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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.

Saturday 30 June 2012

Leadership: Do the Right Thing

Whether we like it or not, disasters are social affairs.  The people directly impacted feel the full brunt of an earthquake, a tornado, or a man-made disaster.  Lives are lost, livlihoods are destroyed, people are shaken to their very core.  In the face of disaster, one is justified in wondering how any individual can hope to carry the burden of loss moving forward. 

The people directly impacted face the worst, but the rest of us are reminded that we are just as vulnerable.  When someone gets shot in a public setting, we realize it could easily have been us.  When a mall roof collapses, we think, "my kids shop there."  The illness of another reminds us that we are all mortal.

In times of tragedy, whether ours or someone else's, we all feel a more vulnerable.  We tend to feel more giving, too - it's a genetic thing.  But how?  To who?  For those who have fallen, who amongst us will be there to extend a hand of support?

That's where leaders come in.  True leaders bring people together, reminds us we are not alone and helps us rise up, together.  No man is an island - true leaders bridge the gap. 

In our wired world, it can be hard to do the right thing without thinking of potential self-promotional opportunities.  Every negative or questionable thing leaders do gets dissected and broadcast on the big stage; it's hard to resist the temptation to cast light on the good stuff one does.  In fact, you might say it takes a certain degree of selflessness to do the right thing solely because it is the right thing.

Which brings me to the Highway of Heroes.  Does anyone remember the big, splashy event and after-shock releases that came with the announcement that Premier McGuinty was declaring a section of the 401 in honour of deceased Canadian veterans?  I'd be surprised if you did - there weren't any.

Despite the media-gains that could potentially have come from such an act, Premier McGuinty simply did it because it was the right thing to do.  While he doesn't always get this right, I'd have to say that Dalton McGuinty is the most consistent leader we have in terms of doing the right thing for no reason either than it's the right thing to do.

For all the stuff he does publicly that people either admire or despise, McGuinty is constantly doing the little things that inspire.  If you look on any social media outlet, you'll see the odd mention or picture of him pop up in places that aren't splashy, don't gain him any credit publicly, but are indicative of a man who truly cares.

Which brings me back to Elliot Lake.  In the face of such a horrific tragedy, the Premier had two responsibilities - to the people who suffered, to remind them they are not alone, but also to the people of Ontario, to make it clear that in times of crises, we are all in this together and that we will move forward, together.

In my opinion, McGuinty had to reach out to the families.  He had to speak to the community leaders and offer his support.  Those things didn't have to be publicized; we didn't necessarily need to know he had spoken to the families, only they needed to know their Premier cared.  When it comes to provincial solidarity and seeking responses to avoid future such tragedies, that does have to be public.  The whole province needs to know that someone is looking out for our long-term interests.

Sure, it's possible that best intentions will be misconstrued.  It's quite likely that opposing interests will hammer you in the worst manner possible, no matter what you do - though it doesn't have to be that way.

True leadership isn't about personal wins.  For a true leader, how they are viewed comes second; how their people fare always come first.  Which is why real leadership is a lonely business.

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