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Leadership Lessons from Canadian Politics – #3 Be Strategic

November 5, 2015

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 #3 – Be Strategic

As you may have gathered if you read previous posts, I did not vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party. However, if day 1 is any indication of the kind of leader he is going to be, I will be pleased. While there were hints of his strategic insight during the election campaign, so many details of yesterday as he was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Canada were truly amazing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a selfie wih the crowds outside Rideau Hall after the Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a selfie wih the crowds outside Rideau Hall after the Cabinet’s swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Blair Gable

First, having indicated he would be available to the people, he and his wife, and the cabinet walked the road to Rideau Hall as they prepared to be sworn in. His children met him at the steps and you could see his “humanness” as they came running towards him and he carried his youngest daughter into the building with the older two children walking in front. After the swearing in ceremonies, he greeted people outside and took selfies… likely driving his security detail crazy. His point clearly made: I will lead Canada by being with Canadians.

Secondly, his cabinet appointments are so strategically masterful. Yes, there are 15 men and 15 women and as he appropriately said when asked why the “high” percentage of female ministers: Because its 2015, Yet the cabinet is also much smaller than many cabinets, also strategic in conveying we will govern “small” and not let government became so big that we are inefficient. Additionally, Trudeau realizes you can only bring so many rookies on a team, and there are already many (18). Of course, diversity in other ways (eg. ethnicity) was also important to the strategic-thinking Trudeau. Just as the Liberal party was elected by winning at least one seat in every province, so the cabinet reflects that across the country perspective with a cabinet member from every province except the Yukon and NorthWest Territory.

Specifically, when you promise to increase taxes for the top 1% of people, appoint the multi-millionaire Bill Morneau as the finance minister. Then, when he is communicating the bad news to his “rich” friends, he feels the pain too.

When you promise to have an inquiry into the murder of Aboriginal women, who better to serve as Justice Minister than Jody Wilson-Raybould, the first female Aboriginal woman to serve in the position.

Next, Trudeau picks a family doctor, Jane Philpott, to serve as Minister of Health (seems obvious).

Who will be your Defence Minister, a key person in working with the Canadian Forces? How about Lieutenant-Colonel Harjit Singh Sajjan, a decorated military leader who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan? Smart guy, this Justin Trudeau.

PM Trudeau did not just choose rookies. In fact, he made good choices in regards to his “veterans,” putting many of them in significant roles. John McCallum takes the role of Refugees, Immigration & Citizenship Minister, a key position when you have promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. Ralph Goodale becomes the Minister of Public Safety. Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion takes the Foreign Affairs portfolio, a significant role when you have highly criticized the previous government’s foreign affairs, especially in regards to ISIS. Another veteran, Carolyn Bennett, takes the role of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, one that is certain to be watched. Scott Brison is Minister of the Treasury Board. Trudeau promised to usher in a new era of collaboration with the provinces and so he personally takes responsibility for intergovernmental affairs and youth.

From a leadership perspective, it was amazing to watch our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau at work on his opening day. He seems to understand the importance of strategic leadership and putting the right people in the right place so they together have the best chance of success. Well Done!

See the previous two posts in this series:

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