It’s out of fashion to refer to locker room conversations, after Donald Trump equated them with ballads of sexual assault. In spite of Trump’s demeaning, the locker room is still a place where tough questions get posed. And so it was last week when someone asked in the West Vancouver Swimming Pool changing room what counsel I’d give to be a Member of Parliament.
The question was timely as I join other Canadians on the lookout for people who demonstrate good leadership
, both in their current experience and in their potential. I’m particularly keen to see good candidates run to succeed me as the Conservative Candidate for the riding I represented from 2008 through 2015, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country. But more generally I’m committed to encourage good leadership beyond that specific role, whether in politics, business, faith communities, or families.
And in an era when common discourse delights in the disparagement of leaders, why wouldn’t we all join in a commitment to encourage key values that mould good leaders and support good leaders themselves?
What kind of person would I be looking for who aspires to leadership, as M.P. or in any other role? For me, the short answer is that a person going into leadership should know his or her objectives, identify her or his most important values, and take specific steps to fortify those values in anticipation of upcoming storms.
What storms should you anticipate? As a leader in any realm, but particularly in my experience as a West Coast M.P., expect pressure on your marriage and on your role as a parent. Those pressures should be obvious. Your anticipated responsibilities separate you from the ones you love, in space, time, and energy. The problems of juggling these things against a 5000 kilometer commute are clear but those problems may arise in any demanding leadership role.
As Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In addition to the pressures on one’s close personal relationships come two other more subtle nemeses. Firstly, persons in leadership encounter challenges to character that come with the territory. Greed, anger, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, and sloth - Augustine’s famous “Seven Sins” can each creep into a leader’s life. Anyone seeking leadership would do well to ensure a level of accountability to reliable role models who can confidentially but firmly keep the leader on a high plane. In my own case, I was fortunate to have three tough-minded men of faith act as my “Three Wise Men” to help ensure that integrity prevailed over politics whenever the two conflicted.
The fourth challenge, most subtle of all, is to ensure the aspiring leader accomplishes more for the people he or she serves by carrying out the position than by doing something else. There’s no point in climbing a ladder if it’s placed against the wrong wall. This question is never easy but may be particularly complicated when non-politicians consider seeking public office.
There are no perfect formulas for answering these questions. In searching for a successor to run for the Conservative Party where I live, I’ll be looking for someone who believes in the Party and the Leader. But I’ll also be looking for someone with values that set apart people who aspire to leadership in any walk of life: values such as those canvassed in my book - On! Achieving Excellence
in Public Life: Integrity, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Freedom, Equality, Fitness, and Resolve. You may have a different list. But I’m willing to bet you’d agree that we Canadians would all benefit if we took steps to cultivate those values in ourselves and in others. And, don’t forget, though you may not recognize it, you are a leader yourself, as you lead your own life and influence your family, community, and country. John Weston serves on a committee that is actively seeking people with leadership qualities to run for Member of Parliament in 2019. The photo, by the author, is of the statue to world class sprinter, the later Harry Jerome, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.