Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is George Read What Albertans Are Looking For in Their Next Leader?

Have the personal qualities and capabilities Albertans want to see in their political leaders changed in 5 years? When political leadership was not an issue in Alberta, way back in May 2003, Cambridge Strategies did a survey of the preference drivers of Albertans on the “next leader.”

We asked Albertans about their preferences in the following areas:

Preparation – what kind of experience should he/she have?
Vision – where did we want them to focus Alberta’s future?
Education – how much education was needed to do the job?
Personal Qualities – which kind of character qualities were preferred?
Communications Skills – What communications skills and approach was preferred?
Change Agent – what approach to change should the next leader undertake?

We found some attributes to be positive as strengths to build on. Others were negatives that candidates should avoid or fix if they fit the personal profile of any Alberta leadership aspirant.

So here is what Albertans said then was the most desirable/optimal kind of leader. They must have life and business experience with a minimum of a university degree. They should be advancing new ideas and be able to bring clarity to complex issues. They had to exhibit integrity and honesty or be experienced and knowledgeable. Their vision for Alberta has to be expansive and focused on Alberta future in a world view, or at the very least, Alberta’s role in Canada.

Albertans were looking for a fresh approach to leadership in those days. Not much has changed I would say. The optimistic Albertan wanted more of Alberta’s potential to be realized. They were keen to have a leader who advanced new ideas and supported them but not one who was seen as content to follow the lead of others.

The pessimistic Albertans want the focus on solving our problems first. They worried about Alberta’s place in Canada, they wanted someone with knowledge and experience and good a listening and understanding issues. But who would also put out new ideas and champion causes.

The least optimal/negative attributes for leadership in Alberta was a leader who focused on Alberta, had only a high school education, is “media savvy” and is assertive and self confident. Looks like Ralph Klein would not win if the voter decisions were based solely on these negative perceptions of leadership. Elections have a life of their own and while PC supporter stayed home and other left for the Alliance, Ralph won again in Novemver 2004, but he dropped quite a few seats that election and the party sent him off to retirement in April of 2006.

A word of caution to today’s Alberta Liberal leader, Dr. Taft, an academic background was a big negative for leadership. It could be worse Kevin; the other preparation negative was a legal background. Good thing you didn’t teach law while at the University.

One overlooked leader who fits this set of leadership attributes bill pretty well today is George Read of the Albert Green Party. For education; he has a PoliSci degree, Preparation; business experience working in the furniture manufacturing business and as a tree planter as a summer job while going to school so he knows something about the forestry industry. As for Alberta role in Canada, well he was the National Campaign Manager for the federal Greens in the 2005-06 federal election. As for championing new ideas, how about his work with the Environmentally Responsible Livestock Operators and the Western Sky Land Trust for innovations.

All in all not a bad fit. Too bad he is not part of the debate tonight so Albertans could look him in the eye and judge for themselves his personal qualities of honesty and integrity. we could see for ourselves just how he exercises his communications skills and works under pressure. But that opportunity will not be available to Albertans in this debate tonight and that is a Pity!