Saturday, March 22, 2014

Politicians, Diapers and Why We Need To Change Both

I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live. - Socrates

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word. - Charles de Gaulle

Politcians and Diapers

As the dust settles from Premier Redford’s resignation this week, I wish people would stop acting surprised, stop blaming it on misguided misogyny (Danielle Smith and Donna Kennedy-Glans are still women the last time I checked) and not cry as Mayor Nenshi almost did when he talked about how allegedly good people were allegedly being cut down by the system.

Premier Redford, despite her sharp mental acuity and her articulate eloquence, enjoyed living a Life of luxury on the back of her taxpayers and saw nothing wrong with it.  Former Premier Dunderdale’s quick demise in Newfoundland should also have served as a warning about the dangers of indifference but sometimes ego gets in the way of learning opportunities and we miss them. When a Premier acts more like Marie Antoinette than a humble servant leader, there’s bound to be trouble.

Unless …….. your communications team knows how to paint you to the contrary!

Unfortunately, as the leader goes, so go their minions and the Premier’s communications team in their questionable competence chose to spend a fair chunk of their time taunting, insulting and arguing with people on platforms such as Twitter rather than focusing on demonstrating why the Premier was the right choice for Alberta. The Premier’s actions seemingly demonstrated qualities of indifference, apathy or elitism (whether accurate or not) and her communications team reinforced this message.

Watching interim Premier Hancock taunt the opposition on Thursday about how the PCs always win every election or Sandra Jansen (Associate Minister of Family & Community Safety) not know how to apologize for an insult she made against trades people tells me that the PC Party of Alberta still has much to learn about managing public optics.

And while bravado and machismo can be perceived as confidence, too much of it smells more like the contents of a diaper and if not changed quickly, will make people feel sick and need to leave the room.

A Different Type of Politician is Needed

I was listening to Bill Barry this week as he explained why he was running for the leadership of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and it struck me that this is the type of leader we need in the 21st century, specifically one who:

  • is smart
  • is passionate
  • is humble (but not a doormat)
  • is capable of making tough decisions when they need to be made
  • calls it the way he sees it
  • is not afraid of tackling the “political hot potatoes”
  • is capable of working with others, including those who are not an official part of “his team”
  • can speak to the people using a message that they can identify with.

People like former Premier Danny Williams have announced that they cannot support such a candidate and I can see why. It’s because people like Bill Barry represent the type of people we need to lead our world through challenging times and towards the potential that we are capable of producing.

In other words, someone who is atypical to what we are used to seeing in a politician and in fact, someone who represents a threat to the traditional political system.

The Bottom Line

Politics is a difficult and often thankless vocation and I am grateful for the many who make personal and professional sacrifices in order to serve others.  There are some great servant leaders out there in the political sphere and we must be careful not to dismiss all politicians as selfish, incompetent or in politics for their own gain.

However, like the Canadian Spa For the Elite (I mean the Canadian Senate), it seems that the higher some people get in the system, the more distance is placed between them and the voter and eventually the voter is lost somewhere beneath the clouds.

Elitism - Despair.Com

Service at the top is meant to be the ultimate servant leader role, guiding us through the challenges and opportunities before us.  It should not be perceived as a reward for someone who knew how to play “king of the mountain” the best (or a reward for the few who helped them up to the summit) while simultaneously forgetting that they exist to serve the masses.

As the PC Parties of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador choose their next leaders respectively, they need to remember one thing.

While it may serve their short-term needs to put someone in power who creates benefits for themselves, putting someone in power who benefits the people and who resonates with the people will serve everyone’s long-term needs.

Otherwise, they might think they’ve pulled the wool over the eyes of the voter but in fact, it smells more like a diaper and no matter how awesome the brand of the diaper, it still smells the same.

And when that happens, a change is inevitable.

In service and servanthood,


PS If the voter is not smart enough to see through what the typical politician sells them, then maybe we’re filling our own diaper.  If that happens, it’s a lot harder to complain about the politician and be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, some PC supporters have asked me to take some of my recent posts down.  Maybe they are getting free consulting advice and they just don’t realize it.  Ahhhh ….. the disabling effect of the ego. Smile

Addendum – Insight from Marc Doll

I was amused by and in full agreement with this astute observation from Marc.

Key when changing a diaper is to  ensure that the replacement isn't already soiled - Marc Doll

Addendum – Clarification of My Intention

It has been suggested by some that my post was meant as a call to punish those who are successful or those who have made it to the top.  As a long time Fortune 25 and Wall St. strategy guy, far be it from me to even suggest that we should punish those who, through intelligence, hard work, determination and a little luck, have become successful.

People who are successful have every right to enjoy the harvest of their efforts.

However, if one strives to make their way to the top of the public service mountain, it is critical that they remember that they are at the top to serve and not merely to harvest for personal gain or through their actions, imply that they are there merely to harvest for themselves. 

It is, after all, called public service for a reason.

And therein lies a significant difference.

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