When a Leader Misses the Mark

June 18, 2014

"If you live in Ontario you know we've just gone through a provincial election. You'll also know that for the vast majority, the results were shocking, even for the winners. Now, as a church leader, I am cautious when it comes to addressing matters related to politics. But after thinking long and hard I decided to get this off my chest and let the chips fall where they may. Regardless of your political leanings, I believe there were some incredible lessons we all can learn. Before I go any further, I want to restate this clearly. It doesn't matter what political party or philosophy you align yourself with, the lessons I want to discuss are applicable regardless. I want to highlight a few missteps by Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives. It was incredibly painful, at least for me, to watch the campaign they presented. Again, its the leadership lessons I want to focus on, not a statement of the politics or the election outcome. So, here is what I thought were critical leadership mistakes from my perspective: Leading Sometimes Means Just Being Present I personally find it remarkable, given the Liberal record, that Hudak and the Conservatives didn't just allow them to implode on themselves. All the Conservatives really had to do was practice the two ""S's"": Show Up and Shut Up! What the province needed to see was a cohesive, confident, and stable leadership as a stark contrast to the Liberals and their abyssmal record. It was hard to imagine that smart conservatives got into a room and devised a platform of cutting jobs. That just added to the chaos. What were they thinking?? Which leads to my next point. Learn to Manage the Fear Factor Why would anyone devise a platform that would elevate the fear factor to a frenzy? Ever hear the adage, ""Better the devil you know than the devil you don't?"" That for me was the hinge issue in this election. Its what seemed to get all the negative traction. Tim Hudak didn't need to intentionally poke the proverbial bear in the cage. People became more fearful of a province run by Hudak than a province run by the Liberals who.....(sorry, but you can fill in the remainder of the sentence yourself). Never underestimate the power of fear. The Conservatives should have known they were in trouble when every major union took ads to counter the PC message. Really? Again, what were they thinking? Hudak became a leader who evoked more fear than he proposed to alleviate. Hard Pills are Rarely Swallowed Easily No one will deny that Ontario is in trouble. In fact, the irony of all this is that the Liberals will likely be forced to impose some, if not all of the harsh measures the Conservatives were selling. But Hudak's most critical mistake was this: A credible negative message (slash 100,000 jobs), will always get more traction than an unproved, unrealistic positive message (create a million jobs). What most voters realized is the potential of losing their jobs was far more credible than the plan for creating more. When the negative part of your platform has more credibility than the positive part the fallout is almost guaranteed. Rather than focus exclusively on a province building initiative that inspired hope and prosperity, the message heard loudest was one of slash and burn. In my estimation, the Liberals did not win this election, but were given it by the failure of the Conservatives to demonstrate realistic leadership and solid decision making. Especially when they were literally being handed the province on a silver platter! I think that for many, they felt that if the Conservatives couldn't make prudent decisions when the advantage was so clearly on their side, how could people be confident if they controlled the direction of the entire province. I've said many times that leadership is important, vitally important! Great leadership translates positively to so many areas of life. As a student of leaders, I was fascinated by this election, not just for the political platforms and the polls, but by the way the leaders presented themselves. From my perspective, the missteps of the Conservatives was painfully obvious, but sometimes as leaders, when you are in the midst of the fight, its difficult to see things clearly. Would love to hear your thoughts, especially about the leadership decisions that were learned from this election."


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