Alternative Leadership

The world does not expect much from the new President of the United States, according to an Ipsos MORI poll of 18,000 people in 24 countries, which found that 66 per cent of respondents expect bad things from the Trump administration. As a Statista bulletin recently noted, 81 per cent of Mexican respondents think U.S. voters put in place poor leadership. Similar pessimism exists in the European Union, where expectations for the new U.S. commander in chief were low in the United Kingdom (80 per cent), Germany (78 per cent), and France (77 per cent).

But even if accurate, this poll indicates that more than one-third of individuals around the world expect good things from Trump. In Russia and India, more than 65 per cent of poll respondents think the man will be a good U.S. president. And if you think about it, there is some reason for optimism. In fact, somewhat incredulously, you could argue that the inauguration speech of the 45th POTUS suggests Trump could yet set a positive example for other world leaders.

In his speech, Trump insisted nations exist to serve their citizens. “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he insisted after taking office, adding, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.”

This message, of course, has been delivered as an empty promise before in many an election campaign. So, the big question is whether Trump means it. As U.S. president, he could use his talents to further increase his wealth, recognition, and importance. But as a businessman, Trump has already achieved recognition and importance. His estimated US$4 billion fortune has proven his “greatness” in the corporate world. As a “winner” in the game of capitalism, he has also already positioned his family for success, too. So, as President Trump, he could really be out to focus his drive on servicing the needs of the citizens he claims have been ignored. The path he takes will help decide if this “larger-than-life” individual goes down in history as a relatively good president with personality flaws or just a bad president.

Regardless of race, nationality, income, gender, or sexual orientation, people across the world can be divided into two groups: individuals who need help building a good life (for themselves, their families, and their friends) and people who do not. Whether due to pure chance or a combination of other factors—ranging from intelligence, education, and motivation to wealth, skills, strength or access to weapons—individuals in the latter group dominate positions of authority, decision-making, influence, and power. They become the world’s leaders, the elected politicians, autocrats, dictators, CEOs, union leaders, school presidents, gang bosses, drug lords, and so on. These individuals make up the minority, but for better or worse, people in the first camp end up following them, living under their jurisdiction, or at their mercy, for a variety of reasons, often including limited choice.

All individuals in the leader category share one attribute: the desire to win. But as noted in Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test, only some share a less common leadership attribute—“loving kindness.” And possession of this attribute (of caring, empathy, compassion for others, etc.) tends to separate so-called good leaders from the bad. Think Nelson Mandela versus Hitler. Both possessed the will and determination to succeed, but only one ruled with “loving kindness.”

Generally speaking, when it comes to making high-stakes decisions for a nation, good world leaders are the ones who care about their followers and lead with the best interests of their nation’s citizens in mind as a result. This does not mean every decision taken will be popular or even wise. But when leaders really care about serving the people, a nation’s followers can at least take comfort in the fact that any poor decision made was taken with a benevolent goal in mind, meaning improving the lives of a nation’s followers.

Martin Luther King Jr. put forth the notion that ambitious leaders can be great if they use their drive to serve others. In a famous speech entitled “The Drum Major Instinct,” he preached:

If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

 And when it comes to judging Washington’s new main man in terms of his “greatness,” this idea of servant leadership appears particularly pertinent, on the surface at least, given Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. After all, controversial decisions being made by the Trump administration could be part of a well-intended effort to improve the general well-being of U.S. citizens, rather than enrich Trump’s friends, family, tribe, or party members.

I am not suggesting Trump is showing loving kindness to the world. But that isn’t his job. As POTUS, Trump’s job is to look out for U.S. citizens.  And so his motivation might be in the right place—despite the fact that many people disagree with his plans to put his nation first in multilateral negotiations, increase U.S. military spending, align U.S. interests with Russia, tear up existing trade agreements, build a border wall, approve controversial oil pipelines, increase coal mining, change tax laws, cut social programs, and reject environmental protection along with the right to have an abortion.

Unfortunately, having what it takes to really lead a nation with the interests of its people in mind is not common. To believe otherwise is naïve given the world in which we live, where political and corporate leaders all too often lead in order to increase their own wealth, control, and power, not to mention take care of other leaders, people who do not actually need any help.

In a TED video, George Ayittey speaks of an online discussion group challenged with naming just 20 “good (national) leaders” among the 204 heads of state that Africa had seen since 1960. The group struggled to name 15. If “good leader” was defined as someone who genuinely and sincerely put aside the interests of their own family, region, party, and business cronies and made tough decisions for the well-being of the people, I am not too sure that the exercise would generate much in the way of positive results for Asia, the Americas, or the European Union.

Recognizing the injustice in the corporate and political wealth redistribution systems, some wealthy business leaders (led by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) recognize their leadership responsibilities and set out to use their riches to help the world’s followers. Unfortunately, when examining the numerous examples of corporate malfeasance or corruption that have been uncovered over the past decades, these types of corporate leaders appear few and far between.

Despite possessing enormous stockpiles of wealth, today’s leaders tend to always believe they need more. Indeed, trying to ensure, through fair means or foul, that they can remain in power as long as possible seems to be the limit of the ambition of many of today’s leaders, who often have a greater sense of entitlement than they do of any responsibility to do “the right thing” for their followers. Meanwhile, the ecological, social, and financial “gaps” between the leaders and followers continue to widen. Even leaders who seem to start off with the best of intentions (think Mugabe or Chávez) often eventually forget about the needs of followers and focus on their own entitlement.

Perhaps Trump’s inauguration speech was just full of empty rhetoric. Maybe he is just out to use his “drive to win” to accumulate more personal power and wealth as head of the most powerful nation on the planet. But love him or hate him, Trump was elected by tapping into a widely felt belief that U.S. political elites have neglected their followers for too long. So, the question is whether Trump really shares that belief. Does he really want to lead because he has both a huge drive to win and a real desire to serve the people?

Simply put, Trump might have his own brand of “loving kindness.” After using his drive to win to take care of his own interests, he might now be genuinely focused on doing what he thinks needs to be done to improve the lives of the U.S. follower class. In other words, instead of using his Twitter account and unique style of spinning facts to be elected for his own benefit, he might have done so to be elected because he sees it as his job to help disenfranchised citizens.

The Fourth King of Bhutan is an example of a leader who put his followers first. One might disagree with some of his decisions around the different Pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH) that he established. Yet, it is tough to deny that he did what he deemed best for his country. For a monarch to ignore majority opinion and voluntarily insist that his country become a parliamentary democracy is almost unheard of. This act of “great” leadership meant that his personal power would be vastly reduced and that future generations of his family would have much diminished wealth, power, and control. Yet, the King thought this was the right thing to do for the well-being of his nation’s followers over the long term.

Leaders do not always seem to be the most adjusted individuals, which may be why many of world’s most powerful individuals (such as Putin, Duterte, Maduro, Kim Jong-un, Le Pen, etc.) do not appear to be the happiest people on the planet. Perhaps by not developing or listening to their own “caring” attribute of leadership, they are failing themselves as well as their followers. So, let’s hope Trump proves as adept at winning the public service game as he has at winning in the business game. If he wants to be a two-term U.S. president, he needs citizens who voted for him to support him again. And next time around, U.S. followers will judge him on what he has done, not what he says he will do on Twitter.

I may never agree with many of Trump’s political ideas and decisions. But as an Anglophone follower in Quebec, I am quite happy to accept language laws that abuse my own rights as an individual because I genuinely believe the provincial government sees its restrictive policy as the “right thing to do for the greater good of broader society.” And so, if President Trump walks his talk over the next few years and runs the country as a servant of the people, my trust and confidence in world leaders will be at least partially restored. Perhaps other heads of state will even follow Trump’s lead and start to really serve their citizens. If that happens, despite his stated intention to put the United States first, the new President of the United States might just help make the entire world a better place in the long term.

15 responses on “Alternative Leadership

  1. Beverly Behan

    I wanted to commend you, Mark, for not jumping on the Trump-bashing bandwagon and taking a fresh look at this issue. While ”loving kindness” may distinguish some leaders, let’s talk about a few other leadership qualities that may have separated the 45th President from his rival, Hillary Clinton:

    a) Work Ethic. During the campaign, Trump charged that “Mitt Romney choked like a dog” at the end of the race. However, brash that may have sounded, everyone knew it was true. And Trump was a marked contrast – holding 5 rallies a day in different parts of the country for the last 2 weeks of the campaign, he moved at a dizzying pace (similar to what he’s adopted thus far in office) which ultimately secured him the presidency. Pundits guffawed that Trump was “chasing unicorns up in Michigan and Wisconsin”. But Hillary Clinton never even visited the state of Wisconsin during the campaign. She projected as someone who was entitled and dismissive of the American people – and frankly, someone who felt she deserved the presidency and didn’t have to work for it. Work ethic counts when it comes to leadership. Another great example of a world leader who has work ethic in spades is Pope Francis – clearly projecting “loving kindness” more than the 45th President, but this is a pontiff whose outworked anyone sitting on the Throne of St. Peter in modern memory.

    b) Great Leaders Surround Themselves with Great People. Hillary Clinton’s closest advisors weren’t exactly impressive – John (“the password is ‘password’) Podesta and Huma Abedin, the wife of Anthony Weiner, who like Clinton herself “stood by her man” even after he was found sexting photos of his private parts to an underage girl. Let’s take a look at some of the people Trump’s appointed to his cabinet: You may not agree with all of them but Rex Tillerson is certainly a standout – and what does it say for someone who could actually get the CEO of Exxon Mobil to work for them? Mattis in Defense, Kelly in Homeland Security – these are impressive folks. Tom Barrack, Trump’s best friend and the Chair of his Inauguration Committee is one of the most brilliant businessmen on the planet (I can actually say that because I had the privilege of working with Barrack 10 years ago). It says a lot about a leader when you look at the talent they manage to attract and surround themselves with – and frankly, these choices speak extremely well for Trump. As for Clinton, well, what can you really say about the political acumen of Beyoncé and Meryl Streep?

    c) Handling a “Leadership Moment” – Trump, in my opinion, hasn’t had a true leadership moment yet; a moment of real challenge where he has to show what he’s made of. But Hillary had hers. It came on the night of the election when thousands of her supporters stood in the Javitz Center in New York in tears and dismay. These were people who devoted their money, time, efforts and hearts to Hillary Clinton for at least two years, some longer. What does a leader do at a time like this? Here’s what a good leader doesn’t do: Send in a lieutenant to tell everybody to go home. That was her leadership moment and everyone who rather suspected she didn’t have the chops to be a good president (myself included) felt vindicated when they saw her respond in a particularly “ungreat” way to that situation.

    Living in New York is challenging in the age of Trump. Because if you “dare” point out anything bad about Hillary Clinton or Chuck Schumer or if you “dare” say that there are may actually be things to be admired about Trump you are insulted, labelled and treated as pariah. It is reverse McCarthyism and it is an insidious problem in American society at the moment and the real reason that “all the polls were wrong”. (BTW, I’m not so sure I would have started any article with a reference to polling on the subject of Donald Trump). Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and the freedom to discuss the issues of the day are hallmarks of a civilized society. I give you credit for bringing some balance to the current political discussion amidst all the easy ‘piling on’ of the anti-Trump articles in this issue that did nothing but make me yawn. One of the biggest challenges facing the media today is their absence of balance and determination to force their own agenda on readers/viewers. Sadly, with its latest issue, IBJ has jumped on that insidious bandwagon. I give you credit for offering some alternative views.

  2. Richard Orlando

    Excellent article Mark! I think however the phrase “emotional intelligence” is required here, as well as being kind to others. Trump may in fact already muster some “loving kindness” with his family and selected intimates who sing the same tune, but does he have empathy? Alas, narcissists are apparently bereft of this necessary virtue, doubly required in a President.

  3. Ariadna Rodriguez

    In this broader article of the same subject, maybe because I am mexican I don’t have an impartial opinion about Donald Trump. I do agree that he (maybe) will have all the best intentions to U.S. Citizens, and among these intentions, the most important and powerful for them is to get rid of refugees and immigrants from other countries that do not have a regular situation as U.S. Citizen. Drug traffic and violence, terrorism and insecurity most of the time coming from these groups, even though it is not the majority, are all an issue to think about it.

    Unfortunately, Trump decisions are too straight, ALL the immigrants and refugees, even if they come as tourists or they have precarious situations, or are entrepreneurs and company owners that generates jobs and progress.

    I can live without traveling to the U.S. , also without buying american things, but let’s see it over my own opinion: Mexico and other countries maintain their economical systems through imports and exports to the U.S., jobs, joint ventures, investissements, etc. These radical decisions will affect also U.S.Citizens at large, but Trump doesn’t seem to see beyond this year or this four-year first period for him (hope the last).

    I do not agree about boicots to american enterprises and companies in Mexico, e.g. Starbucks, this will not help anything in the situation, considering that most of these enterprises are mexican capital, not american.

    I hope this four years will not be as bad as it seems, at least for Mexico and without TLCAN, and also considering Peña Nieto as our president.

  4. Dave Smith

    Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your well articulated thoughts. Can I point out that your viewpoint seems to be built on an assumption that Trump is sane, so perhaps you might have a think about the content of this link below. From a professional psychotherapeutic viewpoint it is very clear that Trump suffers from profound Narcissistic Personality Disorder, good wishes from over the pond, D.S. ‘Malignant narcisissm’: Donald Trump displays classic traits of mental illness, claim psychologists – The Independent https://apple.news/ADijTDLqoROWUOB52KYusGw

  5. Elizabeth Leung

    Great read. However, I don’t share your optimism. Trump’s lack of willingness to face facts or any negative comments about himself impedes his potential to grow as a caring leader. In addition, if we look at his nominees for secretaries of education, house and development, energy, etc (some now confirmed), I have a hard time believing that these decisions were made for the good of the American people. Although I disagree with most of his Supreme Court Justice nominee’s values, at least Gorsuch has qualifications and competencies to fill the role. Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t seem to have well thought-out strategies of his own. Instead, he surrounded himself with people he trusts (including his family) to advise him on important issues on which they might not even been fully versed.

    All in all, if Trump truly wants the best for his country, he should be open to receiving as much accurate information as possible. He should listen to his people (all of them, not just his supporters) on what is important to them. He should use more words that matter and that truly make a positive impact. He should be less defensive towards criticism and appear more humble. He should release his returns to show his people that he has nothing to hide. Instead of using rhetoric to scare his people into picturing the country like a zombie wasteland, he should simply focus on improving the aspects the people think to be lacking.

    Unfortunately, I highly doubt any of this will happen. It simply isn’t who he is. He’s 70 years old, nobody will dramatically change their personalities overnight at that age. The best the American people can hope for is that next lower scale elections will shift the power in the senate and in congress.

  6. Michelle Fast

    In this age of media manipulation it is refreshing to read a balanced article. I am continuously fascinated at how people are painted either black or white; neither candidate was black or white. Why is the gray so off-limits?
    I have a cousin in the USA who is a die-hard Trump fan and sincerely believes that he will make a difference. Here’s hoping he does.

  7. Walt Gundel

    A very interesting article, Mark, and I applaud your optimism in considering possible constructive service from President Trump. However, he is populating his cabinet and advisors with incredibly self-serving, Wall Street oriented individuals. Instead of “draining the swamp,” he seems committed to blocking its outlet, guaranteeing accelerated neglect of THE PEOPLE.

  8. Tanguy Etoga

    Although this article is a quality one, I found it has quite a few assumptions. The most important assumption that strike me is the “Loving Kindness”.

    The article assumes that in order to effectively lead, “Loving Kindness” must be expressed. I disagree.

    Leading is a combination of many things and I beleive the most important one is the ability to inspire trust. “Loving Kindness” is way of leading, as there are many others.

    Nelson Mandela lead is fight “physically” at the beginning. We was trusted and respected then. He evolved and changed his approach then expressed the “Loving Kindness”, which was also effective.

    Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump with the promess that he would act upon many issues he talked about during his campaign.

    USA has never witnessed a president acting on each and every single campain promise like this.

    For the good or bad, he is showing leadership by acting on the reason he was elected.

  9. Mary Stacey

    Thanks for this thoughtful article Mark, and your willingness to take an alternate stance than many are taking right now. One of the things that stands out to me is that leadership and service are contingent on one’s level of adult development or maturation, as described by researchers such as Kegan at Harvard. Leadership and service are very different in practice in adults who have achieved an ‘opportunist’ centre of gravity (which may be a fit for Trump) or an ‘alchemist’ centre of gravity (which is a good fit for Mandela). The thing I most appreciate is that you’ve left much open for inquiry, which we will surely need as the next four years unfold.

  10. Mary Stacey

    Thank you for this thoughtful article, and for choosing to take an alternate stance on this very complex leadership question. One of the ways I would explore Trump’s leadership is through the lens of Bob Kegan’s and Bill Torbert’s work in adult development, translated to leadership. Leadership and service look very different to someone who has an ‘opportunist’ centre of gravity (which might be a good fit for Trump) and to one who has an ‘alchemist’ centre of gravity (which might be a good fit for Mandela). I appreciate how you have left much open to inquiry, which we will surely need in the years ahead!

  11. mark Hollingworth

    Here are a four more comments that were sent to me directly which offer interesting and widely-varied perspectives on the various messages in the original article.

    Comment #1

    I suppose I can only wait and see what the POTUS has in store for all.
    Since I was a child going to school in London and called a Black Monkey by an adult or being fearful of being kidnapped. I have never felt quite so terrified. You see as a Black woman born here in the UK, this is home. Anywhere else I am just a foreigner , no matter if the people look like me. They over charge me, feign affection to part me from my money, rob me if they can. …. So I am scared, deeply afraid, as I notice the daily micro aggressions that I am accustomed to, [racial profiling is what it is] begin to escalate; and what seemed like respectable colleagues, now do things that make me narrow my eyes and gasp. Some people say at least they now know where they stand. I guess there is some merit in that. I too am pleased that people now phone into our radio stations and say vile things that they would not dare say before. Must have been difficult all that pent up rage. “Let’s take back our country make [Britain, America, France] Great again” Of course those of us existing on the margins, never quite understand what the collective fear is all about.
    When I work internationally there are English, french people and Americans in every corner of the globe. So, DT being a President that serves his people, as you say, an honest man, with the best intentions a billionaire who just wants good. I just wished that did not have to give legitimacy to behaviours we thought were now outmoded. BREXIT is pertinent here, but that chief mouthpiece for BREXIT is a great Trump ally … So I am confused, scared and watching my back and front. Wondering if I am going to experience what the Jews did under Hitler, or maybe my younger relatives unless we emigrate… I suppose that is the point of it all. Then I can live amongst the EU and USA expats in Africa or the Caribbean LOL Not sure why DT the multi billionaire or whatever he is, can’t be a good president serving the people , without joining a chorus which is getting louder and louder. The lead singers in their rhetoric do not deride those that are disenfranchising the majority, because billionaire greed is now totally out of control. Instead they insist on blaming said disenfranchised bottom feeders who are now set to pull each others’ eyes out. Allowing billionaires to pretend that they are doing something that is of benefit to humanity. All I can do is watch…and look after myself.

    Comment #2

    Your article presents a great analysis and balanced approach to an issue that seems to have blinded the left in the US to the point of violence and angered the right to the point of ignoring what the other side has to say. Your article resonates with my own thinking… of course we have to wait and see. Reading the article I was looking for a clear framing of what you mean by “Alternative Leadership” but I think I missed it. I can only connect the dots and produce my own interpretation. With that said – the word “alternative” has become a no-no here after Steve Banon started talking of “alternative news” that seems to have Orwellian connotations. Overall. Great. I would like to see a clearer definition of “Alternative Leadership” or maybe use a different name and go deeper into what that requires to develop. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment #3

    Very interesting article. Thanks Mark. I must say that, indeed, my trust and confidence in world leaders would also be restored if they act it in the interest of the public. In any case, it is very obvious that people are tired of passive pseudo-leaders who invoke all possible excuses NOT to make decisions.

    Comment #4

    Mark, I have now read this four times out of respect for our past relationship and I cannot make any sense of what you are saying.
    I feel you’re mixing way too many points together for one essay, centered around the most triggering and polarizing politician in recent history. I am left with a feeling that you are engaging in naive speculation that he might turn out alright because he’s already rich and might just have US interests at heart. This might have been an interesting speculation a year ago before his narcissistic personality disorder and lack of political skill was so evident. I have actually agreed with some of his thoughts on foreign policy, and have worked enough with the federal government that I agree much of it is dead weight. And I acknowledge that I live in a liberal bubble and didn’t see the pain of all those people in places like Ohio. I also see a man who makes every woman I know feel threatened.
    In any case, he has not demonstrated a capacity to act on whatever his policies might actually be effectively because he’s too much a megalomaniac. At root he’s a spoiled rich kid who grew up with daddy’s thugs (e.g. Roy Cohn) showing him how to throw his weight around, and has no concern for “truth”. Occasionally Americans succumb to the idea that we don’t want a professional politician, that a businessman would be better. This has given us Herbert Hoover, George W. Bush and now this… his lack of political experience and inability to dissociate himself from his business interests will likely be what brings him down if anythingl.
    If he was serious about protecting us from terrorists how could he have possibly exempted Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the home ground of jihadism, from his travel ban? Well, he has hotels there…. The royal family of KSA are good people, fantastic people, really rich people…. How can you imagine that he could possibly unite the country? Unless it’s against him? You list two alternatives: he’s a good president with a flawed personality, or he’s just a bad president. There are actually two options south of “bad president”. He’s a bad president who is so bad that Americans are waking up to realize how much the Constitution means to us, so he’s a kind of catalyst for good because he is a blatant threat to our way of life. But we will have to get rid of him one way or another. Or, he’s a bad president who like Caesar signals the beginning of the end of a corrupted Republic. If he survives four or even eight years, it will be because we have normalized a level of cynicism and corruption that has undermined the American experiment beyond repair

  12. Danielle

    Interesting article. Like others mentioned, I certainly applaud your optimism – especially in a time when we seem to be surrounded by so much pessimism – particularly in the media. “An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

  13. Tanya Nesterenko

    Firstly, Mark, thank you for the reminder that there are people within America and in other parts of the world who think “Trump will be a good president”. We tend to hear and listen to the voices that please and comfort us. Hearing others’ perspectives on topics that we may disagree with will nudge us out of our comfort zone and keep us from recycling our own beliefs in this time of change.

    Secondly, if Trump decides to “run as a servant of the people”, it will be interesting as to how he is a servant of his people. His slogans of “Make America great again!” and “America comes first” can be interpreted as a shepherd looking out and over his flock. What is more comforting to know that your leader is looking out for you? However, given what I am interpreting that his protectionist and nationalistic views are quite severe, won’t this actually hurt America in the long run developing a nation of entitlement self worth rather than an empowering self worth? Making America great again by putting America first will occur at which cost under Trump’s leadership?

    Today’s thinking on negotiations is about walking away with a win-win and no longer how do I crush my opposition to walk away the victor. Negotiating for a win-win is a skillful art that I am waiting to see from the current leader of the USA. So, shall he be pulling out his paintbrush to do art or his hammer to crush as he shepherds his flock?

  14. Mark Hollingworth

    Upon listening to the TV “clips” of Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s speech last week in Hamburg, Germany I felt a glimmer of hope that he too had been reading my article 🙂

    However, having read the entire speech, I am now not so sure. Could it be that he was just delivering the usual political platitudes? The excerpts I saw certainly suggested that he was saying that Leaders needed to be paying much more attention to their Followers (by my definition, “those who need help to build a good life for themselves”). There were even very close similarities to President Trump’s inauguration address regarding the “forgotten men and women of our country should be forgotten no longer”. Just shows you how important it really is as to who delivers the message!

    See:

    http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2017/02/17/address-prime-minister-justin-trudeau-st-matthews-day-banquet-hamburg-germany

    However, upon closer reading of the complete text, unfortunately it seems to hint more at the usual political messages of “taxing the 2% rich and helping the middle-class” than it does of helping the Followers. Although the middle-class can feel justified in feeling hard-done by, in general, they are making it all on their own. By the definition in the article, they are still Leaders. It is the unemployed, or the lower working class, the minimum wage earners holding down 2-3 jobs to make their monthly payments, the high school drop-outs, the new refugees, the sex trade workers, the people living in inner city “no go areas”, who need the real help.

    He did, however, say some words that were music to my ears:
    “The answers are not in this room. They’re out there. We all need to leave this place, and truly listen to people who are anxious about their futures.Hear first-hand about their concerns, work with them to develop solutions, and actually implement them.

    Now, I should disclose I did vote for Justin Trudeau in the last election. I did so, not because of his policies, but because I heard one of his fellow candidates running for MP explain why she had decided to run for the Liberals. She stated that she did so because Trudeau claimed not to have all the answers but that he recognized that his job would be to get all the stakeholders together and discuss the tough questions in order to generate the answers together. It is the same approach I use in my own work. It resonated with me. He had my vote. It is the same message he delivered in Germany last week.
    However, when you take this approach, you have to be willing to listen, be open and to accept the outcomes – even if they are not to your liking. If not, you are just pretending to listen, in order to cynically, manipulate people to arrive at what you really wanted to do all the time.

    I have witnessed organization’s leaders do it in the past: They know what they should do. They know they need to listen. They know they need to be open. They know they need to let the people involved actually generate the solutions – even if it is only to gain their proverbial “buy-in”. But, they also know what they really want to do. They also know which solutions they do not want – at any price. I have seen this ploy work: with a little deliberate guidance, political persuasion, a few side-deals and side conversations, the Leader gets his or her way.

    I have also seen it fail miserably as the Followers, sensing the fact that they were being manipulated, that only the one preferred outcome of the Leader was possible from the process, nod their heads in theatrical, hypercritical agreement and leave the room with a forced, mock smile. They did so with increased cynicism, a greater sense of isolation and, more often than not, a determination to sabotage the implementation of the decision firmly imprinted in their minds.

    Some of Canada’s indigenous peoples already seem to be experiencing this feeling with Mr Trudeau – and this, for them, is for the nth time. Canadians, I among them, who believed that the consultation process to examine “Electoral reform” showed that Mr Trudeau was indeed “Walking his consultative process Talk”, are having similar misgivings.

    Mr Trudeau did indeed criss-cross Canada holding his town-halls. It is good to see a Prime Minster do that. But, once again, while listening to their concerns, whereas his response should have been to simply say “Thank you for your input. I heard you. I have (or will put) a multi-stakeholder, open and transparent team and process together to work on this issue”, he seemed to rather retort with the list of measures that he and his government have already implemented – or with more political rhetoric. How many new innovate social or economic consultative decision-making process are being initiated as a result of his Canadian tour? Perhaps, as his critics suggest, the entire endeavour was indeed just a public relations/damage control trip at tax payers expense following the aborted electoral reform process. If so, he, like Mr Trump, will face the electorate again in a few years.

    I suggest Mr Trudeau really listen to a few of his own words from his Hamburg speech:
    “Whether your goal is to build a successful company, or lead a respected and effective government, it’s time to realize that the old approaches don’t work anymore. Ladies and gentlemen, we can all play a role in making the transition to the new economy a smooth one. And it starts with listening.”

    Mr Trump is now President in the USA because he listened to the US Followers and the Democratic Leaders (and other Republican opponents) did not. Kevin O’Leary or Kellie Leitch could very well do the same in Canada at the next election in Canada if Mr Trudeau does not start to heed his own advice.

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