Skip to content

Teaching: An Essential Pillar of Holistic Leadership

May 29, 2016

Learning 1

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach. This post looks at Teaching as one of the four components of Holistic Leadership.

A lot has been written on the need for leaders to be coaches and mentors. This is
important to their effectiveness when it comes to leading others through turbulent change and in supporting their personal growth and development. However, Teaching as part of Holistic Leadership is broader, encompassing the learning-organization concept. Indeed,
some experts have used the expression The Teaching Organization in place of the
learning organization.

Teaching in the 21st Century becomes the responsibility of everyone in the
organization. It begins from within the individual. This is the quest for personal
mastery: to continually strive to improve oneself, and in turn to share with others.
In essence, we become stewards for teaching, because it’s seen in the
organization as highly valued and necessary to its long-term success.
Teaching, as a Holistic Leader, comprises five enabling elements:

  1. Reflection & Inquiry
  2. Openness
  3. Sharing
  4. Stewardship
  5. Personal Mastery

Learning 2

To be a teacher means being open, both to self-discovery and to the views and
feedback from others. Reflection and inquiry are critical if this is to occur, for
without them we’re not able to slow ourselves down to explore new
meanings and possibilities. Teaching is fundamental to effective formal and informal leadership.

Openness is vital to our ability to be creative and innovative. If we’re closed to
ideas and suggestions from others, how will we ever take the chance to try
something different or new? In a turbulent global economy and fast-paced societal change, where work is being distributed around the world and as organizations look over their shoulders at new competitors, each of us needs to be open to new possibilities.

The days of hoarding information and protecting one’s organizational turf are long
gone. Those who try to cling to these practices won’t last long in a globalized
world. This is where Sharing comes into play. Generation Y, in contrast to Gen X
and especially Baby Boomers, is much more adept at sharing information and
ideas. We Boomers could learn from those much younger than us.

We live on a shrinking planet, not just in terms of the impact of communications
technology but more importantly in how we interact with Mother Earth.
Stewardship is becoming an increasingly important enabling element of Teaching
as pressures on our planet grow. Again, Gen Y has something to teach us. This
generation (born between 1980 and 1995) has a strong sense of both social and
environmental justice.

Each of us is never “there.” Regardless of one’s occupation or work passion, there
is always something new to learn or a way to improve our skills, behavior or how
we interact with others. Personal Mastery is so important to who we are as
human beings. If you take the view that every day brings new learning,
possibilities and opportunities, then it’s hard not to jump out of bed every
morning, eager to tackle challenges.

Learning 3

When I talk about Teaching one particular person comes to mind: my Jazz piano
teacher, Brian Browne. A master Jazz interpreter and creator of original music
(with over a dozen CDs), Brian has played professionally for almost six decades.
Yet he’s continually exploring new possibilities, experimenting with voicings,
chords and structures – all of this while fighting cancer during the past few years. I
never know what I’m going to learn during a class. It just happens naturally.
Brian’s unique teaching style, combined with his own passion for continually
learning and improving his mastery of Jazz piano, has embedded in me that none
of us are ever “there.” We’re always interpreting, regardless of context. (Photo: master jazz pianist Herbie Hancock.)

Let’s look at one incredible leader who’s been an inspiration to many and
who exemplifies the Teaching component of Holistic Leadership.

Julie Payette was strong in maths and sciences as a student growing up in
Montreal. But she also loved to sing, and along the way she learned additional
languages to her fluent French and English: Russian, German, Spanish and Italian.
That wasn’t enough for this strong achiever. She later performed with the
Montreal Philharmonic Orchestra and earned her commercial pilot’s license. Her
biggest accomplishment, however, was becoming the second Canadian woman to
fly in space aboard the Space Shuttle.

Payette’s hard work to become an electrical and computer engineer and then
gaining experience in a variety of locations (e.g., IBM research lab in Zurich)
helped position her for entry in 1992 to become an astronaut. She was selected
with three other people from a field of 5,330 applicants. Payette first flew on the
Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999, and was the first Canadian astronaut to visit the
Space Station and to operate the robotic Canadarm. She served as the Chief
Astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency from 2000 to 2007.

Learning 4

In July 2009, Payette served for two weeks as the flight engineer on the Space
Shuttle Endeavour for the STS-127, ISS Assembly Mission to the International
Space Station. She then worked in Houston as a CAPCOM (Spacecraft
Communicator) for NASA’s Mission Control Center. And in 2013, she was named
Chief Operating Officer

Outside of her work as an astronaut, Payette participates in a motivational
program that encourages learning inside and outside of the classroom. She speaks
to school children and the public across Canada on a regular basis, with the goal of
fostering their own growth as human beings. She acknowledges that it can be
challenging trying to convey her message when people look at her with awe. But
as she puts it: “The impression is that we’re perfect and we’re robots, but that’s
not the case. We’re just people who have the skills and personality to do this job
well. Human beings are human beings.”

One vital message she stresses is that while academics is important to personal
growth, so too is gaining a variety of experiences that promote creativity and
imagination. In fact, she likes to tell the story that when she was going through
the selection process, she explained to the panel that her choral singing would
help make her an excellent astronaut because it made her a more rounded

Reflection Question: As a leader, how do you perceive your abilities as a
Teacher; where are you strong and where do you need to improve?

I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.
— Miles Davis

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

Jim Grand Manan 2Visit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.

Are You a Smarty Pants?

May 23, 2016

Smarty 1

Fill in the blank in the following quotation to see if you correctly identify the decade in question:

Any company that aspires to succeed in the tougher business environment of the ______ must first resolve a basic dilemma: success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn. What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation.

So what did you guess? It sure sounds like today’s business environment, not to forget the public and not-for-profit sectors.

If you guessed the nineties you’d be correct. It comes from a Harvard Business Review article published in the May-June 1991 issue. Written by professor emeritus Chris Argyris of the Harvard Business School, the title of the article is Teaching Smart People How to Learn. Seen as a HBR Top Ten Reads, it’s also regarded as a landmark concept piece on why organizations must work harder at creating deep learning cultures if they’re to succeed in a complex, globalized economy.

While this post highlights Argyris’ key findings and messages from his research, it’s very worthwhile to download his 1991 paper to learn more fully about his concepts and research on highly educated professionals.

Smarty 2 (1)

Argyris talks about the great difficulty that organizations have in trying to figure out how to engage their so-called top-talent employees. Of more significance, many organizations aren’t even aware that they have a problem. Why? Because from management down, employees don’t properly understand learning, thinking it refers to problem-solving. This means they focus on problems occurring in the outside world–the external environment. However, Argyris argues that people need to take time to reflect critically on their own behavior and actions, and then change this to contribute better to the organization’s challenges. People, he states, “… must learn how the very way they go about defining and solving problems can be a source of problems in its own right.”

Through his research spanning dozens of organizations, Argyris created his concept of “single-loop” and “double-loop” learning to distinguish between the two learning approaches. Simply, single-loop learning would be, for example, a thermostat that automatically turns the heat on at a set temperature setting. However, double-loop learning kicks in when the thermostat asks itself “Why am I set to 70 degrees F, and is there a more appropriate temperature setting?”

Well-educated professionals are typically competent at single-loop learning. That’s how they amassed their degrees and the many letters behind their names on business cards. And in the context of their work, they apply what they learned to solve real-world problems. Here lies the crux of the issue: their inability to engage in deeper work involving the practice of double-loop learning because of past success and the rare occurrence of failure.

So when shit hits the fan and Joe Professional makes a big mistake, the immediate response is to find blame through defensive reasoning. More important, the employee’s ability to learn freezes just when it’s needed most. Think, for a moment of an example. A big one is the 2008 financial crisis and the series of mistakes that happened over many months (indeed years), prosecuted from top managers down the line. No one seemed to get it, except for a few, of what was happening as the financial system began to implode.

Bad meet1

Organizations, as Argyris explains, spend too much time on such issues as reorganizing (moving the deck chairs), talking about corporate culture and compensation. What they don’t focus on is double-loop learning, in which people engage in reflection and deeper thinking. “Teaching people how to reason about their behavior in new and more effective ways breaks down the defenses that block learning.”

Argyris talks about the 15 years he spent carrying out research on management consultants. One of the stories he talks about is summarized below.

The manager of a team of top consultants at a respected consulting company decided to hold a half-day meeting to discuss the team’s performance following the end of a contract. The client had expressed its satisfaction with the team’s work; however, the manager believed that the team could have done better. Knowing that the team’s members, all top performers, would find it hard to self-reflect critically, the manager brought in a trusted facilitator and attempted to create an open atmosphere.

In response to the manager’s request that the team challenge him on his leadership and whether he could have performed more effectively, the other part of his request fell flat: what mistakes did the members make and how could they have done better? The team looked outside themselves. The client was not cooperative. The manager was not well prepared. He submitted to pressure from his bosses. He didn’t run project meetings well. And so it went.

Towards the end of the session, the manager made one more attempt, asking how the team could be more effective in the future. No luck. The team’s members once again pointed to the client and the manager as the sources of the problems. One consultant went so far as to make the ironical comment: “They have to be open to change and want to learn.”

Guy Hanging by Tie

This bizarre event is an excellent portrayal of well-educated people reacting defensively to protect themselves. Of particular insult was their manager operating transparently and with the best of intentions being treated callously and disrespectfully. And the end result was zero insights into how the team could improve its performance for the next client contract. A “common language,” as Argyris concludes, was never found.

In talking about defensive reasoning and what he calls the “doom loop,” Argyris states: “The manager understands the trap but does not know how to get out of it. To learn how to do that requires going deeper into the dynamics of defensive reasoning–and into the special causes that make professionals so prone to it”

So why do professionals, especially so-called top performers, fall for being defensive when asked questions relating to their work or performance?

As human beings we form from our life experiences what Argyris calls “theory-in-use,” our personal set of “rules” that guide our behavior. For the most part, we’re unaware that they exist or that we resort to them every day. However, each of us acts inconsistently at times, contradicting what’s called our “espoused theory:” what we say to the world and how we think we’re acting.

Complicating our theory-in-use is a set of four governing values that determine our behavior.

1) To stay in unilateral control

2) To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”

3) To suppress negative feelings

4) To be rational


Defensive reasoning, therefore, helps us as individuals to keep our assumptions and beliefs private from others as we go about our daily activities. Moreover, it serves as a safeguard to prevent our beliefs from being tested objectively, whether through personal reflection or by others. In the example of the manager and his consulting team, he never had a chance. His team’s theory-in-use overrode their espoused theory.

The big challenge for those leading people, whether in intact or project teams, is investing the time, effort and commitment to help move them to a higher level of operating performance in the workplace. Ongoing learning is embedded in our daily work activities. Therefore it’s essential to approach problems, anticipated and spontaneous, in an open-minded and integrated way. Wearing blinders to opposing views or rejecting unorthodox solutions is not just potentially harmful to the organization’s performance but also disrespectful to your co-workers.

Take time to do some personal reflection and inquiry on how you approach collaborative learning.

When you are problem-solving, you are trying to get rid of something. When you are in a creative mode, you are trying to bring something into being.
‒ Stephen Covey

Holisti Leadership

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

Bay St. Lawrence BLOGVisit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.

Holistic Leadership: Leadership Does Not Equal Position

May 15, 2016

Woman Handstanding

If you haven’t already, be sure to download the third edition of my e-book Becoming a Holistic Leader: Strategies for Successful Leadership using a Principle-Based Approach

Holistic Leadership is founded upon the premise that each of us must strive throughout our lifetime to become a balanced, centered individual who’s able to effectively use the four principal components of leadership: teaching, directing, participating and nurturing. Of particular significance is to understand the importance of the whole and the inter-relationships among the four principal components.
Many people feel that leadership equals position in organizations. What gets forgotten is that leadership must be earned by a creating a followership. In contrast, management is about appointment to position. In short: if you have no followership, then you’re not a leader, regardless of how many people you have authority over. You can move the deck chairs around on a sinking ship of bad morale and low productivity; however, people are not following you.

The approach under Holistic Leadership, therefore, is to focus on drawing out the leadership that is present in each of us. We all have the potential to take on greater leadership roles in our communities and organizations. However, it’s important that any discussion on leadership be integrated with the individual, the team and the organization.


The roles that people play in today’s organizations have become much more dynamic. We face greater complexity in our work environments as a result of the evolving and more sophisticated needs of customers; growing interdependency in the global economy; technological change; changing organizational structures and work processes; an aging population; and fiscal pressures. For those in managerial positions, they must not only be able to respond to the needs, values and aspirations of their staff, they must also anticipate changes in the future. In short, it’s not an easy gig being a manager in today’s rollercoaster workplace.

With that in mind, it becomes obvious that for organizations to thrive in a rapidly changing economy and society, everyone must practice some form of leadership. Working in a collaborative manner with co-workers is key to helping organizations succeed in the 21st Century. Equally important is enhancing one’s personal leadership, which requires self-discovery and self-awareness.

Consequently, the need has never been greater for leaders at all levels who are capable of functioning effectively in organizations in which diversity and interdependence have become two major yet opposing forces. This requires new behaviors for leaders if they’re to succeed in a complex environment. Let’s look at a practical example of Holistic Leadership in action.

Black Surgeon

A number of years ago I watched a documentary featuring people who worked in demanding occupations. One segment stood out. It was the ER surgeon working in an inner-city hospital. I remember watching the chaos in the emergency room, the gunshot victims, people suffering heart attacks, those with broken limbs, and victims of assault. It was incredible to watch, not because of the carnage and extremely fast pace of the ER, but because of how smoothly the ER staff functioned. Everyone knew their respective roles, carrying out their duties flawlessly.

The surgeon was in charge of the ER and it was remarkable how calm he was in the midst of chaos. He never lost his cool, quietly giving instructions on specific treatments and protocols, listening to the information given by his team members, and acknowledging their efforts. When interviewed later by the journalist, the surgeon spoke about the demanding work and pressures on the ER staff and the need for constant learning. But one comment he made has remained me with me for years. He said in reply to a question on how could staff work in that setting: “My people look to me for leadership. If I lose it, they lose it.”

At the end of his shift the surgeon put on his cap and headed out the door. But was he headed home? No. He was on his way to do volunteer work with inner city children.

Take a moment to reflect on this story. How does this surgeon’s actions represent leadership to you?

The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live.
– Norman Cousins (American political journalist, author, peace advocate, 1915-1990)

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

DSCN2815Visit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.

How’s Cubicle Life Going for You?

May 8, 2016
Guy in Cubicle

One of my favorite Dilbert cartoons is from many years ago. Dilbert’s peering over his cubicle into the next one, asking the occupant: “What are you in for?”

Those five words sum up beautifully what has evolved–devolved?–over the past many decades in cubicle land. Your faithful correspondent was a cubicle dweller for much of three decades, starting in the private sector and then doing a long stretch with the federal government. In the eighties and nineties, cubby holes–cubicles–were small enough, but tolerable.

However, as the year 2000 receded in the rearview mirror, plans were underway in the public sector and in business to start squeezing office workers’ space, reducing their “physical footprint” to the smallest possible. All this has occurred while the remuneration packages of top management has ballooned.

Once upon a time, people worked in huge open areas without zero privacy. And then came the cubicle 52 years ago. But where did the idea of the cubicle start?

The irony of the cubicle concept is that it was intended to boost productivity, or so thought Robert Propst, a designer for office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller.

Man in Cubicle

Propst, an inventor of heart valves and airplane components, wanted to improve efficiency over the bull-pen work setting that had been used for years. He designed what was called the Action Office, consisting of a large adjustable desk with vertical filing systems, separated from adjacent workers. It was about creating a semblance of privacy, with the belief that people would increase their productivity. For one thing, spreading out work (paper) on a large desk would supposedly produce more employee output.

By 1970, the Action Office concept had fizzled. Herman Miller then introduced what could be contemporarily deemed 2.0 – a compact modular cubicle with no adjustable desk. Management much preferred this model, since more workers were now compressed into the same physical space, plus managers benefited from having offices on the perimeter with windows. Other companies jumped into the now more lucrative office furniture market, most notably Steelcase.

Cubicle Land was born, and there was a lot of money to be made by manufacturers.

Of particular note, Propst later referred to his Action Office creation as a “monolithic insanity.”


Yet Propst’ monoliths now encompass some 40 million American workers; in Canada, that number would be just under five million. Some have cynically referred to cubicle dwellers as The Walking Dead, given how working in such conditions eventually sucks out one’s spirit, wellness and creativity. The latter is of particular mention from a business perspective. Add in the bottom line metric of productivity, and the pernicious effects that cubicles have on it, and it offers up the question: doesn’t top management get it?

Silicon Valley seems to have a love affair with creating open office layouts, moving from slice and dice cubicles to employees not only working often at big tables but who are constantly on the move, changing on-site work locations regularly. Some companies prefer to use the cubicle hotel concept, in which employees work at various tiny cubicles. No one has a “home.” Take a moment to read Lindsey Kaufman’s account account of being forced to work in an open office environment.

It doesn’t require a doctorate in organizational behavior or psychology to understand that the bottom-line management fixation on squeezing as much space as possible from office floor design is having a negative effect on worker morale, wellness and productivity. Sure, open communication and team work are essential to organizational effectiveness and output. Except that senior management loves its emoluments – the perks – which it sees as a right when in reality they’re a privilege. In the vernacular, the people at the top aren’t practicing what they’re preaching.

It’s indeed difficult to espouse transparency, leadership and teamwork when senior management is not practicing it.

The steady move to continue shrinking individual worker space is occurring simultaneously with the ominous trend of creating a just-in-time workforce, in which people never hold permanent jobs, instead moving from contract to contract (creating huge retirement income problems down the road). The big question is what’s the long-term view (15 to 20 years out) of the open office concept? What’s being debated now may prove to be a moot point in the bigger picture of Canadian and American workers’ roles in a global, technologically-driven labor market.

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.

 –  Max de Pree (Retired, Former CEO, Herman Miller)

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

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

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.

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

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

Jim Breawater 1Visit Jim’s e-Books, Resources and Services pages.

Contact Jim for information on his Holistic Leadership Workshop

Take a moment to meet Jim.

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)

seagullClick here to download a complimentary copy of Jim’s e-book Creating Order & Meaning during Organizational Chaos.

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.

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

seagullClick 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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 596 other followers