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Monday, October 29, 2007

What Political Leadership Qualities and Skills Do We Really Want and Need These Days?

I am intrigued by the Ipsos Reid poll of October 16th where 1001 Canadians gave Stephen Harper a 63% positive rating for “leadership qualities and skills” and they gave Dion a 36% positive rating on the same question. I wonder how many phone calls they made before 1001 people would answer. I wonder how many cell phone numbers were used to capture the opinions of younger citizens.

I wonder what criteria the poll participants had in mind and used for determining “leadership qualities and skill” when they were answering those questions. I wonder if they applied the same criteria to considering Dion as they did to Harper when they answered. How much of the value drivers behind the answers for each candidate were the same or different and why? Were Albertans using different criteria than Maritimers when they answered the questions?

The levels of "Don’t Know" response around Dion shows he is relatively unknown. One wonders how much of this is poll result driven by name recognition. Does it really give us any meaningful assessment of leadership qualities and skills of the various party leaders?

What are the criteria we should or could be applying to judge the leadership qualities and skill of political leaders like Harper, Dion and Layton? Should we vote mostly by "what is in it for me" in what the leaders are promising? Are we driven more by group interests of our community, town or special interests? Are we deciding based on altruism and how a leader reflects our own ideals and principles and how much we trust him? What are the value drivers in our choices around "identity politics?"

Do we like a dominant, assertive ambitious personality types and someone who likes conflict and aggression as our leader? Is a more inspiring and persuasive personality that will be more attractive to us as a leader? Do we find a leader who is of great character, with carefully considered and well thought out and clearly stated opinions to be more appealing? Are we keen on someone who is reflective and caring about citizen’s personal aspirations individually and for our country as well as giving good value for our tax dollars?

Are we at all attracted to leaders who are insightful, adaptive and wise with relevant knowledge, experience and one who is skilled at adaptive governing for our rapidly changing times? Or are we all about choosing a leaders who is pure hardball politics where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Are we attracted to party leaders where clever and sharp political players where power politics always trumps good governing?

Do we like leaders who see it all as a game where personal pride and power dominates the motivations. Do we seek out and choose a "win at any cost" kind of politician and do we see any other more collaborative and inclusive approaches to leadership as a weakness?

My guess is there a lot more going on in the minds of Canadians when they really sit down and evaluate the leadership qualities and skills of our political leaders. I think an ordinary opinion poll asking us to choose between a political “Coke or Pepsi” is not going to give us much useful information or insight. We need to look deeper into those larger and more meaningful questions about qualities and character and style issues around political leadership as we seriously consider granting our consent to be governed at the ballot box.

Citizens need to be considering bigger questions and seek a deeper understanding of what we want in our leaders as people and personalities and political decision makers. We need more definition and deliberation about leadership before we will get anything meaningful in the answers we would give to pollsters. This especially true around complex issues like what leadership qualities and skills do we really want and need and if either leader "X" or "Y" actually meets those needs.