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Futile Search for Leadership in Dark Times

It is humiliating being Canadian these days as we watch our political troglodytes braying in the House of Commons about who among their pathetic ranks are the more Machiavellian . . . those who precipitated this crisis of governance with an a-historic economic outlook and stupidly timed partisan assault, or the coalition of the dispossessed who must have been licking its lips at the opportunity provided to gain power through the callousness of the governing party.

Why "callousness"? Because people struggling in dark times have no need of hyper-partisan gamesmanship. They need leadership, and this is as true of a CEO as it is of a prime minister or backbencher. And if there is evidence of leadership in our politics today, I can't find it.

There are lessons in this mess for CEOs I think.

Leadership is about humility, responsibility, putting the future of the whole (the demos in politics; customers, communities, employees and ALL shareholders in business) ahead of petty ambition and partisan concerns or, in business terms, ahead of quarterly earnings expectations for example.

Leadership is about being a servant to a greater good, and not a master of self-interest. Abraham Lincoln once said "Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man's character - give him power." The character of our political "leadership" has been recently tested with power and it has been found profoundly wanting: The character of some global  business leaders has also been examined (and has some tough tests yet to come) and it too has been found deficient in too many ways.

Take a look at what French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy said about his friend, the French president Nicholas Sarkozy, in his latest book called Left in Dark Times:

"Now I hear the clannish, feudal, possibly brutal Sarkozy that his opponents denounced, and which I never wanted to believe in: a man with a warrior vision of politics, who hystericizes (sic) relations, believes those who aren't with him are against him, who doesn't care about ideas, who thinks interpersonal relations and friendship are the only things that matter."

Now think about leaders in politics (even in some businesses) today in Canada . . . profoundly wanting indeed.

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