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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 30 August 2013

Loyalty Is Not Blind

"The reason they speak up is because they care about the institution and want to keep it."

Who do you think has been more loyal to Rob Ford - Mark Towhey or David Price?

I had a chat with a friend the other day about innovation and revolution.  She argued that the most powerful drive for change is anger; sometimes, she said, you just need to burn down failed institutions so that room is made for something to replace it.  Like many people these days, she also expressed a great deal of frustration at the myriad failings within our society.  We're not at the point of revolution quite yet, she said, but we could be.

Syria is; the same holds true for Egypt.  Competing interests and groups are duking it out for supremacy, or at least the right to be rid of the other.  The same principle applies to the notion of voting Political Parties out rather than voting them in; at both the federal and provincial (Ontario) level, Opposition Parties are lighting the kindling of controversy, trying to see which argument against will catch fire.  You could say that's what's happening within the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, too.

Of course, the dominant Party rarely goes down without a fight.  They close ranks, fix bayonets and deploy the drones.  It's a costly process that destroys lives and infrastructure in war and careers and policies when it's politics-as-usual.  Where the system isn't working, though,  it will inevitably fail; the only question is how long the collapse takes and how many casualties pile up along the way.

I disagreed with my friend; I suggested that it wasn't anger against, but commitment to that was the greatest driver of change.  Just as Adrian Verster decided to tackle bike accidents when a loved one was hurt and Alexander Graham Bell was motivated out of the desire to help loved ones who were deaf, it's those who choose to solve problems rather than fight them or walk away that tend to catalyze innovation.

 You have to truly believe in something to put yourself in the line of fire, either externally or internally.  As we'e seeing on numerous political fronts, a lot of backroom folk who never expected to be on display are demonstrating the limits of blind loyalty; when your leader stops leading, you have no choice but to find your own way.

Towing the line isn't loyalty.  Defending every action, whether appropriate or inappropriate isn't loyalty, either.  That's enabling.  Enablers fundamentally don't care about the person or organization they stand behind; they care about what that institution can do for them.

I would argue that David Price, from what little we've learned of him, is an enabler.  Mark Towhey, on the other hand, demonstrated true loyalty to that which Rob Ford is supposed to stand for.

For pointing out a problem and offering a solution, Towhey was punished.  Rob Ford wasn't ready for change.  By trying to enable the misdeeds of Senators and lord knows who else, a growing number of Harper Conservatives threw the substance of what Harper is supposed to stand for under the bus - and are paying for it.  For his part, Harper didn't want to see, didn't want to hear because he didn't want to be responsible.

There are similar stories of other institutions trying to step on "whistleblowers" rather than stamp out their own burning platforms.

A little advice for leaders, then - don't mistake enabling for loyalty and don't assume challenges to the status quo are an indication of stupidity.

It takes a bit of foresight to know the difference.

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