Friday, 7 March 2014

The Choice that Rob Ford made.

Authentic Leadership has multiple dimensions.  Consequently, for the leader to achieve maximum effectiveness, (s)he must be functioning properly in all of these dimensions.  My definition of an authentic leader includes a legal component, a moral component and an ethical component.  Perhaps that is why so many of our politicians are struggling. They fail on 1 or more of these criteria.

Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, is an excellent case in point.

Mr. Ford was elected in a democratic manner .  There has been no suggestion that he had somehow fixed the outcome of the election.  Indeed, a large percentage of his supporters have already voiced their support for him in the next mayoral election this fall. Accordingly, Ford meets the legal criteria for leadership.  But Ford fails the authenticity test because of his shortcomings on the other two criteria.

His morality score suffers because of his self admitted use of illegal drugs both prior to and during his tenure as mayor.  While his closest supporters willingly overlook these reports as simple human failings, the majority rightly respond that, as a leader, Ford is held to a higher standard.  Even if you choose to ignore those offences prior to taking office, there can be no excuse for the behaviour while in office.  Whether he likes it or not, when he is not at home, he is in the office, regardless of where that office is.  So public drunkenness or the use of illegal substances are both offences that violate any reasonable expectation of a moral leader.   If he needs to be chaperoned, so be it.

In a similar manner, Ford fails to pass the ethical standard.  He repeatedly denied his involvement with drugs and alcohol, only publically admitting his use when cornered without any options.  His claims that the question had not asked specifically enough on earlier occasions only served to confirm to the general public that he could not be trusted with the truth.

It does no good to suggest that his behaviour was no different from that many others in public service and therefore should be excused or tolerated.  He knew, or should have known, the inappropriateness of his actions.  Indeed, if he did not see these things to be wrong, it calls into question not simply his actions but his judgement as well. His denials and his deliberate avoidance of the truth are simply not ethical.

It is little wonder that the broader council has dramatically curtailed his scope of control.  Unless and until he regains both the moral and ethical integrity that has been lost, Ford can never lead authentically or effectively. 

What is true for Rob Ford is equally true to anyone who aspires to a leadership role.  In the short term you can use bully tactics or command others to do your bidding.  But in the longer term it is your people who deliver the results because they have been motivated by your authentic leadership which consistently inspires through legal, moral and ethical imperatives. 

Ford made deliberate choices to neglect the full scope of leadership and as a result he accomplished much less than might have otherwise been possible.  In that regard he follows a long line of disgraced politicians.  By making right choices your leadership can be incredibly more productive because those who you lead will want to confirm and support your authenticity through their dedicated efforts.

The issue is not so much 'can you lead' but rather will you 'choose to lead'.  The choice is yours alone.

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