05 January 2012

Seven Habits of Spectacularly Ineffective Politicians #nlpoli #cdnpoli

“Run government like a business” is an old line. 

Some people use it as a rallying cry for success and innovation. 

Others think of it as a recipe for disaster.

Regardless of which side of that argument you come down on, you can sometimes find value in applying ideas from one sector to the other. 

Take, for example, a list of seven habits attributed to business leaders who screw up published online at forbes.com recently.  It’s a variation on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People except you learn positive lessons from the negative experiences that illustrate the bad habits. 

Included in the forbes.com column are some warning signs as well.  Those are indicators that while your business leader might not have the full-blown bad habit, he or she is headed in that direction.

And bear in kind:  some of the companies cited in the article were successful for a period of time or appeared to be quite successful. Over the longer term, though, things weren’t quite that good.

So what would happen if you took the seven habits of what forbes.com called unsuccessful business executives and applied them to politicians? Let’s have some fun:

Habit # 1:  They see themselves and their companies as dominating their environment.

Think of this as the idea that they can do no wrong, that everything they think or say is genius and that they crap brilliance every minute of ever day.

Unlike successful leaders, failed leaders who never question their dominance fail to realize they are at the mercy of changing circumstances.They vastly overestimate the extent to which they actually control events and vastly underestimate the role of chance and circumstance in their success.

The rules only apply to other people.  They don’t apply to us.

They live in a bubble.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does. 

Warning Sign  #1:  A lack of respect

You won’t even need to think too hard to come up with an example of a politician who consistently shows an utter lack of respect – and sometimes outright contempt – for other people and their ideas.

While those other links are to a couple of Danny Williams’ defining characteristics, that lack of respect thing is one Kathy Dunderdale leads in.  She loves to claim that her opponents are stupid or incompetent and usually that’s the sum total of her argument.

Habit #2:  They identify so completely with the company that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests.

Warning Sign #2: A question of character

House of Assembly spending scandal.

And if you want something creepy, you can always go back to the Old Man’s 2007 claim:

I think I represent in my own heart and soul the hearts and souls of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

It’s hard to think of a statement in which someone confuses himself with the whole.

Habit #3:  They think they have all the answers.

If anyone can think of a time when Danny Williams ever took advice from someone else and acknowledged it publicly, then by all means share the story with the rest of us.  Did he ever take disagreement with his pronouncements well?

If you want a Dunderdale example, consider her approach to Muskrat Falls.  She  and her team of geniuses  have all the answers. So far Dunderdale hasn’t heard a single criticism of the project that makes her doubt the wisdom of ploughing ahead with the project.

And, in any event, all the critics are picking at little things in their predictably partisan way so what would they know?

Warning Sign for #3:  A leader without followers

Habit #4:  They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them.

Think about the bizarro need to call people who wrote letters to the editor just to sort them out or blast them as traitors.

Let’s not forget the periodic expressions of concern about the handful of people who didn’t love Hisself unconditionally.  In the Straits after the by-election he sniffed about how much he had done for people and yet they didn’t vote for his hand-picked candidate.

The Old Man may not have relentlessly eliminated anyone but the Yes-Men and Yes-Women but he was overly concerned with dissent.

Warning Sign #4:  Executive departures

Think Beth Marshall in Health,  Florence Delaney or the executive level churn in the public service under Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale. 

Habit #5: They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image.

Poll goosing.

Public comments about having to spend 50% of his time dealing with counter-spinning negativity.

Micromanaging an access to information request to withhold copies of his public speeches.

Clinical example of this habit.

Warning Sign #5:  Blatant attention-seeking

This Hour Has 22 Minutes in a Hurricane

Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles.

Muskrat Falls.

Warning Sign #6:  Excessive hype

Pick an example.  There are too many to list since 2003.

Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past.

Danny Williams:  the Ultimate One Trick Pony.. 

Prime Ministers.

Oil Companies.

A lawyer from GFW.

Randy Simms.

If Danny Williams wasn’t lacing into someone for something, he just wasn’t having a good day. 

Warning Sign #7:  Constantly referring to what worked in the past

Anybody recall that offshore oil agreement thingy?

- srbp -