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Leadership Lessons from Canada’s Election – #2 Speak Hope

October 28, 2015

Although by no stretch of the imagination does this writer claim to have political insight. Nonetheless, over the course of the next few weeks, I will try to post a few musings on leadership lessons from the recent Canadian election which resulted in the Liberal Party of Canada under Justin Trudeau winning a majority government over Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. The New Democratic Party, under Tom Mulcair, went from a strong “opposition party” (#2) to a weak third spot.

Leadership Lesson #2 – Speak Hope

Perhaps the most disappointing element of the Canadian election was the terrifying furor with which each party spoke about the others. This made the 78 day long campaign seem all the more agonizing and annoying. As many people pointed out on social media, children would not be allowed to speak or behave the way party leaders did, yet it appeared “acceptable” for politicians for more than two months.

Though I do not believe it was the only reason Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party of Canada won the election, he was the leader who was the least negative and spoke with a (mild) voice of optimism. No, I don’t believe he won because he offered “real change.” I actually think Tom Mulcair’s NDP party would have offered a more dramatic change (though not for the better). PM Harper and the Conservative party started the election presenting Trudeau as “not ready yet” and their Liberal/Trudeau and NDP/Mulcair bashing through commercials got progressively worse. The NDP and Liberal parties did their share of Conservative bashing too and the outlandish reports that appeared on social media were truly unbelievable… though apparently many did believe them. Yet Trudeau spoke with a measure of “positivity” and seemed to be the voice offering Canadians hope.

From my perspective, the Conservative party had significant positive things to speak about in light of their past 10 years in office. Yet they spent most of the time criticizing the opposition. In contrast, Trudeau spoke comparatively less and yet spoke about the future, positive opportunities, and conveyed an upbeat, forward-looking attitude. Yes, it will cost a lot of money and may look impossible (many of his ideas seem untenable), yet Trudeau spoke hopefully about Canada’s future… even if it may be wishful thinking. It also helps that Trudeau’s default look appears to be smiling, while Harper & Mulcair always seemed so formal & business-like. As with the last election where Jack Layton’s charisma carried the NDP to a record number of seats in parliament, Trudeau’s “youthful charm” may have bolstered the party’s success.

This is a leader’s job… whether in a business, a non-profit organization, or in the political realm. When situations seems to be caving in, or are least not moving forward, a true leader rallies the troops and speaks hope into team members. Yes, the leader needs to be honest about the realities, yet s/he does not need to share all the doom and gloom with everyone in the organization. There may have been mistakes made, costly mistakes, but the leaders needs to be the first person to get up off the mat and show people they will continue to work towards a brighter tomorrow. You need to be more than a manager. You need to be a leader, one who speaks hope for people.

See Leadership Lesson from Canada’s Election #1 here.

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