Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leadership–When the Rules Don’t Apply To Us

** See below the original post for important updates to this blog , particularly the revision from the Canadian Press.**

I was in a business establishment this morning and and observed an event that started out as curious (almost humorous) but could have ended up being more more serious.

An individual parked a very long pickup truck / trailer combination in front of the business and went inside.  I guess he assumed that the “No Parking – Fire Lane” signs that he parked in front of didn’t apply to him.

A customer inside the business establishment watched the driver enter, shook his head with an obvious sign of agitation and then got up and went out to the vehicle (which was still running).

He entered the vehicle, put it in gear and pulled it ahead to the parking lot and got out.

Meanwhile, the returning driver saw his truck moving and ran over to the other person, cursing and swearing profusely.

While I won’t repeat the profanity laced argument that ensued before the driver got in his vehicle and drove away, it could best be summarized as this:

Driver: You have no right to move my vehicle. That is theft and is against the law.

Customer: You have no right parking a vehicle in a fire lane and so I moved it.

Driver: That has nothing to do with anything. Driving my truck is theft of private party.

The argument went on for about five minutes and just as I realized that a call to 911 might be warranted to prevent a violent act, the driver drove off.

While the customer who moved the truck may not have been in the right by taking the law into his own hands in moving the vehicle, the driver did not see how his actions were wrong either.

Meanwhile on a more serious level

And then I thought of the devastating disaster in High River.  With the town under a mandatory evacuation order for flooding, Danielle Smith, Official Leader of the Opposition of the Alberta Legislature, defied the order “in order to save pets”.

Some folks on Twitter called her on this ….



To which Ms. Smith replied ….


Just as the driver of the vehicle in the incident that I observed believed he was above the law for his own reasons, it appears that Ms. Smith, a senior politician, was also able to rationalize how she was above the law.

It wouldn’t have been so funny if suddenly she were in danger and first responders had to put their Life on the line in order to rescue her.

It also wouldn’t have been so funny if hundreds or thousands of residents of High River had followed her lead and stayed behind, potentially turning a very bad situation into an even worse situation.

If Ms. Smith had been Premier, helping establish the laws of the province instead of breaking  them, I don’t think she would have been amused if someone else had defied the evacuation order.

Given that a leader is commonly defined as someone who influences others, we are all leaders in society, no matter how wide or deep we believe our influence to be.

As a result of this, we need to make sure that our actions are commensurate with what others expect of us and what we expect others may do as a result of observing our actions.

Otherwise, the leadership we are exhibiting may fall far short of what others need and expect of us or it may create a world of trouble for others.

When it comes to leadership, challenging times don’t change or form our leadership abilities – they reveal them.

In service and servanthood,



It is not my interest to make “political hay” in the middle of a disaster.  However, Ms. Smith has chosen to transform this event into an opportunity for personal political gain by criticizing others and therefore also opens the door to being critiqued.

During difficult times as Alberta is experiencing right now, we count on people to follow the guidance and direction of those who are in charge of our safety.  It is not the time to challenge those directives, especially when someone challenging those directives is a member of the provincial legislative body that is issuing those directives in the first place.

After all, when Ms. Smith demands on June 25th that people be allowed to return to High River as she does here and she complains about how the government in Edmonton is covertly determining the future of High River residents as she does here (comments made without respect for the importance of due process) she is not helping restore order. 

The Town of High River announced on June 26th that High River is too dangerous to enter and the announcement below shows that a mandatory evacuation order still exists as of the time this blog was posted.


What is also fascinating is how she is demanding that some residents be allowed to return to High River while at the same time, she is retweeting (as noted in the Twitter capture earlier in this blog) the AB Emergency Alert that asks all people to stay out of High River.

I guess that’s what’s called “covering your bases”. :-)

Due process exists for the safety of all residents and has few if any shortcuts.

It could be posited that Ms. Smith is whipping up frustration and hysteria instead – actions which serve her needs but not the needs of the people of High River.

What kind of leader who claims to serve the people does this?

Addendum 2 – June 26, 2013

I have been contacted by Wildrose Party officials who have offered to provide me with information that will, according to those officials, clarify specific items referenced in this post.  If and when I receive such information, I will review it and take appropriate actions if warranted.

Addendum 3 – June 28th, 2013 – Canadian Press Revision

I reached out to the Canadian Press directly to ask them about their reports that Ms. Smith was in High River in violation of the mandatory evacuation order (information that myself and others in part based our observations on).  They offered this clarification to correct their original reporting:

“The Canadian Press sent by email Thursday to online clients a full version of the original story, with the appropriate changes made to take out the incorrect information.


She was actually in High River for four days after the flood helping rescue pets. She worked through the emergency operations centre under a pass that let her come and go from the community”

In addition to the incorrect reporting by the Canadian Press initially, this confusion would have been defused quickly if Ms. Smith, when queried about allegedly violating evacuation orders, had replied that she was in High River with permission instead of insulting people by saying things like “you obviously don’t have pets”.  To provide clarification days after the event is too late to have avoided the initial confusion and reflects poorly on the Opposition Leader’s communication skills.  It wasn’t  a question of not having the time since she had plenty of time to tweet pictures of people’s pets.  Communication in regards to this event and the choices she made as to what she communicated come down to a question of priorities and not time availability.

This is what happens when someone is used to communicating for incendiary purposes and not for the purposes of clarity.  For this reason, the blog remains as a warning of the confusion that ensues when leaders don’t communicate well (for whatever reason).

Tweets exchanges like this ….


and this ….


in regards to the firearms seized by RCMP are also poorly worded, not defusing the anger regarding incidents as described here where some residents compared the RCMP actions with Nazi Germany.

A more appropriate wording would have been along the lines of “I’m sure the RCMP did what they thought was the right thing to do at the moment and we will endeavor to have firearms returned to their owners as soon as possible.  There are many important things that need to be prioritized at this time.” 

Even the Premier has expressed concern about how this incident is being blown out of context in comparison to more important things that need to be addressed.

Ms. Smith has a considerable ways to go in order to create calm in a population desperate for it.

High River has begun the process of allowing people back in their homes.  Clarity, collaboration, communication and community spirit will carry them through a difficult time.  Better days lay ahead for the wonderful people of High River.


  1. It has become a common understanding in our society that the rules or laws only apply to those who choose to follow them. The actions you describe are strong warning signs to all. When it really counts we may not be able to count on any of the laws being followed. Leadership now is paramount when it comes to setting the example for those who follow.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, Kathleen.

    I agree 100% - interesting times lay before us, creating a great need for strong leaders to step forward.