Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. - Warren Bennis
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. - Helen Keller
The political rhetoric is heating up in Alberta as the Province gets closer to its provincial election and as usual, social media is aflame with emotion-laced, data-less pleas by politicians and supporters promoting a message of “support my party or suffer doom from your ignorance”.
There are fascinating things I see in the discussions amongst the political minions when it comes to politics:
- Few of them understand the complexity of government and what it takes to run one even quasi-effectively.
- Few of them understand the plans of any of the parties that are running, including their own party.
- Few ask for data to back up political claims by any party, including their own party.
- There’s a lot of political Kool Aid being consumed. It has some interesting side effects, including making people wide-eyed and incapable of having reasonable, rational, fact-based conversations.
- Too many minions have very strong (translation: rabid) opinions despite lack of data or not being able to verify the data they have been provided with.
- Too few people understand this basic truth as expressed by Mark Twain: “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable”. Statistics may be “accurately expressed” but it may not be expressing a truth as interpreted / shared by the recipient (often done deliberately by the person delivering the original statistic). For example, if I earned $1 last year and $2 this year, my revenue is up 100% over last year. Sounds impressive until you realize I only earned an extra dollar.
- Few can define a truly measurable vision for their Province. PS – “lots of jobs”, “great healthcare” and “strong education” are not measurable – they are hopes and dreams. Ask them about their next vacation or even their new mobile device, however, and data flows freely and copiously.
- Practically all of them demand that politicians create a grand vision that bodes well for the minions in absence of a minion’s own definition.
- Minions, without any data and built entirely on emotion, simply know that their leader will guide them to salvation while all other leaders will guide them to hell.
- The amazing concept of how many people will vote for / against someone based on a single sound bite or a candidate’s appearance.
- The number of people who blindly vote for a party because they have always done it or because “it is their father’s party”.
- How many cowards find courage in anonymity on social media, discovering a voice of ignorance that feels encouraged to bash unfairly or spread misinformation / intimidation while hiding behind a nom de plume and a fake photo.
- The number of people who spoil a vote, cast a protest vote or don’t vote at all with the intent of “sending the system a message”. The only message it sends is that you don’t care if your voice is heard or not. In an interesting coincidence, many of those people are also the loudest complainers about their government.
- The number of politicians who get elected navigating / exploiting the nuances contained within the previous points.
It is human nature that we don’t take the time to really understand things around us unless it directly impacts us and while it is true that government does directly impact us, most of us don’t see it that way.
It is also true that government is very complex, being too complex for almost anyone living on the planet to understand, interpret, guide or predict and if we took the time to understand all the nuances, we wouldn’t have time for other trivial, mundane things … things like living our lives, earning an income, supporting families and all of those other unimportant things.
For this reason, most of us say “you go do your governing thing and leave me to do my thing and we’re all good …. well, until you disappoint me and don’t give me what I want or need.”
Then we get angry, we pay little measurable attention to what politicians offer us in their new definition of our future and then we repeat the process.
Einstein’s Law of Insanity comes to mind, doesn’t it?
Parallels in Life ….
Few of us build a business, design a home or even plan a vacation without knowing exactly where we are going, how we are getting there, how much it is going to cost, how long it will take and how we are going to pay for it.
And yet we allow politicians to do just that when they promote grand plans with nothing measurable in them.
Imagine going to the bank for a loan, telling them that you are going to build “a structure”, you don’t know how big it will be, what it will be used for or when it will be completed. You also remind them that at any time, you might tear down the structure and start all over or abandon it all together. Oh … and by the way … you don’t know how or if you will ever be able to pay off the loan. However, you remind the bank that the structure will be glorious in appearance, it will serve your needs well and will be a legacy for generations to come.
Try not to resist them too strongly as they escort you to the door.
The Bottom Line
Before we get all upset with politicians who exceed the bar in rhetoric but don’t meet the bar in reality, we need to ask ourselves this question:
What measurable vision do WE see for our Province?
If we can’t define a vision ourselves, how can we expect someone else to define one that we like and even if it is one that we like, how can we be sure that they are delivering on the vision instead of delivering a mere dream (or a nightmare)?
We don’t set out on a journey (or allow someone else to take us on one) unless we know where we are going or where we are being taken.
The same should apply to politicians.
Because if we don’t know or care where we are going or how we are getting there, doesn’t it seem a little insane to expect that a complete stranger has the interest, intention and capability to guide or take us there?
Otherwise, we run the risk of proving the lesson that Alice learned:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat.
“I don’t care much where ….”, said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”, said the Cat.
“…. so long as I get somewhere”, Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that”, said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Do you care where you are going or where you are being carried?
Are you sure?
How do you know ?
What are you doing about it?
Because if you choose to do nothing or you choose to make uninformed decisions, I think you receive the government that you deserve and you therefore have no right to complain about it.
What do you think about that?
In service and servanthood,
Addendum – Alberta PC Party Goes Down In Defeat - May 6, 2015
Former Premier Prentice guided to the PC Party to a crushing defeat in the Alberta election on May 5, 2015. Those of us in the PC Party who warned the leadership about the importance of being honest with citizens, about being respectful and to use data instead of fear mongering were told to mind our own business.
I guess a few voters felt the same way also and made it their business to tell the PC Party what they thought of them.
To know the difference between confidence and arrogance is to walk the fine line between great results and embarrassment.
The PC Party just learned the difference.