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Leadership is a great burden

I went to bed last night watching President Biden’s address to the Canadian Parliament (full transcript, here.). And I woke up this morning to this Globe and Mail article about Canadian competitiveness. In it, Tony Keller talks about some of the things that are broken in this country (shockingly housing comes up), and compares Canada to Argentina (an example of too many bad decisions) and to South Korea (an example of many good decisions).

All of this got me thinking about leadership.

Leadership is a great burden. As a leader, people are looking to you for decisions, for direction, and for you to instil confidence. They are also scrutinizing your every word and action. And in today’s world, they are waiting to criticize you on social media and/or make a funny meme out of your most recent misspeak. As a developer, I get to interface with municipal politicians probably more than your average person, and I can tell you with confidence that it is a thankless job I would never want.

I can only imagine having to constantly worry about your employment and what people are thinking. Given this incentive structure, I’m sure we’d all act accordingly. It is truly public, service. At the same time, I know that it is not only unproductive — but dangerous — to pander to just what is thought to be politically popular. And we have spoken many times before on this blog about housing and land use policies that may be popular, but aren’t at all effective — or worse, are counterproductive.

What we should be demanding from our leaders are difficult decisions. These are the decisions that probably feel uncomfortable and that may require some personal sacrifice, but that are ultimately the right decisions for our collective long-term prosperity. It is about ambitiously deciding where we want to go and who we want to become, and then taking meaningful actions, however unpopular they may be, to get there.

Don’t just tell me what I want to hear. Lead me. Push me. Be bold. In the end, we will respect you for your personal sacrifices and the difficult decisions you are making on our behalf. This is the great burden — but also the great opportunity — of leadership, and it behooves us to empower it. To borrow from Tony Keller, “there’s no reason we [Canada] can’t be the most prosperous and successful society on earth.”

1 Comment so far

  1. Johnpaul Antidormi

    Hi Brandon, I really appreciated this one. It’s tough to be a political leader.


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