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Kimberly-Clark’s Personality Quiz Attracts Young Talent

December 7, 2016


It’s time for a guest post on ChangingWinds; it’s been a while. Two areas of interest in my long work in the leadership-management fields have been human resources recruiting and the use of personality type indicators for management development and teambuilding. There are many indicators, some very complex, with others being more succinct instruments with which to obtain a general view of one’s personality characteristics. I recently learned of a recruiting initiative by Kimberly-Clark, a well known consumer products company for decades, whose products include Cottonelle, Kleenex, Depend, Viva and Scott.

Nina Martin, whose title is Dreamer, is part of Welcome Original Thinkers. As the caption on Welcome Original Thinkers states: “See how you can come join our team of bright, innovative minds.” Kimberly-Clark, as part of its growth, is reaching out to Millennials to attract smart, industrious people who want to make a difference. Check out this guest post from Nina.

Are you an original thinker? You can quickly find out by taking the Welcome Original Thinkers Quiz (WOTQuiz). I’m an Adaptor:

“You enjoy exploring every side of an issue and like a wicked great maestro you tease out the positive in each approach. Your resourcefulness and ability to easily adapt to the latest input often makes you the one who finds answers to the most challenging questions.”

What did you get? Please be sure to share your comments at the end.

Kimberly-Clark created a BuzzFeed-inspired quiz to help employees discover their own Original Thinker type. They’re then rewarded with an emoji badge suitable for social sharing, as well as an invitation to find out about original thinkers at Kimberly-Clark.

K-C 2.jpg

Kimberly-Clark is looking for bright, talented thinkers who are eager to explore ideas, solve problems and be part of collaborative teams and a performance-based culture that’s focused on being number one in its markets. The online WOTQuiz is intended to help prospective employees learn what kind of thinkers they are and in which jobs they’re most suited.

In the process of taking the test and exploring the Welcome Original Thinkers website, visitors to the website will discover that the 144-year-old paper and personal-care products company and its Neenah, Wisconsin, home base are cool. Moreover, Neenah and Kimberly-Clark offer a balance of life that’s probably more fulfilling than many other companies and locations.

Outside of location, Kimberly-Clark’s culture is one where employees can—and do—routinely turn their ideas into winning, profitable and life-changing solutions. So move over Silicon Valley, Austin TECHxas, and the Big Apple. Welcome original thinkers to Neenah, Wisconsin, where young creative chemical and product engineers can find the job of their dreams.

Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.
Chip Bell

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Giving Permission to Canada’s Racists

December 4, 2016

White Again.jpg

Canada, a country of some 36 million people, stretched mostly in a ribbon along the country’s southern border, despite its geography of 10 million square kilometres. A nation founded on immigrants, initially mostly from Europe and the United Kingdom, and in recent years increasingly from East Asia and South Asia. My dad immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1920 at the age of three.

That Canadians have been seen around the world as decent, polite people has not only become a fixture in the country’s self-perception but American comics have had a field day poking fun at their neighbours to the north. I recall a software engineer from South Korea who was a member of my former Toastmasters group. He was a quiet spoken fellow. However, he also proved to be very funny when he gave a club speech on Canada. His gentle pokes at Canadians’ propensity to constantly say “Excuse me” and “Sorry” weren’t not just humorous but really spoke to the country’s culture of what’s actually superficial politeness. Put a Canadian behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and you witness the morphing from docile, flat accented individual to raging lunatic.

Raging motorists aside, Canadians are on the whole still pretty decent people. Yet it’s also important to keep in mind that their southern neighbours are also decent folk, as I shared in a recent post Why America is Good and Great. Unfortunately, when you’re the biggest kid on the block who’s expected to serve a multitude of competing interests domestically and internationally, it’s easy to see why you’d come under daily criticism. Canadians have taken perverse pleasure in knocking down Americans and their political system in an indirect way to boost their own self-esteem.

As probably the world’s biggest voyeurs, Canadians’ favourite entertainment past-time during the last two years has not been NHL hockey, CFL football, or the performing arts (which draws far more people than these two sports combined) but rather watching the political spectacle in the United States. The culmination was the election of Donald J. Trump as President, an outcome that surprised many but in reality the writing was on the wall.


The Coastal Elites, as they’ve been dubbed, still haven’t pulled their heads out of the sand. And what’s been astonishing to watch is not the expected protests (and in some cases riots) across America but numerous protests in Canada. Indeed, some Canadians actually travelled to Florida in the dying days of the Trump-Clinton campaign to help the Democrats. One can imagine Americans reciprocating that gesture. Nothing’s worse than a pissed off beaver.

There have been numerous reports of racist incidents across the U.S. following November 8th. That’s not surprising. What is shocking is the jump in racial abuse being heaped at non-white Canadians in Canada. Coincidently at the time of writing this post, CNN political analyst (and political activist and former Obama White House advisor) Van Jones commented in an interview that Canada isn’t immune to the rise in hate incidents in western countries.

Within a span of just a few days after the U.S. election, numerous hate crime incidents occurred in such cities as Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. Graphic hate graffiti, including swastikas (above photo), were spray painted on synagogs, churches and schools, including in my Ottawa west suburban community. In an interview with the media, Reverend Anthony Bailey talked about how his church, Parkdale United, was targeted by vandals: “The racial epithet that was used, it was directed at black people, myself as the pastor here. Some of the vitriol that has come from south of the border has emboldened people to say, ‘You know, I’ve harboured these sentiments for a long time, I feel permitted to do this now, to act it out.’”

A mosque was hit shortly afterwards. And around the same time that week, Ottawa’s Jewish community was on the receiving end, with three vandalisms. As Rabbi Idan Scher told CTV News: “These words are far more than just words. These words are representative and bring back very, very scary images in our history.”

Take a moment to read Rabbi Idan Scher’s powerful commentary Hate is Not Welcome in our City.


At a shopping mall in Hamilton, Ontario, Janice Lloyd was in a check-out line when a white man in his sixties turned around to face her. He showed her the front page of the newspaper which had Donald Trump’s face on it. He blurted out: “I’m glad he got in. I hope he cleans up the whole of North America.” The other shoppers in the line looked away. When Lloyd asked him what he meant by his statement, he replied: “You all shouldn’t even be here, you’re murderers and killers, you’re running around killing everybody, I hope he gets rid of all of you.”

In her interview with CBC News, Lloyd commented: “There was no raised voice or finger pointing in my face. Just a white man feeling he had the licence and permission to tell me exactly what he thought of black people—then casually walk away from me without a thought or care of the impact of his words. I fear the normalization of this kind of racist behaviour in our community.”

Note the word “normalization” that Janice Lloyd used. It’s key to understanding what’s taking place in gentle Canada. Sure, racism has been embedded in Canada ever since the country was created in 1867 and long before. It’s not news, except to a number of naive Canadians. However, for whatever reason, some Canadians now have self-empowered themselves by channelling Donald Trump’s xenophobic rants to their own perverted ends.

President-Elect Trump may be back-pedalling on a number of his statements made during both the Republican Primaries and Presidential Campaign, including some aimed at Mexicans and Muslims. However, he let the genie out of the bottle by making it permissible and safe for Americans to spout racial insults and threats. If a big-shot CEO can do it, a dude who’s been elected to the highest office in the world, then why can’t Joe Blow do it as well?


Here, in the Great White North, Canadians became WAY too involved in Trump theatre. While most Canadians have traditionally leaned towards the Democratic Party, a surprising number wanted to see Trump win. Reasons vary, but one only has to understand the dynamics of the Brexit referendum in the UK and the surprising June 23rd result to see how and why people even outside the U.S. supported Trump.

Donald Trump has given implicit permission to a subset of America to behave in unacceptable ways that are inconsistent with the country’s history of diversity.

The travesty of watching this debauched process unravel is how it has contaminated the spirit and values of a sovereign nation that happens to sit on the northern U.S. border. For not fully understood reasons, some Canadians (ie, white people) have self-initiated to express their resentment towards anyone without white skin.

To repel the rise in racism and bigotry in Canada, leaders at all levels need to engage. This isn’t just the responsibility of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It requires provincial premiers to speak up. It needs municipal mayors and councillors to get engaged since they’re closest to the community. It means that corporate leaders need to voice their support for strengthening Canada’s diversity. And it demands that individual Canadians must shun racism.

As the above photo says: “Make racists afraid again.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Why America is Good and Great

November 27, 2016


Negativity is corrosive. It eats away at one’s spirit, slowly weakening an individual’s outlook on life to the point that all seems to be lost. It’s a travesty to watch.

When it occurs at a collective level, such as within a community or even that of a nation, then a serious state has been embraced by citizens.

The United States of America, the world’s oldest contemporary democracy, has been undergoing a serious corrosion of its spirit and will to be the free leader of the planet. The two-year lead-up to the November 8th national election proved to be a national nightmare, out of a bad B-rated movie. And it wasn’t just an issue with the Republican Primaries and subsequent contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Primaries were a sordid testimony to deceit and manipulation, with the victim being Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

As if this two-year endurance test of people’s tolerance wasn’t bad enough, the results of the election have led to protests and riots not just across America but here in Canada. Not riots per se, but protests and numerous instances of racial abuse hurled at non-white Canadians. It’s sickening to read reports about this—Canada, allegedly the land of tolerance, opening its arms to immigrants.

But people have forgotten just how wonderful so many Americans are. Sure, in a country of some 320 million you’re going to encounter idiots, assholes and racists. Canada surely has its share, with a small population of 36 million. Americans are hugely generous people, as witnessed by $358 billion in donations in 2014.  According to GivingUSA this was the highest level reported in its 60 year history. In contrast, Canadians donated $12.8 billion in 2013 (Statistics Canada). That’s $350 per Canadian compared to $1,118 per American.

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Reflect on the kindness that’s shown on a daily basis by Americans towards one another, and especially those in need. For many years I’ve watched CBS Sunday Morning, an excellent program covering current events, arts, culture, entertainment and people. It’s the segments dealing with fascinating regular Americans that I find so captivating. These vignettes portray people who have conquered adversity, or helped those in periods of pain and despair, or unconditionally donated their time to improve something in their community.

Just recently on Sunday Morning, the last story was about an amazing man in Tampa, Florida, who self-initiated to clean the headstones of veterans. Andrew Lumish (pictured) arrives at a cemetery with a scrub brush, toothbrush (for detail work) and a plastic container of water. And he goes to it using good old fashioned elbow grease. The results of his work are amazing. One headstone dating back to 1917, covered in moss and dirt, looked new by the time he finished with it.

What drives a fellow like this to do this type of work? No one asked him to do it. He receives no compensation for his efforts. But he’s immensely satisfied with what has become his passion. As Lumish explained in his interview with CBS:

“If they can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person. Whereas if you properly restore the monuments, you can begin an entire conversation, and potentially—in a figurative sense—bring that person back to life.”

This is personal leadership in its finest form. No big-shot CEO or some prominent community leader getting the attention. Just a regular American fellow who doesn’t ask or expect anything in return for his efforts.


It’s unfortunate that most of the news stories we watch on TV or read in print or online deal with the negative. The motivating stories, such as the one shared above, are few and far between in the media—but they’re all around us every day. Indeed, the media can legitimately wear the label of purveyor of fear, narcissism and hate. Nowhere enough attention is given to those events and stories that reflect the goodness of the human spirit and what people can learn from expressions of kindness, love and generosity.

Again, it’s about personal leadership

If the United States is to turn the corner on this ugly episode in its 240 year history, then 320 million people will have to learn how to respect their differences while working towards the same vision of living in a wonderful country. A nation built on immigration, diversity, and hard work through entrepreneurship.

More positive story-telling is needed. There are so many good news and heart-warming stories across America that they would eclipse the negative if only allowed to be shared. Doing so would help stop the corrosion of a nation’s spirit and, hopefully, contribute to its rebirth through collective healing.

The journey in between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.

—Barbara De Angelis

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Whole Lotta Frettin’ Goin’ On

November 20, 2016


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s thick dark locks must have stood up on end when the results of the U.S. Presidential election were finally in. As Canada’s 23rd prime minister, and second youngest in the country’s history, the 45 year-old Montrealer is only one year into his first term. But during this first year, he’s toured the globe and attended numerous meetings with heads of state. And along the way he made pals with the leader of the free world: President Barack Obama.  The two became bosom buddies, as did their spouses, Sofie Gregoire-Trudeau and Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately, becoming pals with the U.S. president can be a fleeting experience, worsened if that individual is at the end of a two-year term and if a national election changes the political party in power. What happened on November 8th is a game-changer for Canada. The big question is whether, on net, the election of Donald J. Trump will be good for Canada.

In the days following the election it was clear that, to borrow from rock ’n roller Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lotta frettin’ goin’ on in the Trudeau cabinet, notably with ministers holding such portfolios as immigration, trade, energy, foreign affairs, and environment.

Justin Trudeau Barack Obama

Like the vast majority of media pundits, pollsters, analysts, strategists and a long list of pseudo experts from the intelligentsia, it was assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election and that she would carry on with the general thrust of President Obama’s agenda. One particular issue stands out: climate change and the attached-at-the-hip direction that the President and Prime Minister Trudeau have had on reducing carbon emissions. Just days before the election, Trudeau announced unexpectedly his plan to introduce a carbon tax that would increase over time. For provinces that haven’t initiated their own carbon taxes, the federal government will do it for them.

Trudeau’s announcement has been met mostly with positive reviews, though Saskatchewan’s Conservative premier (Brad Wall) went mildly apoplectic, as did Alberta’s NDP premier (Rachel Notley). All was good in the Great White North since, again, it was expected that Hillary Clinton would win. That scenario will never materialize, and in its place is a president-elect who has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in climate change, and indeed wants to allow oil and gas drilling on public lands, including national parks.

While addressing the effects of climate change on the environment is of vital strategic importance to the Trudeau government, this is but one of myriad challenges it’s facing. As one CBC journalist put it on November 11th in a CBC Ottawa Radio interview, the Trudeau government is not panicking, but fretting would be a good word.


Unfortunately, to borrow from another rock icon, Led Zeppelin, there’s unlikely to be a whole lotta love that’s going to be apparent between President Trump after inauguration day and Prime Minister Trudeau. If the prime minister were wise, he’d put down his smart phone and focus on Canada’s inter-connected, complex issues, instead of doing selfies with adoring fans. Canada’s longstanding relationship with the United States is THE most important issue on Trudeau’s plate, spanning cross-border trade (over $1 billion a DAY), security, defence, immigration, labour mobility, environment, energy, and so forth.

In his National Post column on November 14th, John Ivison referred to the Trudeau government “disintegrating like cheap toilet paper” in the context of the prime minister offering up to re-negotiate NAFTA. Or as Derek Burney, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, commented: “Naive would be a polite term.”

Prime Minister Trudeau’s one-year, post-election honeymoon was officially over on November 9th. It came unexpectedly and with a huge (or “Yuge” in Trumpian speak) imminent shift in direction for his government. Trudeau’s big problem is that he has some 230 election promises to fulfill; at last count (October 2016), media sources estimated that he’d fulfilled 34. And now a reality show host and real estate magnate has turned Trudeau’s political world upside down.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a competent Alberta politician who served capably in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, stated on November 9th that Prime Minister Trudeau had better quickly re-think his carbon tax plan. Otherwise, it will “kneecap” Canada in how it attracts investment, companies and talent, in the context of its economic relationship with the U.S.

Yes, there’s undoubtedly a while lotta frettin’ goin’ on with Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet, and more broadly the Liberal caucus. Creating a solid working relationship with President-Elect Trump is absolutely critical. Trudeau’s mistake would be to not make this effort, reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s weak relationship with President Obama, or Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s similar weak effort with President G.W. Bush.

Let the love in, Prime Minister Trudeau.

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

— Thomas Jefferson

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So What NOW? America’s Struggle to Remain the Leader of the Free World

November 13, 2016


You don’t have to be an American citizen to feel battered and bruised following the November 8th presidential election. We Canadians, all 36 million, were sucked along for the roller coaster ride over the past two years, from the nutty Republican Primaries to the astonishing Donald Trump victory out of some 20 candidates. The vitriol that spewed forth during the primaries, and then Donald Trump’s profanity-laden presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, exceeded the bounds of the seediest reality show one could imagine.

And then in typical Trumpian reality show fashion, he astonished the world by cleaning Hillary Clinton’s clock in electoral college votes (290 to 228, at the time of this post), though he was a few hundred thousand behind in the popular vote. The pollsters, self-described political strategists, media hosts, reporters, analysts, and so forth all got it wrong, except for the LA Times which consistently held Trump in the lead during the campaign.

Putting aside the blame-it-on-angry-white-voters peddled by the media (a butt-covering attempt for blowing their prediction), the core of the problem is the elitist stance that upper middle class people have maintained against the Republicans, and in particular Donald Trump from the moment he declared his candidacy in the Primaries—the Coastal Elites as some call them. Forget that he’s a douche bag, chauvinist pig, racist, nasty businessman, etc. The intelligentsia, from the media to academics to economists to political analysts, all of whom waded into the Trump swamp, live their lives in privilege, ensconced in their lovely suburbs, oblivious to the realities that tens of millions of Americans face each and every day.

Donald Trump was merely the vessel through which millions of Americans, many of whom were not regular voters or members of the Republican Party, expressed their outrage with the country’s political power system. Trump, the strategist, successfully channelled that outrage towards his personal political ends. He accomplished what he excels at.


Whether it’s trying to keep up with rising health care premiums, feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads, or working two or three jobs, to many Americans the dream of a better life has been steadily fading away. In short, the American Dream is dying. Yet the intelligentsia is still not getting it after the election. Blaming it on angry white people seems to be the media’s post-election analysis. Donald Trump and his team knew where to focus their efforts and in which states. Hillary Clinton, the hard worker she is, made the mistake of over-campaigning in states where she was strong. Check out this Bloomberg BusinessWeek article on how Trump’s campaign strategists got the data right.

Hillary Clinton had the resume to back up her run for office, but not the political strategic thinking. Donald Trump is a brilliant strategist who knows how to deploy resources, but his political resume was non-existent. And guess who won?

Consider these numbers based on exit polls:

— Hillary Clinton won 88% of African Americans, in comparison to Barack Obama’s 93%,
— Clinton attracted 65% of Latinos; Obama drew 71%,
— She received 54% of those 18 to 29 years of age; Obama got 60%,
— She got only 54% of women’s votes; Obama drew 55%.

This piece from The Guardian explains how 53% of white women propelled Trump to victory.

What went wrong with the Clinton campaign? Plenty. But adding to Clinton’s political baggage and how Americans in the Heartland feel disenfranchised, her strategy was obviously wrong. On that point, listen to financial historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson’s succinct remark following the election: “A Donald Trump presidency is not the liberals’ biggest nightmare … It’s a successful Trump presidency.” Reflect on that for a moment.


The U.S. presidential election was tantamount to a Brexit 2.0 American style. Citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd for reasons similar to why Americans rejected Hillary Clinton (excluding the perceived corruption issues surrounding her and the concern with labour mobility in the EU). With the exception of metropolitan London, citizens voted Yes to leave the EU.

The 2016 presidential campaign has been labelled the nastiest since 1860 when President James Buchanan, ranked as one of the worst U.S. presidents, was defeated by Abraham Lincoln. That election is also seen as one of the most important ones in U.S. history, because for one thing it created a more defined edge between party loyalties. It was after the 1860 election that the Democrats and Republicans became the two defacto political parties in a primarily two-party system.

The lanky Abraham Lincoln was not seen as a potential president when he entered politics at age 23, where he failed to win a seat in the Illinois state legislature in his first attempt. Yet he’s seen as one of America’s greatest presidents for the stand he took against slavery and the secession of the southern states from the union. Lincoln’s leadership, however, took place during the bloodiest period in U.S. history. James Buchanan, who had no interest in pursuing a second term as President, exhibited indecisiveness—and indeed impotence—when it came to the secessionist states that feared the national government’s intervention.

People lose perspective when it comes to current political events and a nation’s challenges. Witness the idiotic refrain from the U.S. media during the 2016 campaign that this was the most important election in a lifetime. Rising standards of living breeds a pampered intelligentsia that either deliberately distorts issues for the working and lower middle classes or detaches the elite from the rest of society. What’s most offensive is when top business people and the country’s elite spoon feed a steady diet of adolescent patriotism to the masses in a reminiscent 19th Century attempt to keep citizens obedient. It’s bullshit.


When it comes to Donald J. Trump, it’s just so tempting to lay into him, calling him all sorts of names. Comedian Jon Stewart and numerous other celebrities (including Shark Tank star Mark Cuban, who was initially a Trump supporter) went into potty mouth overdrive during the campaign. What does that accomplish? And now that the election is over, protests have broken out as Democrat supporters express their outrage. Why would you burn the cherished and iconic American flag?

Donald Trump helped to create the vitriol that spewed forth during the Republican Primaries and the presidential campaign. He lambasted Hillary Clinton as a liar, threatening to lock her up if he were elected president. Well, now he’s President Elect, with inauguration day on January 20th.

In her masterful concession speech on November 9th, Hillary Clinton called for Democrats to have an open mind to Donald Trump and to give him the chance to lead. Secretary Clinton reminded her supporters of America’s long standing democracy and its hallmark of a smooth transition of power following elections. As Clinton stated:
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.

The ball is now in Donald Trump’s court, and fortunately he has just over two months to start preparing to become the leader of the free world. It’s time for The Donald to put on his big boy pants. And with any luck, his election may provide the much needed reset to the country’s paralyzed and highly partisan political system.

So to readers, some of whom have no doubt expressed serious angst with the November 8th results, it’s time to pause and reflect on the words from Angeles Arrien, a brilliant leadership practitioner and author who passed away a few years ago:

Be open to outcome, not attached to it.

We’ve collectively been far too attached to outcome for the past two years. It’s time for personal leadership and to learn how to control what is within our grasp.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
— John F. Kennedy


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The Allure of Populism—and the Confusion with Fascism

November 6, 2016


Populist: 1) A member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people. 2) A person who supports or seeks to appeal to the interests of ordinary people. Adj. Representing or appealing to the interests and opinions of ordinary people. Derivatives: Populism.

Fascism: An authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary)

Photo: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau

Sometimes a little clarity and precision is helpful before wading into a controversial area. Populist leaders, and populism as political movements, have been around a long time. With events occurring recently in the United States and parts of Western Europe, it’s a good occasion to pause to reflect on the accuracies in media reporting when it comes to the use of the term “populism” and how some commentators are mixing it in with the detested and overused word “fascism.”

The rise of fascism in post-World War I Germany was the consequence of the Treaty of Versailles and the onerous load that was placed on that nation to pay reparations to the Allied powers. The rub-your-face-in-the dirt treatment to the Germans, a proud people with a long history, combined with a populace susceptible to a charismatic World War I corporal by the name of Adolf Hitler, led eventually to World War II.

Reflect on this for a moment: Loss of national pride places a populace in a very vulnerable position to the emotional appeal of a charismatic leader.


Hitler capitalized on Germans’ pain and humiliation, and became in some ways a populist leader among his followers, except that he was not as much interested in representing the interests of Germans but more focused on prosecuting his distorted plan to re-make Germany as a pure Aryan race.

To be clear, Hitler was not a populist politician.

A number of factors and events have given rise to populism’s surge in recent years. Globalization, and its accompanying effects on global trade, the labor market, and domestic industries (manufacturing in particular), have amplified people’s fears. Add on the role that technology is playing in enabling most jobs to be done anywhere on the planet, and you have a potent mix to stoke the fears of citizens. Introduce a charismatic politician who cleverly knows how to manipulate the public and you have a potentially dangerous situation for a nation.

Indeed, when one reflects on the individuals through history who have captured the hearts and minds of citizens, charisma is the common ingredient. Add a dash of Machiavellianism (the amoral pursuit of power) and fear of the unknown among a populace and you have a leader who may not necessarily be working towards society’s common good.

At this point, readers are likely thinking of one individual in particular: Donald J. Trump. We’ll come to him in a moment.

Populism is appealing to voters because it gives the perception that they’re taking back control from elected politicians to foster better representative democracy. If one does a fast rewind to the founding of the United States or Canada, the founders resisted the notion of citizens having a direct say in decision-making. It’s one reason why the requirements for the Senate of each country had strict requirements for being part of this body of second sober thought. Much of the population was excluded from potential membership.

As anthropology professor David Graeber explains in his excellent book The Democracy Project, the U.S. Constitution was modelled on Republican Rome, which had two consuls that filled a monarchical role. One was a permanent class of senators, while the other was composed of popular assemblies. In the case of the U.S., the Senate was designed to represent the interests of the wealthy, while Congress was to represent democracy. The latter’s role was mainly to raise and spend money. Popular assemblies were eliminated. The farmers of the Constitution were aware that they were building a new political structure that blended democratic and aristocratic elements.


Fast forward back to today and we’re seeing citizens pining for the misplaced belief of direct public involvement in the political decision-making process. Representative democracy is what Canada, the United States, Great Britain and other Western nations were founded upon. In some jurisdictions, such as California, the use of referenda has grown to become politically inefficient and costly processes to involve citizens, but with frequent undesired outcomes.

America’s presidential election campaigns and the preceding party leadership nomination processes are nothing short of endurance marathons, making an Ironman competition look like a stroll in the park. The 2016 campaign saw the rise of two so-called “populists:” Bernie Sanders (pictured), a left-leaning, Brooklyn-born Vermont senator, who surprised everyone with his stamina and ability to create a following of largely younger people with basically a one-issue message. And Donald Trump, a real estate tycoon and reality show TV host who shocked the nation—indeed world—by beating out some 20 other contenders for the leadership of the Republican Party.

It has been a bizarre year in U.S. politics, where the media in typical fashion (and not just America) turned into babbling idiots at times. The media’s inability to understand the history of populism and to distinguish it from fascism has been a sad commentary on the information-providing role it is supposed to play in society.


Donald Trump, because of his rantings on immigration, Mexico, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, defense spending, nuclear weapons, President Obama’s administration, and anyone who got in his cross hairs (such as women who claim he sexually assaulted them) was labelled a fascist by segments of the media and critics. Sure, he’s a bumbling businessman who excels in bankruptcies, but he’s very clever when it comes to the tax code and the entertainment business.

Trump is in some ways a populist because of the following he’s created based on: a) his charisma and b) his ability to identify and exploit the fears that many Americans have on a long list of issues, from immigration to outsourcing jobs to healthcare. And while his rantings about Mexicans being “rapists and murderers,” his insults aimed at women who’ve pissed him off, and his claim to “Make America Great Again” may come off as fascist in some respects, Trump fails the fascism test.

Donald Trump is not a fascist, and is a rather lousy populist politician because of his hidden agenda for post-national election day on November 8th. Yes, he’s a great reality show host. Perhaps he should be labelled an “Entertician,” a hybrid of politician and entertainer.


Compare Donald Trump to the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders (pictured), a nasty piece of work as a politician. Founder and leader of the Party for Freedom, Wilders is one of the most divisive individuals in Dutch politics. He has led the attack on immigration, Muslims and the European Union. In particular, he’s fighting against what he deems is the islamization of the Netherlands.

Most recently, he’s used Twitter to state that the Netherlands needs few Moroccans, claiming that 43% of Dutch citizens stand behind this. The Dutch government is in the process of attempting to try Wilders for hate speech, specifically for inciting discrimination and hatred of Moroccans. However, with the Dutch showing growing intolerance for immigration and Islam, divisions are growing among the populace.

Wilders is certainly charismatic and has used this to great effect to rile up Dutch citizens, both those who are for and against him. But is he a populist leader? No, and no more than Donald Trump. Wilders claims to be speaking for ordinary Dutch citizens, yet he has in the process antagonized many people and divided the country—just like Mr. Trump.

The rise of the above-noted “populist” leaders has led many to suggest that fascism is on the increase and that politicians such as Donald Trump and Geert Wilders are feeding this trend. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has also been included in this list of fascist-style leader. Putin has capably created a loyal following of Russians through his populist appeal as an outdoors, macho guy who wants to make Russia great again (to borrow from Donald Trump). Of these three individuals, Putin is the closest to being a fascist leader, given some of his domestic and foreign antics in the past few years.

In contrast to the examples given, perhaps one of the best examples of a true populist leader who aimed to represent the interests of citizens—and succeeded—was Tommy Douglas, leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which later changed to the New Democratic Party. Douglas, noted for his barn-burner-style speeches in the 1950s and 60s, is Canada’s father of Medicare, the legislation of which was first enacted in the Province of Saskatchewan in 1962. In 2004 he was voted the country’s greatest Canadian. He died in 1986 of cancer at age 86. Douglas is a more appropriate example of populism than many of the weak cases given by media commentators.

And in the U.S., a modern example of a true populist is Bernie Sanders, as just noted, who created an incredible following across the country on a political platform of one issue: addressing how regular Americans have been screwed by the banks and big business and how it’s time to correct that problem.


Let’s pause and hear from someone who helps provide some historical context and perspective to the emerging trend to conflate populism with fascism.

Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Columbia University, wrote an excellence piece in the November 2016 issue of Foreign Affairs. She states: “Despite real problems, the West today is confronting nowhere near the same type of breakdown it did in the 1930s. So calling [France’s Marine] Le Pen (pictured above), Trump, and other right-wing populists “fascists” obscures more than it clarifies.”

Berman acknowledges that the right-wing populists of today share some similar traits as the fascists during the 1930s. However, she makes the key point that fascists, regardless of country, have in the past opposed democracy and liberalism (enabling free enterprise) and been suspicious of capitalism. That’s hardly Donald Trump’s stance.

Berman argues that right-wing extremists today are more oriented towards populism than fascism because they claim to speak for citizens. Besides, today’s context and socio-economic conditions can’t match those of the period between World Wars One and Two. Yet, her comment that populism of any kind is a “…symptom of democracy in trouble; fascism and other revolutionary movements are the consequences of democracy in crisis.” This is a warning to the United States and a number of countries experiencing various states of populism.

As the world moves forward in what’s been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or the Digital Revolution), overlaid with the impending disaster that rising sea levels will impose, geo-political events, and an ageing population in many Western countries, it’s not surprising that populism appears to be surging in many countries. People are fearful of the unknowns that lie ahead.

And when one takes into account the frustrations that many people have with unresponsive elected bodies (read the U.S. Congress and Senate) and concerns in Western Europe with immigration, populism becomes very appealing to many voters. Just remember that populism comes in various shapes and forms, some to be very much avoided.

Take a moment to reflect on this thought: When emotion overrides reasoned debate and the valuing of diverse views, a nation’s representative democracy is on a slippery slope.

My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent.
— Tommy Douglas

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Generation Y’s Playbook to Succeed in a Messy Economy

October 30, 2016


Bill Morneau, a newbie politician, probably didn’t quite bank on being handed the country’s most senior cabinet post, and then only months later in a new government mandate find deficit projections and economic forecasts going out the window. Age 54, the handsome Bay Street millionaire was the executive chair of Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest HR company specializing in pension and employee assistant programs. Plucked out of relative obscurity by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2015, himself fairly new as a member of parliament, Morneau was handed the job of finance minister, the most senior federal cabinet position.

To your faithful correspondent, and to many others, it was a surprising appointment, considering some of the very experienced heavy weights in Trudeau’s new cabinet, such as former Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale. But Trudeau wanted to test out new blood in his cabinet, and along the way received accolades for creating a gender balanced cabinet, a first in Canadian political history.

The point of boring readers with these little factoids is to set the stage for this post. Indeed, it was Bill Morneau who raised eyebrows when he publicly stated on October 23 that young Canadians will need to get used to job churn. In other words, workers will have numerous job changes and short stints of unemployment during their working lives. A year previous, the respected Toronto-based Globe & Mail newspaper criticized Morneau on his apparent naiveté on labor market issues.

Your correspondent worked as a labor market economist and manager for many, many years in the federal government. Subsequent to that, it was in innovation, industrial competitiveness and management development. This is an old story of the many job changes that workers will need to make and the need to keep learning and re-skilling during their working careers. There’s nothing new here, except that it seems new to Bill Morneau, which is odd given his background in human resource management.


While there’s a saying never to question a person’s motives—perhaps question their judgement—Morneau’s comments since becoming Canada’s finance minister are certainly a little offtrack.

There seems to be a link to the Trudeau government’s weakening fiscal situation. The most recent GDP forecasts show 2017 as another lacklustre year, with GDP growth under two percent. The following year looks, again, weak. This will certainly create a certain tension within the Trudeau cabinet, with an election expected in November 2019. Voters tend to re-elect governments when the economy is doing well and unemployment relatively low.

So let’s get out of the political clouds and figure out what this means for Canada’s young folks. And yes, my neighbours to the south are in a similar boat when it comes to labor market changes caused by technology, globalization (read that as work being done anyway on the planet), an ageing population and the upheaval it is starting to create, climate change (and its geo-political implications), and a likely highly tense political environment for several years following the U.S. election on November 8th.

We’re all in this together, whether we’re 25, 45, 65 or 85 years of age.

As a 61 year-old Baby Boomer with four adult kids and a sixth grand kid on the way, and who’s worked with a ton of young people (and loved it), it’s easy to understand why Generation Y (Millennials, if you wish) is pissed off. They’re not dumb. My kids (27 to 37) see what’s ahead when it comes to pensions, job security, healthcare, supporting old farts like their parents, and so forth. They talk about RRSPs (401 Ks if you’re American). Two of them own houses while the other two would like to become home owners. All four are either married or have partners.

It’s freaking brutal for Gen Y.


How are you supposed to invest in a house, with steadily rising prices, while Canada’s finance minister clamps down the lid on younger buyers and with what Morneau referred to as short-term contract work? You don’t. Layer on growing student loan debts from college and you have a big problem. Financial analysts and economists have noted that student loan debt and motor vehicle debt are two ticking time bombs in North America, akin to the mortgage crisis that imploded the financial system in 2008.

In Canada, household debt exceeds the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the first time. Canadians have an insatiable appetite for credit cards and consumer loans. Statistics Canada, a federal agency, stated that the ratio of credit market debt to disposable household income rose from 165% to 167% in the spring of 2016. In a country of 36 million people, it’s frightening that total credit market debt hit $1.97 trillion mid 2016, with consumer credit reaching $586 billion and mortgage debt of $1.3 trillion.

A reality check is desperately needed by Canadians.

Older Boomers and the Silent Generation (age 70-85) don’t seem to really give a crap for young people. What’s important for these cohorts is ensuring that they maintain their lifestyles, tending occasionally to their kids and grandkids. They want and demand independence, and politicians know not to mess with their entitlements. Former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his finance minister Micheal Wilson got that message loud and clear in the eighties when they tried to means test the Old Age Supplement (funded by general revenues). Old people, including my parents, went nuts.

Here’s a tip to Gen Y: politicians pay attention to people who vote. You guys don’t, so you don’t count that much. Old folks do vote; they count a lot. Your correspondent has been voting regularly at all levels of government for 40 years. It means something.

Okay. So what do young folks do to cope with the fucked up mess that older generations have created?

Here are eight lessons for Gen Y’s playbook for success in a messy economy:


Playbook Lesson #1: Screw Home Ownership

Give up the idea of owning a home, especially in the suburbs. Prices will eventually collapse as the massive building spree of the past many years produces a huge glut of overpriced, poorly built homes. Rent. Invest what you save. You’ll be better off in the end.

Playbook Lesson #2: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Young people tend to be getting it faster than Boomers and the Silent generation. They want to see governments effectively addressing climate change and environmental pollution. They’re exploring other ways for personal transport. And it’s not just buying more fuel-efficient cars, using public transit, riding bicycles to work and walking, but taking advantage of what technology offers. Sure, there’s Uber and Lyft. However, car sharing, such as Zip Car, is making its emergence. Whether car sharing has a long-term future is uncertain. But it’s a very clever business concept for its practicality and contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

And that leads to lesson #3.

Playbook Lesson #3: Go Urban

Living urban is where it’s at in the 21st Century. And by that we’re not talking way out in the far reaches of the suburbs but in more densely populated areas in cities. Studies have shown that urban dwellers aren’t just more healthy but also have a lower carbon footprint. As downtowns across North America become gentrified (in turn jacking up housing costs but increasing safety), as public transit continues to improve, as cycling grows in popularity, and as new forms of entrepreneurship appear in the ways of consumer services, they’re becoming the cool place to live.

Lessons #1 and #2 feed into this Go Urban lifestyle. However, to make it work well consider the next two lessons as ways to refocus your priorities and lifestyle.

Playbook Lesson #4: Pay as You Go

The explosion in consumer debt, from credit cards to loans to mortgages, certainly acted as a huge catalyst to increasing the material well-being of people. Along the way, employment in building trades and associated services took off as home and commercial building rose. Consumer spending, which drives over 60% of Canada’s and America’s economies, has been a hugely important driver of economic growth. However, it has imposed a high degree of vulnerability on the economy and job market. This has been accentuated by the unwillingness of the business sector to invest adequately in the U.S. and especially in Canada.

The point here is that just as a business that takes on too much debt puts it future at risk, the same applies to individuals. Instead of having an immediate gratification approach to life, shift to pay as you go, where you’re not accumulating any debt and feel more gratification when you know you’re free and clear of financial obligations afterwards.

The big bonus is that you’ll be in a better position to explore new opportunities, take some calculated risks and embark on new adventures, whether its travel, starting a new business or going back to school to study a new field.


Playbook Lesson #5: Adios Starbucks

This is not to pick on Starbucks, but they are huge and growing internationally. Estimates vary, but regular customers of Starbucks and other coffee houses pay $700 to $1,400 a year just for a morning coffee. Some individuals may blow a few grand a year, depending on how often they visit and what type of drinks they order.

Buy your own whole bean coffee and grind it at home. You’ll save not just a ton of money over a year but you’ll have fresher, better quality coffee. Seek out local roasters and support small business.

Playbook Lesson #6: Small is Beautiful

This lesson is more philosophical, embracing the playbook lessons listed here. It acknowledges and draws from a highly respected thinker of the 20th Century. The late E.F. Schumacher, a British economist and statistician who died in 1977, wrote a compact book under this lesson’s title. He believed in the appropriate use of technology that was user-friendly and environmentally responsible. His work and writing coincided with the rise of the environmental movement, and Schumacher became a leader to those wishing to make the world a better place.

Integrate Small is Beautiful in your approach to life and daily routines. And check out Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Matter. It’s excellent reading.

Playbook Lesson #7: Use Plastic Credit Responsibly

It creeps up on you insidiously. You suddenly realize that you owe a whack of money. The allure of accumulating points from various credit cards, for whatever purpose, can become an addictive routine. However, it demands self-discipline to regularly pay off accumulating card balances. Remember the above comment about Canadians’ huge debt problem?

Don’t engage in this when you’re young while trying to get an education and a foothold in the job market. In fact, don’t get into the points game when you’re older unless you have strong self-discipline.

Use plastic responsibly and with a clear purpose in mind. Yes, society’s going cashless slowly (Sweden’s way ahead of us) and plastic is essential for everything from ordering online to Uber to Airbnb. Don’t blow it by having the collections department give you a call. Nurture your credit rating. (Note: when just out of university, your correspondent worked in consumer leading, which included collecting delinquent debts face-to-face. You don’t want to be on the other side of the conversation with the loan collector.)

Playbook Lesson #8: Keep Learning

As mentioned earlier, young people are taking on huge student debts. It’s bad in Canada, worse in the United States when one looks at the size of loans. At the end of 2015, the Globe & Mail reported that the average student loan in Canada was $29,000 CAD (with a 13% default rate); in the U.S. it was $29,000 USD (with a default rate of 11.8 %).

Competition for acceptance at universities in North America has escalated, compounded by grade inflation and the out-dated belief that a university education is the ticket to success. Community colleges, with their diversified programs of various lengths, are aimed more towards employment success and more in touch with labor market realities. Yet, community colleges, whose tuitions have also risen a lot but less than universities, are still in the back seat of public perception.

But in addition to young people (notably the upcoming Generation Z) needing to give much more thought to colleges, there are emerging forms of post-secondary education that make use of technology. MOOCs have a lot to offer, as well as the newest form of a university without teachers. This isn’t for everyone, and self-motivation is key to its effectiveness.

Young people need to take the necessary time to make decisions on where they want to pursue education after high school and what they wish to specialize in. Parents, too often, get in the way by pushing their kids towards fields that may not mesh with particular talents, interests and passions. Guidance counsellors have their personal biases, and contribute to steering students to certain programs.

Self-empower yourself to chart your learning and career development. This way you own your career future, and will be motivated to make the best of it.

Gen Y 5.jpg

The point is to embrace learning for life. Work for a while after high school if necessary, both to save money and to observe the real world. Perhaps travel internationally and do community work. My two middle kids worked as servers in their late teens. The people skills and work ethic they acquired have benefitted them hugely. One is a nurse and the other works as a senior manager with a large bank.

Learning and re-skilling is something you’ll do not only until you eventually retire but until you die. My late dad was a sponge for learning, something passed on to his son.

And finally on learning, keep the preceding playbook lessons in mind during this time of personal reflection and observation.

Live simpler, build collaborative relationships and enjoy life.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
– E.F. Schumacher

holisti-leadershipClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader, 3rd Edition.

jim-grand-manan-fbVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.