Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Kind of Leadership is Needed to Meet Alberta's Aspirations

I am thinking about the next stage coming in the development and growth of the Alberta Party and Alberta the province.  While there are many constituency organizations forming, new members joining and people coming out to learn more because they are curious about the Alberta Party, the next big thing is the leadership of this progressive political movement.  That is about to start getting going in the new year.

It caused me to think about the kind of leadership we need in a 21st century society and economy.  I had breakfast last week with an academic friend from Ontario who specializes in leadership and found out her most recent thinking.  Alberta has a great potential but we are not even close to realizing it with all the blessings and benefits we have.  One major reason for such under performance is the kind of political leaders we select.  We can't blame the leaders for this alone, after all we select and elect them as citizens and once the are chosen we belittle and bemoan them relentlessly instead of supporting them and making them clearly accountable.  That attitude of citizens has to change completely if we are going to improve the quality, character, scope and capacity of our political leaders.

I am involved with a group called Leadership Edmonton that has a counterpart called Leadership Calgary that takes a more adaptive holistic and systems approach to leadership training and development.  I think the kind of political leadership we need now is not the charismatic, or the business icon or the celebrity models.  They are simply not suited to the challenges we face.  To get a sense of what qualities, capacities and perspectives I will be looking for in the leader of the Alberta Party - and for any political party or other areas where leadership is critical is captured in the 10 minute video done by Leadership Calgary.  I have also added the short video by Leadership Edmonton that will give you further perspective on what pioneering leadership we need these days to go forward...not left or right.

The kind of leaders we need now have foresight and wide sight, can integrate ideas, be honest, accountable and transparent, be fiscally responsible and accept the duties and obligations of stewardship in many aspects of being human and our deep co-dependent relationship with nature and our natural capital.

As you rush to get the work done before Christmas, this 10 minutes of video will be an intriguing cultural creative break that will be worth your time.  It will raise your consciousness about leadership. It will focus your attention on what we need in competent skilled leaders.  I hope is will trigger your imagination and give you a meaningful framework to consider your choices for the leader of the Alberta Party in the next few months.

I hope it will assists you as you contemplate the strengths, opportunities, threats and barriers we will need in 21st century political leadership.  We need to look beyond the old rush to the bottom ideas of the Alberta Advantage.  We need to look a wealth to move beyond conspicuous consumption and towards a greater well being and happiness.  We need leaders who can inspire and assist us to define and deliver a new sense of integrity as we get on with a cultural change towards achieving our Alberta Aspirations.  It is not enough to target Alberta as being the best in the world.  We need to aspire to being the best for the world.


  1. Great stuff but they both miss the mark on the one quality that all leaders must have - the ability to inspire HOPE!

  2. Dieter Remppel7:33 pm

    When does the public finally wake up to the fact that the true "leaders" are the senior bureaucrats!

    Any political leader must have the strength, backbone and determination to stand up to the pressures of those with a different agenda.

    A true political leader puts in place individuals in decisive positions who support and further the leader's agenda. At this time more often than not it is just the opposite.

    My favourite quote from Dave Bronconnier when he first ran for mayor in Calgary in October 2001:

    "We have to stop Council being the official opposition and the administration being the government."

  3. Anonymous9:14 am

    Many of the qualities Ken describes here nostalgically reflect the image of a "political" leader committed to public service - unfortunately, since the birth of the Reform Party here in Alberta and the spread of it's anti-government message after Adscam - both Federal and Provincial politicians have become tainted. The corruption, bullying and nepotism of this 40-year-old PC Dynasty (one that Ken himself should know well, as he and others in this new Alberta Party are remnants of the Lougheed era) has never been exposed as it has in Saskatchewn, BC and Quebec - but the Reform Party has made Albertans perhaps the most cynical of all voters...with nearly half never bothering to vote at all.
    Leaders are chosen by their Parties, and as an Alberta Liberal I am confident and very impressed with the Leadership of Dr. David Swann. As only 1% of Albertans currently hold membership in ANY Party (or quasi-Party in this case); Kudos for Ken in raising the issue of Leadership for this new (very traditional PC originated) Alberta Party. Engaging their growing membership in Leadership recruitment as they set out on the often barren and disengaged political landscape in Alberta is the first of many steps ahead.

  4. Anon at 9:14 Thx for the comment. In my experience in instigating Reboot Alberta in the past year have a sense of a growing energy amongst citizens of Alberta to retake control of the political culture of the province. The last municipal election increased voter participation and the rejection of so many incumbents are early warning signs of that shift.

    The question is what is the alternative? There is a struggle going on to create the new narrative for the next Alberta. The PCs are seen to be tired and unimaginative. The WAP is too extreme and socially antiquated. The Liberals and NDP should be soaring in popularity but languish. That opens the door for a fresh set of faces with a fresh approach to politics. The Alberta Party aspires to start there but to deliver more policy substance not just a different style of politics.

    Much will depend on the qualities and capacities of the new leader to frame and deliver a new narrative for the next Alberta. Time will tell but early signs give reason to hope this can happen.

    A note about David Swann. I joined the Liberal Party to vote for his leadership and have never regretted the fact I did. He is a quality human being but for some inexplicable reason he and the Liberals are not resonating with enough Albertans to make them want to believe that they are the agents of change we want and need.

  5. J Wheatley10:07 pm

    We have to be careful when choosing a leader. They are different from a mentor. They are also different from a 'doer'. Their charisma is not trendy or flashy or pop-star (wonder which rockstar Harper will imitate next year?). Their charisma comes from having a a personal agenda that is fulfilled because they believe in a global agenda. The leader we need will be able to stand outside of their own bubble, and promote wholistic global decision making.

    Elected officials and government administrations suffer because once the top people get to their station they start going down their list of 'now that I am king' to do's. Jay Ramotar believed that schools could be prototyped and built like bridges. Bridges are meant to get from one side to the other. Schools get people from one side to all the other sides. They have to be multifaceted, complex, responsive and adaptive. Any colour as long as it is black only worked for the model T. Jay rose to the top of the provincial administration and was able to force his narrow view of the world on the design of schools in the province - at a time when education is changing dramatically in a struggle to meet the diverse needs of learners that are wired and connected to the global ecology.

    How many of these leaders see their role as one of making a better world for the special interest groups that supported their climb (in Alberta these are primarily the resource based industries - sure they have needs, but these needs are focused on making money today while basically leaving the cost of the clean up for future generations)

    A leader is someone who can base decisions on true costs or accumulated costs not someone who follows an IBG / YBG (I'll be gone / you'll be gone) mentality. How much (or how little) is being left to actually sustain life on this planet when there are no more hidden resources or new frontiers left to exploit (which by the way is now).

    We also tend to measure a leaders worth by responses to complex problems. We need to understand their basic or level one reactions - (where can we all agree on a direction?). If the ultimate goal is one of creating a sustainable world (a level one concern)(or maybe it is equity, or justice) then (for instance) a question of higher taxes becomes non-debatable since there are no free rides once we have spent all of the resources and laid bare all the frontiers. We have to start paying the true cost of our lifestyles. In July and August when the Bow River flow is too low to sustain aquatic life past Carseland, any decision on water meters for houses in Calgary (or the cost of water for those households that still do not have water meters), or irrigation for all the pretty golf-green lawns and landscaped yards (as currently required by all municipalities in the Bow River watershed) again becomes obvious.

    Ken's paragraph:

    The kind of leaders we need now have foresight and wide sight, can integrate ideas, be honest, accountable and transparent, be fiscally responsible and accept the duties and obligations of stewardship in many aspects of being human and our deep co-dependent relationship with nature and our natural capital.

    is a good descriptor as long as you get past the old way of thinking about these qualities and start to apply a global understanding. remember you can't solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem.

  6. Thx for the comment J Wheatley but I don't think Jay Ramotar is as you describe him. I know Jay and while there are some economies in standard design schools, I don't think that he was the push behind that approach. The former inept Minister Ron Liepert is the genius behind that single minded, simple minded approach.

  7. Anonymous8:02 pm

    Interesting thinking here. But a leader should be able to lead the people in the direction where the problems we face are and then listen to the people's views, and then with his team of MLA's set out the course of action that should be taken as expressed by the people, Now sometimes people have to be showen the folly of some action's and this is where a good leader show's thier ability to lead.
    We have to stop looking at the Liberals and PC's as they are old school politics aqnd both in my opinion have leaders that lack the skills the Alberta Party is looking for,one with a new vision of how politics should be done in Alberta, one that makes big buisness pay its fair share to the Province and help's small ones grow and leads the way in renewable energy as apposed to the status quo. Stops throwing money at health care and work with the parties involved into making it work better with what we have and look at our schooling and ensure that any one with the marks for entrance can go to university with out racking up a life time of debt.

  8. J Wheatley10:32 pm

    Ken, it may have been Liepert instead of Jay, but remember in some cases the upper administration are chosen because their thinking is similar to the minister they work for. Also the executioner is not always innocent. Liepert is a better demonstration of the tendency of people at the top changing something to suit the interests of those who put them into power (these are not the electors) and ignoring the interests of the stakeholders consulted.

    Unfortunately until taxpayers pay substantially more into provincial coffers than the resource industries, politicians will always pay more attention to the resource industries. Sort of a variation of a petro-dictatorship. Resource industries leave an expensive legacy for future generations to clean up.

    Our new leaders will have to be aware of all the hidden costs in the practices of these industries, not be afraid to call their bluff and be able to demonstrate these costs to the public to justify the appropriate policies, royalties and taxes.