A lesson in (poor) leadership

Often, I do not have to look further than the newspaper for stories of strong and poor leadership. Today’s multiple stories of Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips travelling to the Caribbean island of St Barts for vacation is one such example.

While this article involves political leadership, and therefore will raise partisan emotions, it is not meant to be political. Rather, it is about leadership.

There is an old business adage that says that the acid test to keep an executive from making a bad decision is whether the executive would want the story published on the front page of a national newspaper. If not, don’t do it. It is unfortunate that Mr. Phillips did not recall that story before he decided to continue with his plans to leave for St Barts.

The job of a leader is to lead from the front, by example. These actions inspire people to follow. Unfortunately, at a time when his and other governments were pleading with citizens not to travel, specifically not internationally, and to stay home within their bubble, Mr. Phillip apparently chose to do the opposite.

The currency of leadership is “Trust”. While some will follow a leader because they must, the strongest bonds of leadership are forged from trust. Then people follow because they want to. By choosing to put his personal needs ahead of his followers, Mr. Phillips may have broken this”Trust” and called his own decision-making and judgement into question.

Perhaps worse, if the news reports are accurate, it appears he or his staff used his twitter postings to create the impression that he was still in Ontario. As many politicians and others have learned the hard way, the cover-up is often worst than the event itself. This further impacts people’s ability to trust a leader. While a lapse of judgement may be forgivable, attempts to deceive are not. Once trust is broken, how can you ever trust a person to tell you the truth again?

The decisions and actions of leaders are always under scrutiny and unfortunately, one wrong one can reverse a lifetime of accomplishments.Trust is earned, fragile and must be guarded.

So next time you are faced with a tough decision, would you want the story published on the front page of a national newspaper. If not, don’t do it.

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