Dr. Dawg

A tale of two leaders

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The qualities that make a leader are much harder to define than the flaws that detract from leadership. But I was struck by the reaction to comments by widely-respected Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, after the second-last thumping the Sens got at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Alfredsson was asked if he thought the Senators could realistically come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Alfredsson considered the question for a second, and told reporters, “Probably not. I mean with their depth and power play right now, it doesn’t look too good for us.”

He went on:

When you look at what we did, it wasn’t good enough. Does that mean [Pittsburgh] was good? Did we make them good? Who really cares? From our point of view, we didn’t manage the puck [well], we didn’t execute our passes, and subsequently, we got punished in the neutral zone. We turned way too many pucks over and gave them some freebies. It would have been nice to have the lead for a little bit longer, but now we’re back on our heels again. We didn’t shut them down when it matters.

Alfredsson came in for a lot of criticism for that (while, on the other hand, he did have a couple of possibly surprising allies). Somehow it is expected by far too many that leaders should be cheerleaders, all rah-rah-rah and hold-that-tiger, no matter what the circumstances.

Instead, Alfredsson told the truth. He answered a question fully and honestly. It might not have been what Sens fans wanted to hear, but who could doubt a word of it?

Imagine, as John Lennon might have put it, if political leaders could just tell the truth in that blunt fashion? The whole truth? No predigested talking-points? Admit error, confess to lapses in judgement, be honest about harsh political winds, offer the public realistic assessments of challenges, and propose ways of dealing with them?

But that’s not the political culture we have, as the last two weeks have, I think, decisively shown.

What kind of leader has “full confidence” in his Chief of Staff on Thursday, and throws him under the bus the following Wednesday? Who can’t get his own timelines straight when he claimed that he knew nothing of Nigel Wright’s kindly $90,000 gift to the embattled Senator Duffy until he read about in the press?

What kind of leader is unaware of what senior officials are doing in his own office, if his professed ignorance is genuine? Who still ducks and weaves when it comes to accountability, blaming every one but himself for the mess, having his staff hustle reporters out of the room when they try to ask him questions about the scandal, then hopping on a plane to Peru?

Compare all that to the upfront, plain-spoken words of Daniel Alfredsson the other evening, and ask yourselves which person has the right stuff: which approach you would prefer to define the political culture of this country, if you had any say in the matter.

Remember the Conservatives’ “St├ęphane Dion is not a leader” slogan in 2008, mocking the then-chief of the Liberals? After the past few days, we can rightfully ask—What, Stephen Harper is? At this point, I’ll take the hockey guy, please.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on May 26, 2013 10:01 AM.

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