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  • Writer's pictureDel Chatterson

Justin Trudeau’s lessons in leadership

It’s not all hope and happy optimism  

I thought he was “just a high school teacher….”, but apparently he was better schooled in the family business than I thought.

Justin Trudeau is a very different personality from his father, but just as inspirational a leader and communicator. Quoting Sir Wilfred Laurier, possibly our most inspiring and exemplary Canadian Prime Minister, he has shown us the “sunny way” to a better Canada. Not just doing better and contributing more to a better world, but also feeling better about being Canadian.

What can we learn from Trudeau’s leadership of the Liberals that brought them from near oblivion to a majority government in just three years? Being a charming and handsome young man is not necessary and communicating hope and happy optimism is not sufficient.

The key element for Trudeau was the hard-work getting ready to present himself as a legitimate candidate for Prime Minister. Most important in his opinion, was all the time and effort spent listening to and connecting with Canadians of all ages, regions and interests across the country. He learned a lot and gave his supporters more confidence in him at the same time. He was able to test policies and ideas with future electors.  And he learned that he could get away with a lot in revealing himself and occasionally looking foolish, naïve or inexperienced, as long as he was authentic. He learned not to put on a false smile or read somebody else’s lines in order to play political games. The more we saw of him the better we liked him.

His sincerity, generosity and compassion all appear genuine. (The skeptics may still think he’s just a good actor and we’re blinded by the charm and good looks, but most of us are convinced we are getting the real deal in the Justin we now know.) There is no denying his commitment, energy and enthusiasm for doing the right thing for all Canadians. It seems to be contagious.  We are all feeling more generous, caring and compassionate since Monday and happy and proud to be the Canadians we thought we were. Even the conservative Canadians that voted for the other guy are expressing those sentiments.

The euphoria may end soon, however, as the new Prime Minister has to make hard decisions and say no to some popular ideas or adjust his promises to meet real world constraints – economic or geopolitical. His next conversation with President Obama may be on the tactics of lowering expectations.

So, the real tests of leadership begin with his swearing in as Prime Minister on November 4th, but we should recognize how much he has accomplished already with leadership based on the personal touch, caring and compassionate listening, being authentic and genuine, risking exposure of his faults and weaknesses, and consistently communicating energy, optimism and enthusiasm. Those are the qualities of leadership that will cause people to follow and support the cause.

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