The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) is running another of its speakers series called “What is the next Big Question?”. The series first caught my eye when I received an email asking “Can we build a brain?” Much to my disappointment, not yet! This year, however, the series is being launched by asking “What makes a great leader?” As CIFAR says in its preamble,
“The truth is ... that the most effective leaders draw on a “we-based” collective identity – followers see their leader as “one of us.” It is group identity, not a single person, that makes or breaks the leader. In fact, to really understand what makes an effective leader, we also have to understand what makes a dedicated follower…
…better understanding of leadership is key to dealing with every major political, environmental and economic crisis in the world today.”
When I first read these words, I immediately took them to mean a leader who builds consensus. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized they could also mean a leader who conjures up enemies ... thereby creating an "us against them" culture ... to maintain cohesion in his or her group. So now I'm truly intrigued. Which is the better model, I wonder? Dr. Alex Haslam will no doubt provide further insights.
In the meantime, a poll studying the role of emotion in public policy purports to prove that Canadians prefer politicians who play “on the confluence of fear and an aging public” over those who are intelligent. Mr. Harper, like George W. Bush, is apparently considered “better” because he “never exudes a sense of ‘well, I could be wrong.’” If that’s the case, then I definitely want to hear more from Dr. Haslam … mostly about followers, in fact. Is there any cure? We can’t let Canada meander in fear until our young people grow old enough to take over.
Posted On Mar 18 02:01PM
This goes back to our inherent tribalism. As much as Western society is accused (and rightly so) of being hyper-individualistic, we still all have the need to be part of a tribe. Very primitive. So we call ourselves Calgarians or Torontonians. We are Newfoundlanders or Manitobans. We Canadian or Americans. And yes, our tribes are fluid and often overlap. So we can stop being British and become Canadian. We can stop cheering for the Flames and cheer for the Oilers instead (totally out of the realm of reality, I know). You get the picture. Those who can manipulate this tribalistic behaviour for their own ends will reap the benefits of communal support. Ah yes, but always remember: you reap what you sow....
Posted On Mar 18 09:26AM
Bush and Harper and their ilk know how to strategize to gain power by tailoring their message to those who actually vote. That's not leadership, that's a kind of gamesmanship.
That's why Obama was so refreshing (and still is, in my books). He continues to try and include folks who rarely get a say because they don't have money or power. Obama 'leads' by telling these people they do have power --they can make a difference -- and that their voices can and will be heard. That's not gamesmanship, that's leadership: empowering people to lead themselves.
Posted On Mar 18 09:19AM
People who establish and feed a group identity by excluding the other (the flip side of 'belonging') are not leaders. The question should be 'can we have a sense of identity-- a culture of 'we' to use the good doctor's language -- that is not, at its core, based on exclusion?' If someone can pull that off, then they are a truly great leader.
Clearly we are not there yet, so far as our political leaders are concerned.
Into all things politics, policy and parliamentary.