar defamation lawsuit at the hands of Shane Homes CEO Cal Wenzel. In case you don't know the history here, Nenshi has been opposed to sprawl and cites it as a heavy financial burden on taxpayers in the long run because infrastructure costs more in less populated areas. His efforts have largely been towards creating more densely zoned areas so that the city can sustain with its current tax rates. Of course, this is going to upset people who benefit from sprawl. There was an election and try as they could, the Home Builders Association put forth a number of candidates who would reflect their values and carry votes in city hall that would allow them to conduct business as usual. They failed and our city is run by a majority of individuals whose values reflect more of what Nenshi espouses. As a last effort, in what Nenshi describes as a dangerous lawsuit, Wenzel of Shane Homes is moving to hurt the mayor financially.
At this point, the legalities could be painting a sore picture for the mayor but he stepped out in front of it declaring that he is not a wealthy man and that a lawsuit of this nature will break his finances. He appealed to Wenzel to meet face to face to discuss the concerns that have arisen rather than going to court. Rather than engaging in the legal game that's being put in his path, Nenshi has utilized all that's available to him and done so in a way that reflects a bit of what Hatfield taught us about our method of stature. Nenshi has equalized himself. He is aiming for the zero, and in the process making himself the everyman. This doesn't seem motivated politically, but just a regular guy being a regular guy and that any threat from a big bully is damaging no matter who you are.
I'm not trying to make a statement to evoke sympathy for Nenshi and create a victim role for him. He's confident enough, like Chris Hatfield, to take a position of normalcy and relatedness. He's humble enough to admit that he is not a giant or a boogeyman but rather the underdog that's hopefully going to stand up for what he believes is right.
Now I talk about Rob Ford. I think most of what is to be said has already been said so I don't want to regurgitate frustration. I think it's common knowledge and that we all agree that this man is a poor leader. This can be seen in his extreme lack of humility and his overconfidence in the scandal or scandals that are unfolding. He is the “plus one” that Hatfield is referring to and Rob Ford is certainly shoving it down the throats of anybody who can't help but watch the train wreck.
What lessons are we learning?
The real lesson on leadership however comes from looking at the greater public's response to him. Prior to all of this unfolding we might have agreed that Ford was a very good leader. Even our Prime Minister praised Ford as being beneficial for Canada in weathering the severe economic storm. Stephen Harper was probably right. Also, we have to acknowledge that Rob Ford was very popular as a mayor up to the breaking of these scandals. Again, I am not defending the man by any means, but it does say something about leadership.
How do we judge leadership?
The way we judge a good leader is based on the sum of their achievements rather than the achievements themselves, and when it comes to that sum, the negatives always dominate. This is what Ford has taught us. How the general public perceives you will be based on the bad things you've done, rather than the good things you've done. I suspected this when Jean Cretien was caught in the sponsorship scandal and now it's confirmed by Ford. With everyone distancing themselves from this man, it's hard to believe that these same people at a time not so long ago would give him a pat on the back for his role as Mayor. It's as if, for the general consensus to exist the positive impacts must be forgotten.
Now we see how fickle leadership actually is. I am not different than the general public. For instance, if Chris Hatfield emerged tomorrow as a criminal of some sorts, I might jump on the bandwagon of saying that he betrayed the public good. He would at that point be considered an example of what not to do and be perceived as a poor leader.
What do I think?
I would suggest though that there are safeguards in place for Mr. Hatfield and likely for Nenshi as well. These gentlemen are not asserting their status with anyone and it seems to me that humility is what propels them. The situations and adventures that they find themselves in are experiences that widen the wisdom of the self. Whether that is being third runner in an election, running formation with fighter pilots, or floating through space looking down at the ruckus.
Gord Cummings is a Calgarian adding to the social fabric. He is a student of Leadership through University of Guelph as well as through those he meets. He is a family man, author of Boundary Road, and is passionate about comic books as a medium. He also might have started to collect vintage action figures. He's not sure yet, but it certainly looks that way.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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