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Leadership and learning go hand in hand



Leadership is a tricky thing.

Too heavy handed and the criticisms abound, too uncertain and more barbs will be thrown.

Good leadership is instead a measure of many types of skills not least of which is a leader's ability to actually lead.

As Whistler heads into an election Saturday and then into the days beyond with a new or newly elected-mayor and council the qualities of a good leader should be front and centre for the town's residents.

For weeks if not months we have discussed election issues such as transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. There has also been much debate on the more pointed issues of the asphalt plant - who was concerned about what when - and pay parking to name but two.

It is, of course, central to the election process to consider the issues that have affected and continue to affect Whistler, but I would argue that it is just as important now to be looking ahead to who will be making future decisions.

Leadership has been much studied by academics, political pundits and business experts alike, and what has come to be understood is that the best leaders are a paradoxical mix of humility and arrogance.

One of the most interesting books on the subject is Jim Collin's Good to Great. He studied 1,435 large companies but found that only 11 moved from "good to great." Though hesitant at first to see the difference as leadership he and his research team found that the leaders of these very successful companies were often at the centre of the success.

"Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy - these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will," said Collins. "They are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar."

A common characteristic was their profound humility - and a tendency to use the pronoun "we," not "I."

This is not to be confused with a leader who has strong community goals at heart, but believes he or she is the only person who can achieve them.

But along with this was a toughness, almost a ruthlessness in pursuit of goals to make the organization better.

These are commonly understood characteristics of a good leader, but what about some of those less commonly thought about. How about integrity, curiosity, heart, empathy, humour and plain old good judgment?

There is always pressure to compromise and sometimes in government it is the right thing to do - a true leader will understand that others may have a better sense of the direction that should be taken.

While these are qualities that would be great to find in all our candidates the ability to listen to others is perhaps most important for the position of mayor. Promises to reverse decisions, for example, may not be that useful after Nov.19, when team politics will be the only way to actually get things done.

That is not to say that we are looking for leaders who will compromise their moral courage - we need politicians who stick to theirs beliefs though tempered by good judgement.

I'm not talking about judgment based necessarily just on intelligence either. It's more about learning from those around you and listening - it's about asking questions of people who are knowlegable on a subject and actively listening to the replies.

Recently it has been argued that true leadership may be dead because too many leaders have abused their positions and lost their moral bearings. We have seen that from the banking industry to government.

But author Jeremie Kubicek believes rather than leadership being dead it is the command and control style of leadership that doesn't work anymore.

"I realized that positive leadership occurs not by 'leading' others but rather by influencing them," he writes.

He believes that for a leader to exert influence on the lives of others they must give trust to become trustworthy, become credible, not just smart, be intentional in the influence, move away from self-preservation being a goal, and pursue relationships before opportunity.

A tall order you imagine? I believe many of the candidates have already displayed these types of qualities.

These, combined with experience, could make the difference between a successful council term moving through these challenging times and a council rife with conflict and frozen in its ability to move forward with decisions.

Spend some time looking at the candidates to see if they have what it takes to be good leaders and choose carefully, and as we move ahead after Saturday's election let's work together to make sure our community is cared for, stimulated and grown for success.



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