Leading the way 

Sea to Sky Leadership Grads 2005 put theory into practice

Depending on the things that keep you up at night, you may worry that the resource scarcity of most concern today is good farming land, or intact ecosystems, or potable water in Africa, or closer-to-home, your own diving-into-the-red bank account.

It may not have occurred to you that one of the scarcest resources in 21 st century democracies is good leadership, and that many of these other issues may be a derivative of that. (You’ll probably have to shoulder the blame for the state of your personal finances yourself.)

For William Roberts, Executive Director of the Whistler Forum, this scarcity of good leadership is a call to arms.

"Most survey and polling data asking people how much they trust leaders in various sectors show a precipitous decline in that trust, in almost every sector. There’s a real disconnect between citizens, and those leading them," he told Pique Newsmagazine, and the stats back him up.

Elections B.C. shows a declining number of voters exercising their most fundamental democratic right, since 1983, charting the decline of voting with a graph that looks like a slippery slide, dipping away towards a sandpit of apathy, silent protest and growing distrust.

Preliminary voter participation statistics from last month’s provincial election show that 45 per cent of the people who could vote, didn’t. Why not? These numbers align curiously with a stat from the Centre for Research and Information on Canada. Its January report, "Portraits of Canada 2004," noted that 52 per cent of Canadians claim to have little or no confidence in their political decision-makers. They trust their business and religious leaders more than their political leaders, which after Enron and the mission schools abuse revelations, is a staggering indictment against politicians.

At every level of government, people are complaining that they’re disillusioned, they don’t trust their representatives. Citizens become polarized, states are coloured in red or blue, ideology triumphs over dialogue.

Nothing new there. Race riots in Philadelphia in the wake of the Montgomery bus boycott, as Martin Luther King was becoming a national civil rights leader, prompted the development of a community leadership program there in 1959. This first program, Leadership Inc., spawned a smattering of similar programs throughout the United States, but it wasn’t until a 1969 plane crash in Atlanta, Georgia, that killed many of that town’s leaders, that the need to cultivate leaders, to train and develop them, rather than leaving their emergence and survival to chance, became apparent.

Today, the plane crash that launched 2,400 community leadership programs around the world has become a common scenario for corporate succession planning. Aspiring CEOs, managers and supervisors are increasingly asked to nominate their own successor, should they no longer hold their own post, ostensibly due to unforeseen tragedy, and not getting the steel-toed end of the boot. In-house myth from corporate giant General Electric gives authorial credit for the scenario to former CEO Reg Jones, who was often cited during his time in the hot-seat as the most outstanding CEO in America. When interviewing his potential replacements, Jones reportedly asked candidates who they would recommend as CEO, should they and Jones be killed simultaneously in a plane crash.


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