A real leader needs to think about who follows them
By Bruce A Stewart
Michael Ignatieff surfaced into media view this week to ruminate upon his time in politics. Whether he intended to or not, he showed us why leadership matters — and why we get so little of it.
A political leader these days is usually meant to be a saviour. We’ve centralized so much power in leader’s offices in the past forty years that the people around them matter less and less.
If the party’s in power, the leader is supposed to keep it there; if the party’s not in power, the leader’s job is to get them there. Nothing else matters but whether or not one horse can pull the whole enterprise along.
Isn’t this just the cult of the CEO from the business press written in our politics?
When I look at a leader, the first question I want answered is “how are you doing at developing successors”?
A real leader — even before they get to hold the keys to the kingdom — needs to be thinking about who follows them. That’s not who they’re planning to annoint. A field of eight candidates any of whom is obviously capable of replacing the current leader would be a decent talent pool that had been developed.
Ignatieff didn’t inherit a Liberal Party overflowing with leaders developed by Chrétien, Martin or Dion. (Rae still doesn’t have one.)
Who amongst the Conservatives jumps to mind to replace Harper? Odds are you can only come up with one or two names at best, and those probably reflect your own views on what matters: the person who might say MacKay or Moore isn’t likely to be the one who says Kenney or van Loan, nor the one who’d say Baird, or Bérnier.
The NDP field contending to replace Jack Layton is perhaps slightly more promising. I think only one of them can actually make an excellent Opposition Leader and potential Prime Minister, and that’s Mulcair. More important, I think he sees the need to grow a generation of replacements to follow him. We’ll see who gets the job and what happens.
The Greens have been systematically turned into a one woman show as May has done her best to impose herself on any potential successors. The Bloc demonstrates how much succession was ignored by Duceppe.
The years ahead are going to be traumatic. Global financial crisis, wave two, is threatening. Global power is shifting. We have debts galore and demands for spending on infrastructure, pensions and health care to worry through.
It seems to me that we need to be putting leaders with an eye on growing more leaders into power.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blog Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right (jumpleftstepright.wordpress.com) and for his daily stream of snarky comments on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.