Sometimes, as a contrarian, I find it easier to begin discourse with what something is not as opposed to what it is – from there one is obligated then to define what it is. Leadership is NOT walking out the door in the morning with you finger in the wind, leadership is NOT monitoring poles, leadership is NOT permitting yourself for popularity sake to relinquish principle and leadership is NOT letting one's core responsibilities go wanting.
Leadership is permitting a harmonic to occur between one’s own knowledge and beliefs, and what emanates from the group sourcing exercise that is life. In other words, one needs to take direction and promote that direction – true leadership means defending and promoting that direction even in the face of adversity. We have a system that is called a reverse hierarchy in our democracy; the people in leadership are subject to the perceptions, wants, needs and desires of those “being led”. The challenge for those in leadership is to manage that interface, too often; direction is sacrificed in fear of the “loss of power”.
The reality of the reverse hierarchy as it co-exists with democracy is, that leadership tends to migrate to influence; this pull is tectonic in nature, nearly impossible to withstand. This reality has generated a Faustian circumstance in public policy, where short term political survival is pursued at the cost of long term societal concern. We have a 1000 year management horizon with a 4 year accountability cycle, and accountability is viewed by leadership as the enemy, as it, as often as not, has negative outcomes in the world of public opinion.
People are a product of their environment; let’s avoid “fundamental attribution error” here please. We have exceptional people in leadership, we have a system that takes them from being driven and on task, to fickle and popularity sensitive. As political leadership contemplates the justification for a 180 degree turn on an issue, the people at large watch, they see incongruence in the actions of leadership – system integrity begins to wane and cynicism grows. Worst though, the important things fail to get done.
We have to repair the environment that people are expected to work in, we need firstly to have leaders say,” mission is more important than my reelection” and most importantly we need accountability. Democracy has no commitment to truth, it spins dialog to curry favour with the electorate. So we need to make metrics and monitoring a mandatory attachment to policy. When the leadership says we are introducing this legislation to generate a given outcome, then there needs to be objective monitoring of outcomes. With the introduction of legislation there needs to be a clear mission stated for the legislation, and the metrics and indicators that monitor the outcomes relative to mission. Then the unfettered and objective reporting to the public – then, like in business – leadership is tied to the bottom line, whether the bottom line is surplus or social welfare.
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