In 1978, if Jack Welch as chairman of GE, spent half a day a year dealing with each significant subsidiary business, he would run out of days before he ran out of subsidiaries. That would leave little time for his executive function.
To deal with that problem, he did not shirk the executive duties, but rather set out to shrink the massive GE structure. If a business was not number one in its market or number two with growth potential, there was little hope it would remain in the GE family. Addition by subtraction.
How many substantial departments and policy questions face a modern national government? Probably more than faced Jack Welch and yet there seems to be no attempt to shrink, rationalize or even discuss shrinkage.
When money gets tight there will be.
In election years, candidates must deal with such trivia as door-to-door mail delivery, the controlling nature of the prime minister, the acts of substandard senators, and a national daycare program. Precious little time is spent on real questions like our national competitive advantages, government financing and incentivizing the citizens to achieve. Border security, terrorism, activist courts, and provincial government incompetence are not on the radar either.
Leaders claim that the election is about the middle class, whatever that means. The method seems to grow it by shrinking the wealth of the ones who are above it in income. Better to find ways to stay out of the way and let the people work it out.
As voters and citizens we need to understand that trivia does not describe the competence or the insight of a leader. The chief executive in any organization cannot deal with individual facts. A good chief executive does not manage the day to day, they manage the mission. The long term.
There are challenges to doing that because not everyone agrees on how the long term should look. They key is to address the differences and if some are not accommodated, there should be an easily explained reason for the exclusion.
Warren Bennis, one of the pioneers in the study of leadership suggests
Find the appropriate balance of competing claims by various groups of stakeholders. All claims deserve consideration but some claims are more important than others.
Leaders cannot do everything that everyone would like. They should be able though, to explain their emphasis and the reasons for it.
Sadly, we are coming to vote on personality, image or charisma. Those skills are little connected to the competence of the leader although if present they may make the explanation of decisions easier. Competent leaders should strive for charisma, but charisma says nothing of their competence.
Charismatic, but incompetent, leaders rely on cozenage for their success.
Merriam-Webster Definition of COZEN
: to deceive, win over, or induce to do something by artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery
It sounds like cousin and is a useful word. Try to notice it in the campaign material of the various politicians. To be cozened is not a good thing.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.