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Becoming a Holistic Leader: 3rd Edition E-Book

May 1, 2016

Dedicated to Lily, Ashley, Briar, Ethan and Logan


A lot has happened around the world since the first edition of Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach was released seven years ago. The international financial system teetered on collapse, the Great Recession exerted pernicious effects (which still linger) and the globalization of work and technology continue their relentless march forward.

In 2011, turmoil exploded in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa as citizens took to the streets to demand meaningful change from their national governments–the Arab Spring. Self-empowerment in action. Yet within a few years hope turned to despair and fear, witnessed by repressive government actions and the rise of ISIS. And while the Occupy Wall Street movement quickly seized attention across North America, Europe and Australia, it deflated almost as quickly.

Highlights of the third edition of Becoming a Holistic Leader are shared in this and coming ChangingWinds posts. However, the e-book is a free download, so don’t delay in doing so. And of most personal significance, yours truly has gone from a grandfather of two to five over the past seven years. It is to my three granddaughters and two grandsons to whom this book is dedicated: As you grow, may you find your leadership within and share with the world.

In this post, the 10 guiding principles that serve as the base for the practice of Holistic Leadership are summarized. When the waters get rough, having a set of personal principles make that period less chaotic. Of special importance, if you wish to avoid getting caught in the trap of poor leadership practices, a set of guiding principles will serve as a guidepost. They’re especially helpful when we face turmoil in our lives, whether at work, home or in our communities. By working continually to staying true to these principles, we’ll be better able to remain centered and focused when leading.

1) I own my morale and attitude

No one but me determines whether I’m happy with my job. If I don’t like my work environment, then it’s up to me to empower myself to either improve my work situation or to seek opportunities elsewhere.

2) I communicate in a clear and honest way

When I speak to my co-workers, staff and customers, I ensure that I’m unambiguous and forthright. If I’m in a position to give performance reviews, then I do so in an honest, constructive way that promotes improvement. And when I communicate to my superiors I speak truth to power, never sugar-coating issues or manipulating information for my own gain.

3) I share the information I have access to openly and without reservation

Protecting my turf is something to which I abstain. I refuse to be a gatekeeper of information and share what I learn. Instead I work across organizational boundaries, promoting collaboration and information sharing. I’m transparent in my actions and beliefs.

4) I embrace lifelong learning and encourage the same in my co-workers

Whether it’s being a coach, mentor or mentee, I continually strive to learn new ideas and how to apply them and to share them with my co-workers. I never arrive for I am on a lifelong journey.

5) I am humble in my interactions with others

There are always others who possess more knowledge and capability than I. I have much to learn from these individuals and welcome their wisdom. There are many unknowns of which I am unaware.

6) I have the backs of my co-workers and staff

Protecting those I care about and respect is central to my being. I don’t tolerate others talking about my co-workers and friends behind their backs. If I’m serving in a managerial position, I stand behind my staff during times of difficulty; I never sell them out for my own gain.

7) I share leadership unreservedly

Knowing when to step back and let someone else lead is something I accept without reservation. I know when to check my ego. And I understand that when leadership is shared throughout the organization that an incredible power of creativity and energy is unleashed.

8) Be open to outcome

We live in a world where uncertainty and discontinuous change are the new normal. There will be many Black Swans of change. I accept this and remain open to change, the challenges and opportunities it presents, and the dance of life.

9) I know how to take a joke

Being able to poke fun at myself, especially when it comes to acknowledging mistakes, is something of which I’m not afraid; I learn from such experiences. And I know never to make fun of others at their expense.

10) I am a custodian of Earth and am environmentally responsible

Stewardship is a vital tenet of who I am as a human being. I’m here for a brief period, a nano-second in time. But during this short interlude, I act responsibly in my interactions with Planet Earth and its inhabitants.

Man Welcomes Sun

Questions for Reflection:

a) Think about some great leaders you’ve worked for or seen in action. What appeared to be their strongest principles in how they led others?

b) What principles do you want to guide you in exercising your leadership?

c) What aspects of yourself will you start to change, based on these principles?

d) Ask yourself at the end of each day: “What actions did I take that showed my commitment to these principles?

e) What will I do differently tomorrow?

What are you waiting for? Be sure to download this e-book and accelerate your leadership growth!

Stability is found in freedom — not in conformity and compliance.
Margaret Wheatley

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Canada’s War on Women

April 24, 2016


Something’s wrong, seriously wrong, in peace-loving Canada. Actually the peace-loving label is bullshit, merely a stereotype constructed by those living in other countries, embraced by deluded Canadians who’ve yet to extract their heads from the ground. Canada has, like any country on this planet, its own sordid history. Witness Canada’s treatment of its indigenous peoples, still not properly addressed.

Yet in a contemporary setting Canada is at it again. This time the target is, and has been for decades, females. Canadians like to think of themselves as knowledgeable of world affairs (mostly an incorrect assumption); generous in giving (not really; Americans are more so); and intolerant of intolerance (sorry, but witness the vicious treatment across the country of visible minorities, especially Muslims).

When it comes to females in Canada something’s gone off the rails. One would think that in the 21st Century that sufficient progress has been made to ensure that institutions and the community at large has effectively wiped out any lingering notions of the acceptability of sexually assaulting females – and indeed eliminating societal ingrained misogyny. That would be a reasonable assumption. Then there’s reality, the unappetizing underbelly of administrative power, where cowardly, uninformed bureaucrats wield their power irresponsibly. Take a moment to read my recent post on sexual harassment in the RCMP

What’s most horrifying is that one of Canada’s revered institutions has been an idle observer of the ongoing treatment of women: Universities.


Witness the jaw-dropping story that emerged from Brandon University in the spring of 2016. Female students who have been the victim of sexual assault have been forced to sign “behavioural contracts,” which state that the victim must not speak to anyone about the assault except for counselors. Failure to abide by the contract may mean suspension or expulsion from the university.

In 2015, rampant misogyny at Dalhousie University’s dental school shocked the nation with the explicit denigration of female peers on Facebook. The university’s indifferent response eventually saw many of the male graduates securing employment as dentists.

And then there was the early 2016 criminal case of former CBC Radio star Jian Ghomeshi who was acquitted of sexual assault charges of three victims (a fourth case will be heard in June). With the focused criminal defense of one of Canada’s top lawyers (Marie Henein), combined with the imploding testimonies of the three plaintiffs, Ghomeshi figuratively gave the middle finger to the court.

According to Statistics Canada’s, sexual assault across Canada is of shocking proportion. Check out these stats:
• Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
• 1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
• 25% of North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
• 11% of women have been physically injured from sexual assault
• 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
• 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
• over 80% of sex crime victims are women
• 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
• 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
• 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
• 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
• 20% of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
• 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim
Take a moment to read myths and facts on sexual assault.


There’s something fundamentally wrong with the values of a developed nation, one that’s a member of the G7, which continues to allow what has become the entrenched practice of turning a blind eye to sexual assault and rape. That those in top leadership positions appear to be extraordinarily stunned on this subject is shocking.

The closing story goes to my provincial member of the Ontario legislature: Jack MacLaren (Conservative) who, in early April 2106, belittled my federal member of parliament, Karen McCrimmon (Liberal), at an annual evening for men, which includes fund-raising for cancer. However, MPP MacLaren, renowned for his vulgar humor and abrupt personality, persuaded MP McCrimmon to come to the stage (she was tending bar for the “guys”).

MacLaren then launched into a sexually explicit joke which included McCrimmon’s husband, who was not in attendance. McCrimmon handled the incident professionally, and in the ensuing shitstorm that hit the media in the following two weeks she retained her composure, not seeking revenge. Indeed, the cowardly MacLaren merely sent her an email apology, which she accepted, but he refrained from apologizing to the organizers of the event.

No, this incident was not about sexual assault. But it reveals how Canadian society continues to depict women. And what was most repugnant was that an experienced male politician appeared to have no clue that such remarks and behavior aimed at a woman have no place in the 21st Century. Jack MacLaren is indeed an anachronism and an embarrassment to Ontario.

This is the state of the nation in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, where unsolicited sexual advances to female Members of Parliament have been made public in the past. Old habits die hard. And the entrenched history of Canada’s male-dominated power culture dies harder.

The light at the end of the tunnel may be the maturing of the country’s Generation Y (Millennials) when it comes to addressing the treatment of females. Let’s hope and pray.

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.
– Angela Davis (African American political activist)

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Real Leaders Aren’t Bullies

April 17, 2016


Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police has a long and proud history. Formed initially as the North-West Mounted Police in 1873 (changed to the Royal Northwest Mounted Police in 1904), the national police force is recognized around the world by its British military-inspired red serge uniform. Indeed, a great uncle of mine in Western Canada served with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police in the early 1900s. (The RCMP was established in 1920 from the merger of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and the Dominion Police.)

The “Mounties always get their man” has gone down in folklore, with their red dress uniforms still being loved by Hollywood. However, despite the good feelings generated by this organization’s long history, something has been afoot in the RCMP for the past several years – and it’s ugly.

Under the thin veneer of the stereotyped square-jawed Mountie lies a deep and troubling problem: sexual harassment of female members (members being the term used by the RCMP for its sworn police officers). The past decade has witnessed the public display through the media of numerous female RCMP officers, including those who had left the force due to PTSD, telling their stories of sexual, physical and verbal harassment. Media organizations, in particular the CBC’s The Fifth Estate, have run documentaries and news reports on a problem that seems to have no bottom.

Linda Davidson RCMP

At the time of writing, two class action lawsuits have been filed against the RCMP by former female officers, with the most recent being initiated by former inspector Linda Davidson (see photo). This is on top of the hundreds of harassment and discrimination complaints that have been filed by female officers over the past several years.

The RCMP’s problems aren’t just focused on the sexual harassment of women. The organization has had years of problems with the morale of its frontline officers. The distinct hierarchy between commissioned officers (inspectors and above) and those below is striking.

One personal story goes back to 1990 when I was on French language for four months when I was a federal public servant. The other students in my small class were male RCMP officers, ranging from corporals to sergeants to an inspector. They’d all been in the force for many years. Some were pretty chauvinistic in their attitudes towards women. But what struck me most was when on a few occasions we were invited to headquarters for after class get-togethers. There was the officers’ dining mess hall, where we met, and the non-commissioned officer’s mess. A social class distinction in action.

The separation of RCMP officers into upper and lower classes, just by the means of two mess different halls, is a symbol of privilege for the select few. This is anathema to building leadership in a law enforcement organization.


Current Commissioner Bob Paulson has enough on his hands in attempting to respond to the crisis caused by the explosive sexual harassment cases and class action lawsuits. However, Paulson, whose cleanly-shaved bullet head and penetrating gaze gives him the stereotyped top-cop TV look, just keeps stepping in more shit. He’s been given a publicly stated command by his new boss, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, to fix the sexual harassment problem. His previous boss (under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government) Ralph Blaney ordered Paulson to apologize to Staff Sgt. Tim Chad for what was tantamount to bullying (dating back to a series of heated e-mail exchanges in 2012).

In this instance, Minister Blaney hired retired Vice-Admiral Larry Murray to investigate Chad’s harassment complaint that he had been bullied by Paulson. In 2014, Murray found in favor of Chad’s complaints, specifically two of the three. Paulson’s forced apology was based on his exercising “bad judgement.” He was also to be monitored for the next three years to ensure no reprisals against Tim Chad.

The RCMP’s troubles go deeper. A case in point is the horrific slayings of four Mounties in Moncton, New Brunswick, on June 14, 2014. The killer, Justin Bourque, deliberately hunted the Mounties, in one situation slaying one officer in front of a family watching from their living room window. It was a tragic day, and likely one that could not have been prevented. However, what was reprehensible was the Mounties not having in their detachment adequate armored vests and the new issue Colt C8 carbine. These were flown in from headquarters in Ottawa many hours later. Too little too late.

Colt Waterloo Police

One of the outcomes from the slayings was the filing of four Canada Labour Code charges by the federal government against the RCMP. The charges pertained to the equipment, training and supervision of RCMP officers.

In the following months, the media reported how the RCMP had delayed the deployment of the carbines across Canada. Excuses included several modifications to the weapons and budget cuts. Of interest is that while RCMP brass sat on their thumbs, other Canadian municipal police forces have equipped and trained their officers with the same semi-automatic rifle. (Photo: Waterloo, Ontario police with Colt C8.)

Unfortunately, nothing seems to have been learned from the 2005 slayings of four RCMP constables in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, of frightening parallel to the Moncton shootings nine years later.


Real leaders, regardless of whether working in business, government or non-profit, act consistently with integrity. They shun any notion of engaging in verbal jousting with their followers, instead communicating face-to-face in a respectful way. They follow the late Stephen Covey’s habit Seek First to Understand, then be Understood. Commissioner Paulson, as a top organizational leader, has failed miserably on that front.

Real leaders, rather than making excuses for impediments to taking effective action (such as Paulson has done on the issue of dealing with problem officers), get out in front and make it happen.

And in tackling major organizational problems, real leaders make themselves visible and accessible to employees. Email and social media don’t cut it.

The RCMP is in crisis. Whether it can ever regain its once well-deserved international reputation is uncertain. I wonder what my great uncle Bill would think.

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

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The Banana Republic of Ontario: In Search of Moral Leadership

April 10, 2016


In my recent post Should Leaders Ever be Morally Flexible? I talked about whether it’s ever right to adjust one’s morals to suit a situation. We’ve become so numb to our elected “leaders,” whether at the municipal, state-provincial or national levels, acting without integrity that it’s now ingrained in the public’s consciousness that this is how government works on behalf of its citizens. The problem deepens when senior public servants engage in moral flexibility, such as when they play around with their expense accounts, hire family members or accept bribes from business people seeking contracts.

Recently, in my home province of Ontario (Canada’s largest with a population of 13.5 million) the premier has been practicing moral flexibility. Kathleen Wynne was exposed by the media in April for effectively selling access to her cabinet’s members and to herself.

As if it wasn’t distasteful enough that special access was given to those who coughed up the money, Wynne had placed quotas on her ministers for raising funds for the Ontario Liberal Party. For example, it meant that the finance minister had to hit up Bay Street, Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street. Shaking down businesspeople for the privilege of having a face-to-face with a cabinet minister or the premier, for the bargain price of a mere $6,000, has left a bad taste in the mouth of the province’s electorate.

Realizing that she’d been caught in a public relations disaster, Wynne went into full damage control, publicly stating that the practice was to stop immediately. Of particular arrogance was when she followed this announcement with the challenge to the leader of the Conservative Party to also stop fund raising from business. What Premier Wynne apparently doesn’t understand is that SHE has the power and the ability to dispense taxpayers’ monies to favored business people who have made political contributions. Patrick Brown, as leader of the Conservatives, has no such power.

Trudeau Wynne

Poor judgement when it comes to ethical leadership is not just the domain of Ontario’s premier. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently exhibited a lapse in judgement when he allowed his justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to be the guest of honor at a $500 per person reception in the offices of a major Toronto law firm. Trudeau tried wiggling out of the controversy by stating that the Liberal Party has strict rules concerning fundraising. However, his plea for understanding fell on deaf ears as criticism mounted, including from a former Liberal cabinet minister. (Photo: Wynne and Trudeau.)

Trudeau, as one political commentator has noted, has lashed himself to the mast of transparency. Yet the novice prime minister is raising questions on his moral flexibility. Another instance of this is his government’s refusal to allow the Parliamentary Budget Office (a toothless oversight body) to share budget 2016 background data with the public. The irony behind this was the PBO’s ongoing fight with the former secretive Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

However, Trudeau has inexplicably ramped up the secrecy of budget information, all in the name of his perception of “transparency.” At the time of posting this piece, Trudeau finally relented by allowing the Finance Department to release the budget information. The surprise with the data are questions over the future of such programs as the Child Benefit, given the absence of their costing in 2020.

Trudeau: a wolf in sheep’s clothing?


Back to Ontario. Citizens are once again witnessing the fast and loose actions of a premier. Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, served three terms over a decade. His government fell into disrepute with Ontarians near the end of his tenure. McGuinty exited before completing his third term, leaving a successor to clean up the mess. (He now teaches at Harvard.) However, an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into what became known as the Gas Plant Scandal in the Toronto area saw his former chief of staff and deputy chief of staff charged with destroying thousands of emails, considered to be evidence.

And then there’s shameful treatment of rural Ontarians and the wasteful spending of billions of taxpayer dollars on wind power. Dalton McGuinty naively barged ahead with the installation of wind turbines around the province, creating huge problems for rural residents who suddenly saw their homes and/or farms tumble in value. Most perniciously has been the negative health effects on many people who’ve been placed in untenable positions with wind turbines adjacent to their homes. Upon assuming the position of premier, Kathleen Wynne has continued with the government’s push for green energy via wind turbines. Take a moment to watch this fascinating documentary Big Wind.

An earlier auditor general report found that the wind turbine initiative and the gas plant scandal would cost Ontarians well over $1 billion. As a consequence, Ontario taxpayers are locked into a 20 year contract of inflated prices for an energy source that needs to be supported by fossil fuels, namely natural gas.


There’s something insidious about the nature of politicians. Just when it seems that a good, honest, competent person has been elected to office, a dark cloud appears bringing all what is wrong with political leadership. Every politician states that they will introduce ethical, moral and responsible government. They claim to represent change for the better for constituents. And then what occurs is the same template of graft, favoritism and fiscal irresponsibility. As bimbo politician Sarah Palin said during President Obama’s second run for office: “How’s that change thingy going for ya?”

Well, in Ontario the “change thingy” isn’t going terribly well–indeed, it’s nothing short of a disaster for the country’s largest province. Unfortunately for Ontarians, we have a few years left before the next election is held. And that will, in all likelihood, produce another leader of another political party who will practice his or her version of moral flexibility. Jimmy McGill would be impressed (photo).

Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.
– Mahatma Gandhi

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It’s About Brains and Leadership – Stupid!

April 3, 2016


This leadership post is about building the collective brain power of a nation, from which innovation and technology advancement emerge to strengthen its global competitiveness, and in turn its economy and standard of living.

Some pithy quotations go down in the history books as being highly malleable for borrowing. Such is James Carville’s famous comment: “It’s the economy, stupid!” Carville, for many years an endearing political analyst, was Bill Clinton’s campaign manager during his run for office against President George H.W. Bush in 1992, a time when the United States was experiencing a weak economy.

However, in this post it’s about brains and leadership – stupid! (No offence intended to the reader.) Specifically, it’s about the extremely important roles that education, knowledge, technology, know-how and leadership play in today’s brutally competitive global economy. It’s about building the collective brainpower of a nation, and then exploited in a focused manner by its political and business leadership.

Given your correspondent’s long history in the fields of labor markets, innovation and leadership, a certain amount of pent-up frustration has finally let loose to produce a commentary on his home country, Canada, and particularly a Maritime province–New Brunswick–where he lived for almost three decades.

Canadians have a peculiar perspective of how they fit in the world. Canada’s a wonderful country with a lot going for it. However, it also has a lot going against it: a massive geography, yet with only 36 million inhabitants stretched mostly as a ribbon within 200 kilometers of the U.S. border; a weak literacy rate (51% of Canadians 16 to 65 have a level 3 or higher, out of scale of 5); a continued strong dependence on exports to America (over 75% of total exports); to name but just a few “challenges.” (Photo: Canadarm)


Despite Canada’s enormous physical size, surpassed by only Russia, Canadians chuckle when they hear visitors from overseas mention that they have a relative in Calgary, Alberta, and if they could drive to visit them that same day. The problem arises when the visitor is visiting, say, Montreal or Toronto. “Sure, we can visit your uncle, but it will take a couple of days to get there.”

Canada is struggling to maintain its global standing on a variety of indicators. Unfortunately, the country has been sliding on a number of fronts, whether it’s global competitiveness (15th place), business innovation (26th), infrastructure (15th), or end of life palliative care (11th). Yes, the country comes out well on education statistics up to the end of high school (tied in 1st place with Finland), but much weaker on workplace skills training and adult continuous learning. However, education is a legislated provincial responsibility (with ample transfer payments from the federal government), with the result being a hodgepodge of education initiatives and metrics from the ten provinces.

Alberta, for example, is known for having perhaps the country’s best elementary-secondary education system. At the other end of the country, the four Atlantic Provinces continue to wallow in a sinking quagmire of poor educational outcomes. Literacy (level 3 or higher, where 3 is needed to function in society) on the East Coast (some 2.3 million people in the four provinces) is the weakest in Canada, ranging from a low of 43% in Newfoundland to 54% in Prince Edward Island (the only Atlantic Province above the national average).

In contrast, the three Maritime Provinces (Newfound-Labrador excluded) rank at the top with Ontario for high school graduation rates around 85-87%. Provinces such as Quebec and Alberta are around 70%, reflecting the wild swings in youth completing high school (the three territories are even lower). Unemployment in the Atlantic Provinces has historically been the highest among the provinces, blamed largely by neo-liberal economists for an over-reliance on unemployment insurance and welfare (the latter funded through block transfer payments from the federal government).


Canada’s provincial premiers have a propensity for navel-gazing and engaging in beggar-thy-neighbor economic policies. Of special concern are near bullet-proof inter-provincial barriers to trade on a wide variety of goods and services. This practice, now ensconced in Canada’s daily economic undertakings, is in direct opposition to the intention of the country’s founding fathers in 1867. Parochialism may have become one of Canada’s identities over the decades; it does NOT work in a globalized economy, driven frantically forward by technology and the rapid rise of emerging economies that are hungry for their economic share of the global pie.

For a long time, Canadians have managed to keep their collective head in the sand as rich provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia (and more recently Saskatchewan) have contributed significantly through equalization payments to boost the level of public services in the other provinces. Perhaps most reviling is that Ontario, the biggest province with 13.6 million people, has waffled between a “have-province” and a “have-not.” At the core of the problem is leadership and Ontario’s paucity of effective leaders in over two decades. Consider that only 11percent of Ontario companies export their products and services. Extract those that export to the U.S. and you’re left with a mere one percent that export abroad.

Canada’s current economic state, and by attachment its social welfare situation, is untenable. Alberta is hurting badly from slashed oil production due to plummeting oil prices, and will continue to hurt for the foreseeable future. Ontario limps along with a spendthrift premier who talks a lot but is not delivering responsible fiscal leadership. And the Atlantic Provinces are increasingly in a desperate situation. Newfoundland-Labrador’s relatively brief love affair with oil extraction has waned due to the global oil scene. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island face bleak futures as their respective finances sink deeper.

Plenty of academics and business people have waded into the “have-not” Atlantic Provinces swamp to suggest their solutions, ranging from tough love on unemployment benefits to eliminating regional development subsidies to bringing in large numbers of immigrants to address the region’s increasingly warped population composition. There are merits to such ideas. However, what continually gets omitted are such key factors as entrenched illiteracy, abysmally low productivity, and poor technology adoption.

This brings to mind that across the pond reside relevant examples of coastal-based small countries that have done rather well for themselves. Setting aside historical differences, one important point to keep in mind is that Canada’s 10 provinces have enormous autonomy when placed against other countries, including the United States.

Norway Globe

So what countries are we talking about? Well, how about Norway, Sweden and Finland. Yes, Finland’s having a tough time due, in part, to a plunge in its oil exports to Russia and the country’s decision to adopt the Euro. However, the country’s well positioned to find new sources of growth, owing to it placing second in the world in innovation, helped by its numerous start-ups. And then there’s Finland’s flagship company, Nokia. In Canada, Nokia’s purchase of French-based Alcatel-Lucent in January 2016 included assuming its Kanata (West Ottawa) R&D-focused campus. Indeed, Nokia has had the perception of being primarily a mobile phone handset maker (sold to Microsoft in 2013) when in reality half the company’s business has been in telecommunications networks.

Sweden’s economy remains strong and diversified. And for Norway, sure it has oil and gas production, but that’s been only a very small part of that nation’s long history. For example, Norway began commercial aquaculture in 1970 when the first cage was introduced; it’s now the biggest producer in the world (photo: aquaculture in Norway). However, aquaculture first appeared in 1850. While 95% of production (of a wide variety of fish and shellfish) is exported to the European Union, salmon is shipped around the world.

Of significance, to address concerns such as contaminated salmon and an over reliance on prophylactic antibiotics, Norway recently has moved to eliminate them. Contrast that to Chile, another huge fish farming nation which is trying to respond to international criticism on using antibiotics.

Ironically, it was the Norwegians who in the early-seventies were asked by the New Brunswick government to share their experiences on fish farming and applications for the Bay of Fundy. New Brunswick, whose small-scale fish farming industry (relative to global competitors) has consolidated in recent years, has no-where near the sophistication of Norway’s industry. Yet New Brunswick has been in the business for four decades. It’s about technology adoption and enhanced productivity.

Indeed, it took until 2015 for new federal regulations to be proposed for Canada’s aquaculture industry to clarify federal-provincial jurisdictions on such issues as the use of chemicals (eg, pesticides to control sea lice) and the overall health treatment of farmed fish stocks. In 1998, the Government of New Brunswick ordered the slaughter of several million salmon because of the threat that wild salmon faced from a disease that spread among aquaculture farms. Canada’s aquaculture industry is about $1 billion a year. (British Columbia started into aquaculture around the same time as New Brunswick.)

Consider a few salient statistics from these Nordic countries.

Aquaculture Norway

Norway (population 5.1 million) is not the most climate-friendly country, stretching across the top of Sweden and bordering on the icy Norwegian Sea and North Sea. (Photos: aquaculture farm Norway; tidal power.) It isn’t situated in as geographically advantageous locations as New Brunswick (with its deep water ports) and Nova Scotia (with ready access to Europe and the U.S. Eastern seaboard).

Yet Norway’s GDP per capita is an eye-popping $97,000 against Canada’s $50,000. Sweden comes in at $58,000, with Finland at $50,000. Sure, Norway’s benefited from oil, and invested wisely, with $803 billion in its sovereign wealth fund as of January 2016 (the largest in the world by assets). In contrast, oil-rich Alberta, through poor fiscal leadership, squandered a portion of its royalties over many years (and, yes, it has contributed significantly to equalization payments to Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.)

Indeed, while countries such as Russia are burning through their oil-based reserves, Norway is taking a prudent approach. As the finance minister, Siv Jensen, said to Bloomberg BusinessWeek in early 2016: “The fund has a very long-term perspective. It’s constructed to sustain large fluctuations in exposed periods.”

On unemployment, Norway is at essentially full employment, recording the envious unemployment rate of 3.5%. Finland’s and Sweden’s unemployment rates are around 9 and 7%, respectively, with Canada’s at about 7% (the Atlantic Provinces run several percentage points higher). Yet Norway’s managed to contain its inflation rate to 2% (the other three are lower).

When it comes to health, Norway’s mortality rate is between that of its two neighbors and Canada. But it has a higher fertility rate than Canada (1.8 vs. 1.6), and just behind Sweden’s which is almost at the replacement rate of 2%. Life expectancy is pretty much tied (82 years), with Finland’s slightly lower. However, infant mortality in Norway is only 2.8 deaths per thousand vs. Canada’s 5.2 (Sweden and Finland are at about 3.0).

Canada has an overall internet usage rate of 85%; Norway’s is 95%, with the other two Nordic countries at about 93%. Mobile cellular subscriptions are 81 per 100 people in Canada, while Norway has 116. However, Finland has an astounding 172 and Sweden 125, representing how skewed the statistics are when placed against Canada which has been a laggard on mobile technology adoption.


The point in illustrating some statistics from Norway and its neighbors is to underscore that very small countries are capable of achieving not just robust economies but, just as important, healthy societies from which creativity and innovation emerge. (Photo: Norway tidal power project.) In the words of the late British economist E.F. Schumacher: Small is beautiful.

That Norway is located at a very northern latitude with a less than desirable strategic geo-location shows a country that has focused national leadership with a view to the long-term. It’s not just about the immediate “now” when it comes to placating the electorate, one of Canada’s (and America’s) political competencies.

Norway may be an out-of-the-way small northern country, but what it lacks in access to sandy beaches and warm tropical waters it more than makes up in the way of brain-powered innovation. As reported in Wired’s June 2015 issue, Norway is blazing ahead on several new technologies, from robots used in drilling to social media indexing tools to expanding the use of electric vehicles through accessibility to charging stations to smart products for home remote connectivity.

It’s not just about exploiting resource extraction and related exports. More importantly, it’s about building a country’s collective brain capacity and know–how when it comes to creating a spirit of innovation and intelligent technology adoption. Smart leaders, whether at the nation-state, organization or community level, engage their constituencies to bring out the best in them, to share a vision of the future, and to move forward together to improve their well-being.

Behind the clouds the sky is always blue.
– Norwegian proverb


seagullClick here to download my complimentary e-book Creating Order & Meaning during Organizational Chaos.

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Should Leaders Ever be Morally Flexible?

March 27, 2016


Viewers of Breaking Bad will remember the slimy lawyer character of Saul Goodman played by Bob Odenkirk. Representing Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) Saul, in his flashy suits, kept his clients out of prison at whatever cost.

Absent of any sense of morals or professional ethics, Saul was an ambulance chaser, par excellent, willing to do any illicit deal that pocketed him money.

In the new series (now in the second season) Better Call Saul, set six years before Breaking Bad takes place, the viewer gets the full treatment of Saul’s greasy legal skills. But now he’s going by his real name, James “Jimmy” McGill. McGill’s elastic concept of the law (eg, manipulating seniors on a bus to sign up for a tort action) and doing end-runs around the partners at the law firm where he weaseled his way into, exemplify his flexible moral code. He wears the ultimate Teflon suit, deftly flipping accusations of his immoral behavior back onto his accusers.

In a season two episode of Better Call Saul, Mike (played by Jonathan Banks) poses the question to Jimmy, “Are you still morally flexible?”

This prompts some exploration into whether it’s ever appropriate to be “morally flexible” on certain issues or in specific situations.

In the political and business world, we see examples of ethical and moral lapses occurring every day. With Saul Goodman–Jimmy McGill–it’s merely fiction. That’s fine. It’s hilarious. What’s not funny is when those in leadership positions deceive their followers, such as what the public has come to expect from their political leaders, whether at the municipal, state/provincial, or national levels.


But it also happens with regular occurrence with corporate leaders. Whether it was Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom, Dennis Kozlowski of Tyoc, or Kenneth Lay of Enron, there’s no shortage of top-level business leaders who have screwed investors and employees. Listen to their court testimonies or media interviews and these individuals mastered the art of moral flexibility, which eventually descended into criminal behavior. The line between acting without morals to actually breaking the law is indeed a very fine one. Of particular curiosity is why did only one corporate banker go to prison following the financial collapse of 2008?

For fans of House of Cards, the flexibility of morals descends into at times criminal behavior by Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). Previously a Congressman, Vice President and now President, Frank Underwood is a study of Machiavelli on steroids. His laser focus on achieving the pinnacle of power well exceeds Machiavelli’s amoral pursuit of power. Not to be outdone Claire, with her own ambitions for power, does the same, except in a more discrete way.

While House of Cards is fictitious (with some media commentators arguing the two protagonists are based loosely on Bill and Hilary Clinton’s relationship), the series reflects in many ways the manipulations, deceit and contempt towards the voting public. In short, the lack of ethical behavior in today’s political environment is a commentary on society’s downward sliding sense of what’s acceptable when it comes to morals. It seems that politicians, public servants and business people are increasingly losing sight of what is right and what is wrong.

Frank and Clair

Enter the Republican primaries circus underway in the United States. The Primaries process is revealing the party’s unappetizing underbelly. One aspect that has stood out is the absence of any sense of morals by many of the candidates. Witness Donald Trump’s extravagant promises and outrageous statements, encompassing racism, misogyny and bigotry, and his adroit moral flexibility on a wide array of issues, and you have perhaps America’s greatest elastic leader in history–moral flexibility in action.

Effective leadership involves staying true to steadfast principles and maintaining a consistent, ethical approach to how you conduct yourself daily, whether it’s through community service, managing in business or government, or inter-acting with peers as you solve problems and serve customers and clients.

As the old saying goes, “Say what you mean, mean what you say.” Be transparent in all your activities, shunning the temptation to coat the truth or to stretch it to suit your personal ambitions. Real leadership is about telling the truth, serving others and standing up for the vulnerable.

Don’t drink and drive. But if you do, better call Saul.
– Jimmy McGill

seagullClick here to download my complimentary e-book Creating Order & Meaning during Organizational Chaos.

Jim Breakwater 3

Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

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Maximize Your PRESENCE, and Personal Power will Follow

March 20, 2016


She was a college sophomore, sleeping in the back seat of the car while her two friends were in the front. There were taking turns driving from Missoula, Montana, to Boulder, Colorado. The next moment she was waking up in a hospital room, critically injured from being thrown from the car when the driver over-corrected when the wheels hit the shoulder. She was a mess. Doctors told her that as a result of her traumatic brain injuries her IQ had dropped 30 points. Forget about continuing on at university she was told. Find a career that’s suitable to your abilities.

But she prevailed, proving everyone wrong, despite what she’d been told and the daunting obstacles that lay ahead.

Meet Amy Cuddy, PhD in social psychology from Princeton, and associate professor of business administration at Harvard University. Her research focuses on power, non-verbal communication and stereotyping. Her 2012 TED Talk in Edinburgh is the second most-watched with over one million views.

Now 43, Cuddy’s long journey back to health and onwards to graduate and post-graduate studies is a study in leadership perseverance. Her ground-breaking research into how we can use our bodies to influence and train our minds is reaching people in practical ways, from actors to business people to parents to teachers.

Cuddy Presence

At the end of December 2015, Cuddy released her new book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. An excellent book, Presence enables Cuddy to delve much more deeply into her research and findings, and also to share selections of her numerous encounters and thousands of emails from people.

“Presence,” as she defines it for her book, “is the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potentials.”

First, however, let’s take a moment to watch her captivating 21 minute TED Talk.

In her book Presence, Cuddy stresses that presence is not a “permanent or transcendent mode of being.” Instead, we move in and out of it through our daily lives. Some would say that when we’re in this state that we’re living in the moment. But it’s also important to note that Presence is about releasing our personal power. As she states: “It’s about the honest, powerful connection that we create internally, with ourselves.”

When we look at personal power versus social power, Cuddy explains that while there’s a relationship between the two, more important is the distinction of what both represent. Social power is about exerting dominance to control the actions of other people. But it’s a limited power, she adds, since social power requires control over people. In contrast, personal power is based on being free from having to dominate others. It’s unlimited power because it requires you to access your inner resources, including values, special skills and unique personality.

It comes down to social power being about power over versus power to. Another way to express the latter, based on my leadership work, is that personal power may be seen as power with. I prefer power with because of its connotation of collaborating and sharing power with others.

Most importantly, Cuddy eloquently expresses her approach to power:
“Unless and until we feel personally powerful, we cannot achieve presence, and all the social power in the world won’t compensate for its absence.”

Later in the book. Cuddy talks about how to pose for presence, based on her interesting research findings. She also shares some of her stories from people she has met or from whom she has received emails. Her anecdote about Shannon who taught her kids to “starfish up” is not just cute but an effective way to reduce nervousness. Whether you do public speaking, chairing work or community meetings, managing projects, or being a busy parent, Presence has a very practical side to it. It’s not just about Cuddy’s research and her views on power relationships.

Take some time to check out Amy Cuddy’s research work and TED Talk. And perhaps add her new book to your reading list.

Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.
Maya Angelou (African-American author, poet and civil rights activist)


Click here to download my complimentary e-book Creating Order & Meaning during Organizational Chaos.

Jim Breakwater 3Visit my e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Take a moment to meet Jim.


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