Jason Kenney: Servant Leader…what?

Now isn’t this a conundrum…

The impetus to unite the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservative parties was the assumption that only a united conservative party could beat the NDP in the next election.

The two parties united and now the polls are showing that any one of the UCP leadership candidates, Jason Kenney, Brian Jean, Doug Schweitzer or the I’m-still-thinking-about-it candidate Derek Fildebrandt, could lead the UCP to victory.

So how will the UCP members decide which one to pick.  They can’t compare the candidates’ policies because one of the candidates, Jason Kenney, refuses to provide specific policy commitments and budget numbers (he says to do so now “lacks credibility”).

He intends to differentiate himself from the others by his leadership style.  He calls it “servant leadership, a leadership characterized more by humility than arrogance.”  He is careful to point out that servant leadership isn’t just “a foil to avoid talking and expressing my own views.”


Jason Kenney, Servant Leader Candidate

Okey dokey, let’s see how Mr Kenney stacks up as a servant leader.

Servant leadership

Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” in 1970.

Greenleaf developed the concept after reading Herman Hesse’s book Journey to the East in which a group of travellers fail to reach their destination when their servant, Leo, disappears.  Years later they discover Leo wasn’t a servant but a servant leader without whom the group could not function.

Greenleaf’s concept is based on the theory of “contemporary prophesy”.  He believes “prophetic voices of great clarity…and insight are speaking cogently all of the time” pointing the way to a better life.  “Seekers” respond to such prophets and make them their leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants.

Greenleaf gives examples of a good servant leader:

  • A servant leader is not preoccupied with criticism; Greenleaf says it’s sterile and harmful to the servant leadership movement. Kenney doesn’t miss an opportunity to criticize Notley’s policies arguing she’s destroyed the Alberta Advantage by raising taxes and creating policies that align with Trudeau’s climate change policies.    
  • When faced with a problem, a servant leader doesn’t pin the blame on someone else, he listens carefully to find a solution. Oil commodity prices are hovering at $50 a barrel.  Oil majors like Shell anticipate “lower forever” oil prices.  Kenney blames Notley for making Alberta’s economy worse but never explains how he will make it better in a “lower forever” world. 
  • A servant leader always accepts and empathizes, he never rejects. Four words:  gay straight alliances and niqab. 
  • A servant leader must sense the unknowable, foresee the unforeseeable, and bridge the information gap with intuition and foresight. It’s an ethical failure if he fails to take steps today to address problems that are foreseeable in the future.  Kenney says climate change has been happening since the dawn of time.  He promises to dismantle everything the NDP has done to mitigate climate change and offers nothing as an alternative.               
  • A servant leader is self aware and composed in times of stress. Kenney called a university professor a communist because the professor asked a question Kenney didn’t want to answer at a town hall meeting.           
  • Servant leaders provide conceptual leadership. Kenney has shown no Big Picture thinking and attacks anyone who suggests it’s time to shift from a resource based economy to value-added and diversified economy. 

Greenleaf says there’s no accurate way to distinguish a true servant leader from a false one, and suggests we look to examples from literature—Mac Murphy and the nurse in One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest—to help us identify leaders who build people up and make them stronger versus leaders who are “strong, able, dedicated, dominating, authority-ridden, manipulative, exploitative” who ultimately diminish and destroy others.


Does Jason Kenney really believe this stuff or is it a smoke screen to avoid divulging his own views?

Kenney quotes William F Buckley in support of his refusal to set out policies.  Buckley said he’d rather be governed by the first 4000 people listed in the phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.  This is a comment about government by common folk not experts (and a tad ironic coming from Kenney, an “expert” politician).

The more relevant quote comes from Ronald Reagan:  “Trust, but verify”.

One can only hope that UCP members follow Reagan’s advice.

They may “trust” Kenney will be a good servant leader, but they should “verify” that his views reflect their own before they elect him the leader of the UCP.

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21 Responses to Jason Kenney: Servant Leader…what?

  1. Ed Henderson says:

    Susan asks..Quote..””Does Jason Kenney really believe this stuff or is it a smoke screen to avoid divulging his own views?””
    I think it’s a good question that every Albertan should ask themselves. I think Mr Kenney has one agenda..He wants to be Premier of Alberta. keeping quiet now is smart, if you keep your flap shut now, it won’t come back to hurt you later.
    The other candidates also have their tactics down solid. They will play their hands until forced to open up. I.E. If Jean’s popularity took off to new heights, I think that would force Kenney’s hand and the others as well.
    I do favor Mr Jean myself.

    • I think you’re right Ed. The fact Kenney has to say “This is not a foil to avoid talking and expressing my own views” indicates he’s aware that that’s exactly what it looks like. Also it seems a little disingenuous for him to clam up now after he’s spent the last year headlining all the things he wants to change. It’s a Trump tactic–throw out all the norms and campaign on gut feelings. Trump’s base is still with him in spite of his failure to deliver on his promises because “he has a good heart”. Bizarre.

  2. J.E. Molnar says:

    Gaslighting, dog whistle and wedge politics appear to be the only political strategies Jason Kenney is determined to employ during his UCP leadership campaign.

    He is completely ignoring any public policy initiatives that would enlighten UCP members and other Albertans about his leadership campaign. Regrettable and stupefying that Kenney chooses to refrain from sharing his UCP worldview.

    • To add to your point about dog whistles, I didn’t realize this when I wrote the blog but someone pointed out that the idea of “servant leadership” is common in many evangelical churches. This aligns nicely with Greenleaf’s theory of contemporary prophesy (there are prophets among us who can lead us to a better way and a “personeity” better able to live fully and serenely). I looked up “personeity”. It is defined as “that which constitutes a person or especially God; personal or divine essence”. There’s a lot going on in Kenney’s statement that he is a servant leader. It will be interesting to see how Jean and the others address it.

      • carlosbeca says:

        I would not be at all surprised if Jason Kenney considered himself a Prophet if that is what you mean with the Evangelical PERSONEITY.
        They are all especial in their God’s views.

      • Harvey Hiller says:

        You might want to check out this notion of “servant political leadership” in the context of the Benedict Option (Dreher) and Dominionism (Rushdoony) – and then be really really scared.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Harvey thank you for your suggestion 🙂 – I certainly will check. I had never heard of it.
        Nothing scares me anymore when it comes to religion and its connections.
        Just the thought of what we know about what has happened and continues to happen from catholic priests around the Globe and the fact that nothing happens to these people and we the citizens seem to also stay quiet about it is enough to question human intelligence and human dignity. In Africa, where now most of the priests come from, must be abysmal. I have no doubts of what is happening there where the Catholic Church still finds new recruits. Uneducated and poor people are easy targets.

      • carlosbeca says:

        ‘Contrast the apocalyptic fervor fueling the support of some Christians, especially evangelicals, for Donald Trump. Eric Metaxas, a biographer of Dietrich Boenhoffer, the Lutheran pastor who opposed Hitler, hailed the megalomaniac reality television star as America’s last chance. “We are just not going to have the numbers. It’s that desperate,” Metaxas told Christian Today.’

        This comes from one of the articles I found.

      • Harvey I googled the sources you mentioned and you’re right, Albertans would be well advised to understand what Kenney means when he talks about being a “servant leader”. When we consider what he’s said about “parental choice” in education (apparently code for publicly supported faith based education) and his opposition to the curriculum revamp that would ensure our history, particularly as it relates to First Nations, is more accurately portrayed, reflect where Kenney is heading with his “servant leader” model of political leadership.
        Carlos: another megachurch pastor, Robert Jeffress, chimed in on Trump’s sabre rattling vis-a-vis North Korea. Jeffress says the Bible is very clear. “God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil” He says “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
        Straight from God’s lips to Pastor Jeffress ear…there’s no arguing with that, is there? Amazing.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Wow Susan I did not know it was that bad.
        I just heard this afternoon that Kim from North Korea is insulting Trump again and of course more threats from the US.

        I never thought that in 2017 we would still facing possible war based on religious garbage. I am sorry to people that are religious but I do not like to be nice in cases where we know it is a fact.

        It is interesting that the US calls other countries religious fundamentalists. They have exactly the same problem. It is profoundly worrisome for the rest of us on this planet. I have no doubts that this fellow Kim will use all he has on South Korea if something actually happens. He, like Trump, is a sociopath of the highest level.

  3. CuJo Calgary says:

    Who needs policies? Pretty well all of the UCP live by this maxim. Kenney is no different.

    The more ancient and less peer-reviewed a text is, the more these so-called conservatives trust it as factual.

    And then there’s this pearl.

    “The problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence.”

    – Bill Clinton

    • Cujo, I’m working my way through Jason Stanley’s book on propaganda. He refers to a quote from Walter Lippman who said the general opinions of most people are vague and confusing. These opinions must be boiled down, compressed and made uniform. Politicians do this by using symbols to assemble emotions which are detached from ideas.
      In other words all you need to know to elect Jason Kenney to lead the UCP is that he will destroy the NDP and restore the Alberta Advantage. Over and out.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    I never thought that Ronald Reagan was going to be someone I would have any respect for in my life. In face of what is happening now, he seems quite a smart man indeed.
    Is this a sign we are getting dumber or that we are going through a bad phase in our history.
    Unfortunately we do not live long enough to realize what some of these cycles actually mean. I remember my Dad telling me that he felt the same about the leaders he had known in the past.
    This all gives me the feeling that we are indeed getting less smart and less resilient and that the future is inevitably the end of a cyclical situation that depending on our weapons will determine whether we continue as a species or Gaya will burry one more civilization in the billion year turn around that will one day become the curiosity of whatever comes after us.

    Jason Kenney a servant leader. I totally agree with your observations and of servant this man only has the title. He is just preparing the propaganda to get the throne with a free pass to do whatever he wants after he gets in there. The game is on and if he wins we can all prepare for open war.

    Jason Kenney has shown over and over the type of person he is and I give him the points for at least not hiding that he absolutely HATES Progressives. He does not have any qualities of however we define leadership and much less a servant leader. He is a bully PERIOD. The fact is none of us seems to care enough to fight him back.

    • Carlos I agree with your take on the man. The Walrus ran an article a while ago about Kenney starting with Kenney’s “vaguely agnostic” Anglican background (Kenney’s words) to his transformation into a Catholic who told other Catholics they were Catholic enough. At one point Kenney tried to get his university, a Jesuit institution, stripped of its religious designation because it wouldn’t clamp down on some women who were trying to get a pro abortion petition signed.
      Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus, a conservative Christian think tank said Kenney would never soften his anti-abortion stance because “This is who he is in his bones.”
      Kenney knows he can’t stop a reporter from asking the question, even if it’s off topic, so he’s created this rationale which allows him not to respond to any policy questions, arguing that it’s foolhardy to make policy commitments for 2020. Well, it’s irresponsible not to make policy commitments for the spring of 2018, especially if he expects the majority of UCP members to support his bid for leadership.
      But all that is smoke and mirrors. I can’t imagine for one minute that Kenney has any intention of allowing the grassroots to set fiscal policy or any other substantive policy on his behalf. The big question is how long will it take for the grassroots to figure it out.
      Here’s the link to the Walrus article: https://thewalrus.ca/true-blue/

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    I was not aware of the Jesuit Institution story but does not surprise me at all. I know exactly the type of man Jason is and although I respect everyone’s ideologies, I have a profound disgust for people of his type. I remember the times when he was the boss at the Alberta Taxpayers Association and the comments were to me mind boggling.
    My natural instincts catch people like him in a matter of seconds. I know exactly the lines they use and the same old Christian sentences that they all use.
    This idea of no platform is exactly to avoid scrutiny and nothing else. He is betting on winning only on his far right wing reputation and I would not be surprised. Like I said previously Albertans are not as Progressive as they claim to be and the sound of anything against what they call ‘socialism’ and especially against the Federal Government is game. Suddenly it seems the cult mentality just sprouts from nowhere. The only way to change this concentration of ideology is to have a proportional system and the NDP chose not to touch that.

  6. Dwayne says:

    No substance, no ideas or plans of any kind and just an ongoing bashing of the NDP. This is the UCP. This poll states the UCP would have an election victory in Alberta, if an election were held today. Seems suspect to me Susan.

    • Dwayne, that poll seemed suspect to me too. I might have swallowed the suggestion that a united conservative party could beat the NDP in 2019, but to say that this would be the case regardless of who was leading it (including Fildebrandt) is ludicrous.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Well Fildebrandt is already showing his true libertarian ideology.
        I think it means take advantage of everything and everyone to your own benefit.
        Amazing what comes up everyday. How hard is to understand honesty, integrity and ethics? I guess very hard indeed.
        We have infighting already. That is one positive side of this extreme right wing ideology. They are so darn selfish that they do not last long. This party could still implode before the next election.

  7. Ryan Dunch says:

    Hi Susan,
    It’s interesting to read about the Robert Greenleaf angle. But I’m willing to bet that for Mr. Kenney and a great many of his backers (those shadowy funders) and his communications targets (supporters and the undecided), “servant leadership” is church language. It’s a staple of sermons and contemporary worship songs, pointing back to the figure of Jesus in the gospels and to Christian readings of Isaiah, among other points of reference. So calling Kenney a “servant leader” denotes a willingness on his part to set aside his own welfare (e.g., giving up his parliamentary seat) for the sake of the cause.
    It probably is also why the donor records will not be released, because they’d make the implicit narrative of self-sacrifice much harder to maintain!

  8. Excellent points Ryan. You comments remind me of a meme I saw on Twitter recently. It showed a smiling Kenney next to a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. My first reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding”, but then a few weeks later out comes the “servant leadership” stuff. It’s all starting to fit together. The followers of Gandhi or Jesus didn’t ask them to disclose their policies, they just followed them because Gandhi and Jesus were good men willing to give up everything in the interests of the down trodden.
    Reminds me of the Trump supporters who still have faith in Trump because “he has a good heart.”
    PS good point about the donor records…

  9. david swann says:

    I’ve lost the original email i’m available most days next week – your choice Best David

    On Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 5:14 PM, Susan on the Soapbox wrote:

    > susanonthesoapbox posted: “Now isn’t this a conundrum… The impetus to > unite the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservative parties was the > assumption that only a united conservative party could beat the NDP in the > next election. The two parties united and now the polls are showing” >

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