True leadership, particularly now in our massively interconnected world, must primarily be referent leadership. Legitimate leaders - those who have been appointed or elected to a recognized hierarchical position - are all well and good. They have the right to exercise coercive power (that being, reward and punishment) within the bounds of their respective ground rules, be they corporate or political. But if they attempt to lead without being willingly recognized by those whom they would lead as worthy of leadership - by demonstrating values, vision, tactility, and instilling inspiration and energy among their membership - well, reward and punishment only go so far.
Stephen Harper is a legitimate leader - he won the most seats in our otherwise waste-of-time election. He has gained 18 months of clear sailing for his agenda, since forcing an election before 18 months to two years from now would be political suicide. Besides, the Liberal Party needs to find a new leader and regroup, and it will take all three parties working in concert to bring the House down. But for all the legitmation that Mr. Harper enjoyed last night, the question remains: is he a referent leader?
Clearly, the answer is a resounding NO!
He gained only a point in popular vote. Given that the turnout was a dismal 59% of those eligible - the lowest turnout for a federal election in history - Mr. Harper was endorsed by an equally resounding 22% of the electorate. More than three-quarters of those eligible to cast a ballot rejected Stephen Harper's policies, agenda and record by voting either with their pencil or their feet. All the fuzzy pullovers in the country weren't enough to warm the Canadian public to cold, Conservative divisiveness.
Is Stephen Harper truly a man of his word? To listen to his supporters - indeed, to listen to the man himself - he does what he says he will do. So here's what he said last evening during his very gracious victory speech:
This is a time for us all to put aside political differences and partisan considerations and to work cooperatively for the benefit of Canada. We have shown that minority government can work, and at this time of global economic instability we owe it to Canadians to demonstrate this once again.To be true to his word, that he will work for the benefit of all Canadians, here's what I would suggest:
- Work with Jack Layton on the issue of lost employment, and ensuring Canada's strong social infrastructure;
- Work with Elizabeth May on the issue of climate change and the environment;
- Work with Gilles Duceppe on the issue of preservation and encouragement of Canadian culture (including bringing Michael Geist in on the copyright reform file;
- Work with Stéphane Dion on the issue of Canadian unity, and the problem of fractured regionality and disparity throughout this land; and finally,
- Work with the new Liberal leader, whoever s/he may be, on an overarching economic policy and approach to globalization, both in trade and foreign policies
[Technorati tags: stephen harper | stéphane dion | election | leadership]