Thursday, January 9, 2014

Everyone Makes Mistakes–Leaders Learn From Them

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. - Bruce Lee

A man (or woman) must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. John C. Maxwell (I added “or woman”)

My blog Newfoundland–A Leadership Crisis, Not An Energy One, with my criticism of Premier Dunderdale’s handling of the electricity outage in Newfoundland, was hotly debated by a number of people in recent days with the vast majority agreeing with my musings.

A lot of people believe that my blog and similar musings prove that the final nail has been driven into her political coffin.

But I’m not so sure.

Few of us can claim that we have never made mistakes in our Life.  Some of us, including myself, have made some humdingers that we wish we could have taken back.  Most of us are fortunate that our worst mistakes have been mostly or completely kept out of the public eye.

But we move on, asking, pleading or demanding for forgiveness under the notion that we are only human and that we did the best we could with what we had at the time.

And now Premier Dunderdale has called for a full review of the decisions that led to the massive near Island-wide outage and the events that took place during and immediately after the event.

As a strategy guy and as a human being who has made mistakes, I offer this thought for consideration.

I posit that the people’s confidence in the electricity generation and distribution system of the Province could be restored IF the review’s terms of reference:

  • include full access to all information (including not being blocked by Bill 29 legislation)
  • include access to all required individuals, unhindered by the fear that their career is at risk for speaking transparently
  • have clearly defined measurable outcomes set out before the review begins
  • are fully transparent in execution
  • are acted upon with appropriate strategy, actionable items and measurable outcomes that survive the vetting process of “why” and “how do we know” for every action defined
  • provide a roadmap that illustrates that such incidents are unlikely to occur again and that the solution(s)can be measurably proven to be the best that is reasonably possible
  • are designed as a fact finder / strategy creator / problem solver and not as a finger pointer / political hammer / political “saviour”
  • are not a means of establishing a scapegoat who is willing to “take one for the team”
  • are conducted by verifiably credible, independent experts in the industry who can be proven to be outside circles of interference and conflict of interest.

If these conditions are not met, then the review is a political tool (or an exercise of the incompetent) and will be a waste of time and money.

Premier Dunderdale is making a significant roll of the political dice, with her personal credibility, her political future and the future of her party on the line.

As someone who has made mistakes, I am willing to hold off on an emotional assessment of her upcoming actions until the measurable result potential of the review can be established.

After all, it is the measurable results as defined within the review and the execution that follows that will show Newfoundland if its Premier is willing, able and capable of learning.

Such learning is what separates leader wannabes from true leaders.

I have been strongly critical of the Premier but as a fallible human being, I am willing to put emotion and political analysis aside to see what happens next.

How about you?

Besides, if we are unwilling to explore every option available to solve the problem or if we actively block exploration of such options, don’t we become part of the problem?

If she does well, learns from the experience and produces positive, measurable results, the people of Newfoundland win.

If she doesn’t do well, she will have sealed her fate as many believe she has already done.  In that case, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of the most passionate, politically-engaged groups of people on the planet.

Bottom Line – Fairness With a Warning

She deserves an opportunity to prove she is part of the solution and not part of the problem.  And besides, since she has almost two years left in her mandate, do the people have much choice at this point but to allow her to try?

But she better not take too long (with time and past performance not being her friend) otherwise she deserves what she gets, possibly and unfortunately damaging the future of the Province in the process.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Intentional Redundancy? - January 10, 2014

With the Premier and the Public Utilities Board both announcing separate, independent inquiries, I wonder what happens if they produce conflicting results.

Who would break the tie?

Who would have enough knowledge and context to know which action items would produce better results?

What happens if the Government uses the deadlock as justification for not taking action or for “needing to explore things further”?

The fun begins.

Addendum 2 – Premier Dunderdale Resigns – January 21, 2014

The press has announced that Premier Dunderdale will be announcing her resignation on January 22, 2014 and that Tom Marshall will be taking over as Interim Premier.  With public opinion significantly against her, this appears to be the only viable option available to her and she is taking it.

I am reminded of this blog post I wrote over three years ago when the previous leader, Premier Danny Williams, stepped down and I warned about the lack of strong leadership candidates to succeed him - Premier Williams and His Legacy.

Whether she was responsible personally for her political demise, she received poor advice or she failed to accept good advice, the world is not kind to leaders who appear to be weak as far as being strategic, tactical, fair, competent or empathetic is concerned.

I wonder whether history will be to Kathy Dunderdale.

As for her departure, it is unknown what is best for the Province – that a leader be burned, learn from the experience and come back better than ever or to go with an untried leader who, as an unknown, could be far better or far worse.  That’s why I think “celebration” regarding her departure is both unfair on a personal level and premature.


  1. Couldn't agree more mate. However the clock in ticking on her chance to communicate her unhappiness about the situation and what she and her party is going to do about it. The newfoundland memory is a long one for negativity and a short one for posative. Times ticking and she seriously needs a new communication dept.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Lee.

      I agree with you 100%. My musing is not support or endorsement for her and in fact it's a warning because, as you correctly point out, time is NOT her friend (and neither is past performance).

      However, I would rather take a chance on creating a solution rather than automatically be part of the problem and destroy any chance of finding a solution.

      Politics matter less to me ... what matters more to me is that Newfoundland get what it needs and DESERVES.

      That applies to electricity ... and leadership. :-)

      Your comment about her communication group is also right on. :-)

      Create a great day.