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