Saturday, November 03, 2007

Time for a Reality Check on What Leadership Means

Since the Conservatives are so worried about Stephane Dion that they feel the need to mount more attack ads, I thought it might be time to examine what a Leader really is.

For some reason, since 9-11, the term leadership has been defined in a very limiting way. It's definition has been hijacked in fact and has been manipulated to exemplify specific people, rather than they themselves exemplifying the trait.

I'm sure this has happened many times throughout history, but at this moment in time, too many seem willing to suspend disbelief and accept whatever incarnation of the word is put in front of them. By the same token, they seem equally comfortable in accepting as fact, those they are told are not leaders.

The current definition seems to be rooted in machismo. Think George W. Bush. A pretty dismal character pre his 9-11 make over. His team knew how to take advantage of the situation and recreate him into an image that would exude machismo. A man who could take care of the people of his nation, who were understandably frightened. How's that turned out? In fact, if you look at most of the GOP candidates, they spend more time talking tough than they do putting forward good policy.

Of course, stressing machismo over substance isn't a trait of a good leader, in fact it could be argued that it's the antithesis of leading. It's more closely and correctly aligned with bullying.

Do bullies ever lead? Yes, through threats, intimidation and manipulation, they do. Does that make them leaders? Of course not. The current government has followed the US model of painting anyone left of them on the spectrum as "soft on....", pick your poison. It's nonsense, but they can sell it without having to explain their charge. That it has no basis in fact is not an impediment. Make the charge, check your intellect at the door and suggest it's self explanatory.

There is a kinder term than bully of course and that would be manager. A manager could be a the head of a team, but simply managing the group that he or she is in charge of, does not a leader make. No, a bully who through fear is able to manage his followers is not what comes to mind when I think of who I want to govern this country, but that is what we have at the moment, imo.

So what is a leader? There is no question that the trait will manifest itself uniquely in each individual who possesses it. Intellect alone is not enough. To my mind, that intellect must be capable of capturing whatever is at stake under her or his purview, understanding how that must be dealt with in the present and having the vision to extrapolate that decision into the future, understanding the consequences. Beyond that, a leader must be able to articulate that vision to those who are like-minded. That explanation should include a glimpse at how it was arrived at, giving the followers a frame of reference in order to support it. I think too, a leader encourages participation so those that he/she is leading has a stake in the success of the vision.

Does charisma help? Yes I think so, but charisma also comes in various forms. Sometimes it's incredible personality, the person that everyone automatically warms to. Sometimes it's honesty and sincerity. I think most people are drawn to such individuals quite naturally. Think of your own life. Who's advice do you follow? The friend who you know has your best interest at heart or the one you know always thinks about them self first? If the trusted individual with vision is also full of personality, that's a bonus, but not vital. Sincerity coupled with tenacity goes much further than dishonesty married to being obstinate and self absorbed.

With every day that passes, Harper shows us who he really is. He does it in various ways. Sometimes it's throwing out an arrogant phrase at a press conference and what is telling about that is, it's not limited to the opposition. Just ask Bill Casey. At other times, it's behind the scenes as in the ouster of Warner and Barr. Turner, Casey, Warner, and now Caldwell have all said just how controlling Harper is. While this is being reported, the media are not really focused on it, because it's old news for them of course.

These tactics are not the sign of a leader, they are the sign of a bully. Harper cannot get the agreement of his caucus to follow his agenda, so he bully's them into doing so. If they go off script, they're out. That is NOT a leader. Sadly, he appears to have a group of people he can manipulate. Yet another sign of not being a leader. Leaders convince through reason, they do not coerce.

The Con's are nervous about Dion. There can be no other reason for running those ads. Whatever you think of Kyoto, you have to consider what kind of leadership it took to gain consensus at one of the largest intergovernmental conferences ever held and Dion, (not alone but at the helm) did that.

Dion does have problems today due to the meme conceived by the Con's and repeated daily through media, but looking to the future I think that particular theme will be short lived. The reality of the man cannot be expunged through rhetoric, though they will try.

Real leadership qualities rise to surface and Dion contrasted with Harper on an even playing field, (dependent of course on the media), has the potential to have Harper portrayed for who he is. It won't be necessary for the Lib's to develop a caricature of Harper, he has developed one all on his own and few are drawn to the persona he likes to portray.

So we have two men to look to in this country to lead us. One has had a caricature of himself put out into the public sphere, one that he can easily fell by being himself. The other actually is a caricature of a leader, one that he created and would be hard pressed to dismiss.

The choice seems obvious.


Scotian said...

"So we have two men to look to in this country to lead us. One has had a caricature of himself put out into the public sphere, one that he can easily fell by being himself. The other actually is a caricature of a leader, one that he created and would be hard pressed to dismiss.

The choice seems obvious." posted by knb at 4:12 PM

That strikes at the core of what exists right now for both Dion and for where Harper is going. Very well put KNB, very well put indeed!

Ryan said...

I'm not sure if Dion makes the Conservatives nervous. He may have at the beginning (perhaps there were Chretien comparisons), but now I think they've nearly written him off completely.

Which, I think, might work to his advantage, since they are obviously underestimating him.

Though, unfortunately I think he might be too late if he puts fighting off any longer. Harper might call an election if he thinks Dion is gaining ground and continue with the attack ads. He needs to actually get out there because I've barely heard anything from him, asides from suggesting that he'd reinstate the GST, which is good because it takes guts to tell people you'll raise taxes.

knb said...

Scotian, a walk in the woods, by water, does wonders.

I honestly do believe that is where we are.

knb said...

ryan, Harper can't call an election. He boxed himself in.

because I've barely heard anything from him, asides from suggesting that he'd reinstate the GST,

Come on Ryan, you are smarter than that. Indeed we see little of him, the media only portrays what fits the meme. He, Dion, however never said he'd raise the GST. He did say he'd consider spending and how the GST factored in. Would he have to factor it in? Yes. It was an honest answer.

Would any government look again to raise taxes? We would hope not in this day and age, but who really knows what the Con's are doing?

Ryan said...

No, he said he'd consider reinstating it. And I like that.

I think we need higher taxes to pay for social programs. I think we need a truly progressive tax system, and I liked what I heard from Dion and consider it gutsy to back up his criticisms with admitting that he'd consider reinstating it.

If I'm missing something here maybe I'm not "smarter than that."

And no, Dion has kept a reasonably low profile. I follow the lib blogs, and their own website.

Ryan said...

And by higher taxes, I mean reinstate the GST and have the wealthy pay their fair share. The middle and lower class are already paying theirs.

And corporations. Let's not forget the booming corporations making record profits while the cost of living for the average person is becoming insane.

knb said...

Well, as they say you're not wrong Ryan.

I think smarter taxes are in order and for the Con's to have taken 2 points off the GST was beyond foolish.

If you must take a point now to fulfill a promise, give it to cities where it will make a difference is my opinion. 1 cent on your morning coffee, is not helping too many.

Your missing nothing ryan.

RuralSandi said...

All this talk of terrorism and people seem to believe it's only in the Middle East and their fundamentalist wingnuts - but terrorism is:

1. the systematic employment of violence and intimidation to coerce a government of community into acceding to specific political demands 2. an act of terrorizing continued over an extended period.

Terrorize: 1 fill with terror 2. coerce by terror; use terrorism against 3. bully, harrass, pursecute.

So, Harper is actually a form of terrorism with his bullying. Mafia is terrorism, street gangs are terrorists, etc. etc.

Bullying is a form of terrorism.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey KMB. Look at the genuinely great party leaders in Canadian history - MacDonald, Laurier, Trudeau. None of them share much in common with Harper or Dion. There is an energy that Canadians respond to and it's an empty field right now - NDP, CPC or LPC.