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A Female Warrior Leader’s Journey

December 14, 2015

Waneek Horn-Miller 1 This is an extra-ordinary leadership story about a woman who as a young teenager almost lost her life. But she not only survived but went on to become an outstanding First Nations female leader who represented Canada later in life at the Olympics. She has maintained her focus on improving the conditions for Canada’s ignored and exploited First Nations peoples. Her life has been one of contribution and steadfast principles.

Be sure to read this incredible story, and also the complementing piece The Way of the Warrior Leader.

The sharp point of the Canadian soldier’s bayonet penetrated her chest, just above her left breast, narrowly missing her heart by one centimeter. She was only 14 years old and terrified, especially when she was hauled away by soldiers, all the while trying to protect her four-year sister. The shock of the situation made her realize only later that she was bleeding. (Photo below)

Was she armed? No.

Did she physically threaten the soldier or anyone else in the vicinity? No.

This was part of the bigger scene on September 26, 1990, in Oka, Quebec, just west of Montreal. Waneek Horn-Miller was only 14 years old. She was carrying her four year-old sister, Kaniehtiio, from the centre where she had been cooking and delivering meals for the Mohawk warriors who’d been manning the front lines against the Canadian Army and Quebec provincial police for several months. Her run-in with the soldier moments later almost cost her life. A subsequent human rights suit filed by her years later was turned down because of her inability to identify the solider.

The Oka Crisis, which had begun in March 1990, was over the expansion of a municipal golf course and the construction of condos on Mohawk burial ground in a heavily forested area. Mohawks from the Kanesatake reserve claimed this land as theirs. After blocking a small road that led to the golf course, and subsequently ignoring a court injunction to remove the blockade, the situation deteriorated quickly. (Other blockades went up by First Nations across Canada in support of the Oka blockade.)

Waneek being stabbedOn July 11, 1990, the Quebec Provincial Police stormed the blockade resulting in the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay. As Mohawks stated in a documentary over two decades later, you could feel and hear the bullets whizzing by. Corporal Lemay’s widow, in a documentary in 2014, wept when she met with First Nations’ women, realizing the brutality they had been subjected to by the police and Canadian army and how wrong the dispute had been handled by everyone involved.

On August 20, three days after Quebec’s premier gave the green light to Canada’s army, some 4,000 soldiers, with over 1,000 tanks, Grizzlies, helicopters, trucks, artillery pieces and other equipment moved into place. Of this number of soldiers, 1,000 replaced the provincial police who had surrounded the Mohawk barricades. At that point, Mohawk negotiators suspended negotiations.

In one of Canada’s darkest periods since Confederation in 1867, on August 28th white people stoned a convoy of 75 vehicles carrying mostly First Nations women and children as they attempted to evacuate the area, fearing an invasion of the military. The RCMP and military did virtually nothing to stop the barrage of rocks. This video is painful to watch but it vividly shows the gauntlet that First Nations people had to navigate to escape a violent situation.

In this compilation video from the CBC, anchorman Knowlton Nash does the narrating. It shows the Canadian army moving in to remove the last of 12 barricades. The situation gets extremely tense as the soldiers get too close to First Nations burial grounds. The Mohawk warriors are ready to take action against the soldiers who won’t back down. And then something remarkable happens. First Nations women enter the scene to stop an imminent battle. With no weapons and just using their bare hands, they force their male peers to back off.

Waneek Waterpolo And that brings us back to Waneek Horn-Miller’s almost fateful encounter with an over-zealous solider on September 26, 1990, the day the Oka Crisis finally ended. Women and children, caught in the midst of fired up Mohawk warriors and soldiers, became, as we’ve seen in many war zones, the victims.

Since the Oka Crisis, Waneek Horn-Miller has proven to be an extra-ordinary leader. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics she was the co-captain of Canada’s water polo team. She also received international attention for posing nude on the cover of TIME, using a water polo ball as strategic cover.

Horn-Miller uses her role as a motivational speaker and host on the APTN network to educate Canadians about aboriginal history, mistrust and how Canada and First Nations peoples can reach reconciliation. And at the Toronto Pan Am Games in July 2015, she served as the assistant Chef de Mission. (Photo below)

Waneek Horn-Miller, celebrates her 25th anniversary in sport as the assistant Chef de Mission for the Pan Am Games, she celebrated her 10th as a member of Canada's Water Polo team in the Sydney Olympics. She is also a survivor of Oka standoff. A soldier hHorn-Miller is married to Keith Morgan, a four-time Olympian in judo and now medical doctor. She has two older sisters, one a physician, the other a professor. And her little sister, Kaniehtiio, whom she was carrying on September 26, 1990, is a Gemini-nominated actress. Horn-Miller states: “Every time I wanted to quit I would envision my little sister’s face and say, ‘I’m not going to quit for her.’ ”

In an interview published in the Ottawa Citizen this December, the last question posed to Waneek Horn-Miller was “Why does Canada need every citizen to be an engaged citizen?” (The preceding question dealt with how Canadians could play a more active role in improving the lives of indigenous peoples.) Her reply to this final question was eloquent and visionary:

“We can’t rely on other people to make the world what we want it to be. Get out there and learn and do; that’s the best way you can hand down a good country to your kids.

We are creating a utopia: a multicultural society with love and tolerance. It requires constant work and navigation on everyone’s part, but together we can create a Canada without indigenous and non-indigenous conflict. That is the future I want for my children, everyone’s children.”

In a white, male-dominated society, filled with leadership stereotypes, we tend to forget the many strong female leaders in our midst. And we especially forget those who are members of our First Nations and Inuit communities and their struggle to be heard and respected.

Waneek Horn-Miller is a true warrior leader.

The Oka crisis is a very dark period in Canadian history. It should never have escalated to the point of the Quebec Provincial Police getting involved, resulting in the death of a police officer. Having the Canadian Army later enter the situation proved that politicians didn’t have a clue on how to respond properly to legitimate First Nations concerns. And it was all over the expansion of a golf course which would have encroached onto First Nations’ land. The golf course expansion never happened.

Have we learned anything?

I want them to remember me as the most courageous fighter, leader, and water polo player to have ever lived.
– Waneek Horn-Miller

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Real Leaders Shun Intolerance

December 7, 2015

Niqab Flag The 20th Century will go down in history as a violent one. As British historian Niall Ferguson has expressed, we experienced a War of the World, stretching from the early 1900s to the end of the Cold War. While a controversial concept, Ferguson’s premise is based on the clash of fading and rising empires.

Yet the 20th Century also had its share of advancements for human kind, spawned by those who displayed leadership at all levels. Examples include the end of America’s segregationist Jim Crow laws in 1965 (dating back to 1890 and specific to the Confederate states); allowing women and indigenous peoples to vote in Canada and the United States; and legislation protecting the rights of homosexuals and those with disabilities. Many more positive improvements occurred, such as taking hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty in developing countries due to the lifting of trade barriers and the globalization of work.

The 21st Century is young – a mere infant at this juncture. However, the past 15 years have not been anything to brag about. The media’s obsession with terrorism, albeit a serious concern requiring focused attention by political leaders; the trivial activities of celebrities; and the lurid details of violent crime help undermine society’s further advancement. Instead of playing the more substantive leadership role of objective investigator to world events, we’ve witnessed the media’s tendency to take sides on issues and to go for the superficial.

Witness the vicious backlash from media commentators to anyone who offered other perspectives post-911. Politicians and the general public were equally guilty. This type of emotional shoot-from-the-hip reaction continues as terrorism, courtesy of ISIS, accelerates in grabbing the world’s attention. One of the casualties has been law-abiding Muslims getting smeared with the terrorist brush. In Canada, boring and pacifist as it may seem to the world, intolerance has escalated with the announcement from newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that 25,000 Syrian refugees will be brought to the country by the end of February 2016 (initially December 2015 as he declared during his election campaign).

It doesn’t seem to matter to a segment of Canada’s population that several thousand Syrians have already entered Canada and that the 25,000 total number are coming from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where they have been temporarily housed for a few years. No single males will be among the refugees accepted, just women, children and intact families. Even one of Canada’s provincial premiers jumped into the intolerance game in November, backing off when he realized that his manufactured shrill warning was essentially empty.

Residential School Let’s pick on Canada some more, since your correspondent was born there, and besides America is typically the punching bag for a host of issues.


Canada’s treatment of its indigenous peoples has been shameful since long before Confederation in 1867. First Nations peoples were not allowed to vote without fear of losing their status until 1960. It was only recently that Canada’s revolting Indian Residential Schools system was finally shut down in 1996 (photo, circa 1940).

This anachronism of the 1876 Indian Act was funded by the federal government and managed by churches, most notably the Catholic Church. Young Indian children were torn from their homes and sent to far away “schools” where many suffered physical and sexual abuse. As Justice Murray Sinclair, himself First Nations, stated in his 2015 report from the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canada’s residential school system was tantamount to cultural genocide. Strong words but accurate.

Through various liberal and conservative federal governments over the decades, there has been a lot of talk and promises made but little action, especially during Stephen Harper’s decade as prime minister which ended in November 2015. Canadians’ intolerance of First Nations and Inuit peoples over many generations is not only the darkest time in Canada’s history but it has never ended. When the light will shine on Canada, as one of the world’s richest nations, in how it doesn’t just tolerate its indigenous peoples but actually embraces them and includes them as important contributors is likely a long way off.

intolerance Sign

Intolerance extends past racism to what was historically seen as benign political correctness. However, this has changed in the past few years where anyone or any segment of a campus group who goes against the grain on almost any issue stands the chance of being ridiculed or shut down. Student protests against an invited controversial speaker have frequently led to that event’s cancellation. Yet this is occurring in what has been perceived as the last bastion of free speech: university and college campuses where contrary thought and ideas are instrumental to the education of young people.

Society, in the end, benefits from diverse views.

Consider what has been dubbed the “new intolerance of student activism.” One example is in The Atlantic. This story will leave you bewildered on how could something as dumb as this happen on a university campus. A husband and wife who are Yale professors came under fire from students in the fall of 2015. The students wanted them fired. Their crime? When students began complaining to the University about its suggestions on appropriate Halloween costumes, the two professors suggested via an email that perhaps an intelligent conversation on the issue would be the best way to proceed. This benign and constructive proposal enraged the students who went to war against the two professors.

Witness the absolutely insane incident that occurred in November in your correspondent’s home town at the University of Ottawa. Call it intolerance or just sheer stupidity on the part of supposedly well educated people, this mind-bending act of political correctness is a sad commentary on our post-secondary education system.

North America doesn’t have the monopoly on intolerance. It’s happening across the Atlantic Ocean in Great Britain. At Cardiff University, American feminist Germaine Greer had to cancel a lecture because students had protested that she was promoting misogynistic views towards trans-sexual women. At Oriel College (part of Oxford University), students demanded the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. The students argued that the statue was a monument to racism and colonialism. As one of the protesters stated: “There’s a violence to having to walk past the statue every day on the way to your lectures.”

Intolerance is sweeping in scope. Whether it’s the current near-hysteria in North America about Muslims wearing hijabs and especially niqabs, Canada’s centuries-old intolerance of its indigenous peoples, or misogyny inflicted by male university students against their female peers, intolerance is pernicious in its impact on human dignity.

Real leaders shun intolerance. Whether the context is the public service, a corporation or at the community level, when intolerance raises its ugly head, leaders shut it down immediately. By leaders, this may be at the employee level where people step up when they see peers on the receiving end of offensive cultural remarks. Or the head of a company, who rather than sweep under the rug office talk of a manager who’s prejudiced against certain races, takes immediate action to investigate, discipline and educate all the company’s managers and staff on diversity.

Shunning intolerance is a shared responsibility by all of us. Be ever vigilant and stop it in its tracks when you see it.

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.
– Nelson Mandela

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The Way of the Warrior Leader

November 29, 2015

Harjit 1Reflect for a moment on the word “Warrior.”

What comes to mind?

Ruthlessness, violence, cunning?

Or bravery, integrity, fearlessness?

Our mental models, formed over the years as we’ve matured into adults, begin to cement how we perceive the world, and more specifically how we interpret certain words and expressions.

In her 1993 book, The Fourfold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary, the late Angeles Arrien developed an excellent framework that integrates the essential elements of leadership drawing on the teachings of indigenous peoples.

One of the four elements is the Way of the Warrior, whose guiding principle is showing up and choosing to be present. Arrien explains that the developed Warrior “…shows honor and respect for all things, employs judicious communication, sets limits and boundaries, is responsible and disciplined, demonstrates right use of power, and understands the three universal powers [power of presence, communication and position].”

GreitensIn  a different context, but one putting into practice the Way of the Warrior, former Navy Seal Eric Greitens (pictured) shares his experiences in his excellent book The Heart and the Fist. Greitens provides a real-life portrayal of what it means to be a warrior leader but yet to possess the empathy and responsible use of power in war zones.

Examples abound of Canadian and American soldiers who have demonstrated the skills of warrior leaders in battle and peacekeeping missions, whether in Bosnia or Afghanistan or peacekeeping in Rwanda, yet who have touched the hearts of the vulnerable: civilians–notably women, children and the ageing–who only want to be safe and to carry on their lives without the prospect of violence, whether it is the Taliban, ISIS or rebel groups in Sudan.

Retired Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, and former Canadian Senator, recounted a leadership story from his peacekeeping work in Rwanda in the nineties. A Canadian corporal leading a small group of peacekeepers encountered a horrific scene involving civilians along a rural road. Despite the acute risk to the soldiers of being exposed to rebel fire, and not wasting time to call for permission to help the civilians, the soldiers dove into the adjacent field to render assistance.

This example of leadership is what Eric Greitens and Angeles Arrien are talking about through their respective viewpoints.

Harjit 3More recently, and close to home, a warrior leader has assumed Canada’s prominent role as Minister of National Defence. However, this leader has a very unique ethnic heritage and military and law enforcement background.

Meet Harjit Singh Sajjan (pictured above).

Born in Bombeli in India’s Punjab district, the 45 year-old emigrated to Canada at age five. When he was in his teens he decided to be baptized as a Sikh, and later as an adult married Kuljit Kaur Sajjan, a family physician. They have a son and a daughter.

Sajjan first expressed an interest in the military when he was 15, mentioning to one of his teachers his desire to become a pilot but not thinking that he was smart enough. He changed schools to escape bad influences, and at age 19 joined the Canadian Forces reserves. Years later as a Vancouver South police detective working in an anti-gang unit, he tackled the same problems he was exposed to as a youth, all the while being an Army reservist.

He served as a Canadian Forces Army reservist for 26 years up to his election in the October 19, 2015, federal election. During that period, he did three combat tours in Afghanistan at the rank of Lt. Colonel. His work involved military intelligence and anti-terrorism, interacting with some of Afghanistan’s most ruthless politicians and local warlords.

Sajjan’s efforts resulted in a letter of commendation in 2006 from the commander of Canada’s Coalition Task Force in Afghanistan. The letter, shared with Vancouver’s police chief, stated that Sajjan was seen as “…the best single Canadian intelligence asset in [a combat] theater, whose hard work, personal bravery and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of Coalition lives. ” He was further credited with providing the intelligence for a military operation that yielded the “kill or capture” of 1,500 Taliban fighters. (source: National Observer).

Harjit 2 In addition to serving as the new Minister of National Defence (photo of him being sworn in), Sajjan is also a member of some of the most powerful Cabinet committees, including Public Safety and Intelligence. His work as a police detective who took on gangs complements his frontline combat experience.

As usual, the media has found a label for a new celebrity. Sajjan has been dubbed Canada’s “Bad-Ass Defence Minister.” Although cute to some, the label is both unfortunate and inappropriate. Harjit Sajjan is a highly intelligent man who has acquired deep and specialized experience through hard, dedicated work in serving his community and country. The label “Bad Ass” is not just juvenile but grossly undervalues his 26 years of contributing to Canada.

Yes, Harjit Sajjan is a first class warrior leader, as discussed in the earlier sections of this leadership post. He should be paid that respect by the media and citizens, noting the highly complex and rapidly evolving global security and defence environment.

Greitens 2I‘ve learned that courage and compassion are two sides of the same coin, and that every warrior, every humanitarian, every citizen is built to live with both. In fact, to win a war, to create peace, to save a life, or just to live a good life requires of us – of every one of us – that we be both good and strong.
– Eric Greitens

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From Shared Vision to Execution: The Real Leadership Challenge

November 23, 2015

Vision Execution We continue to read and hear a lot about the importance of vision when it comes to senior leaders focusing their organizations on the future. It’s important stuff, and the leadership literature ensures that we haven’t forgotten the message.

However, it’s all well and good to be regularly reminded of the importance of corporate and public sector leaders working at aligning their employees behind a common purpose and beacon to which to strive. It’s quite another beast to actually develop cooperatively with employees an executable strategy to, as Star Trek captain Jean Luc Picard would say, “Make it so.” In other words, the organization’s mission–its purpose–is the driver to move the organization steadily towards that vision.

It needs to be noted that a “vision” is actually never realized or attained. Rather, it’s that guiding light that steers the organization, through good and bad times, towards the desired state. And to do so means that everyone in the organization is clear on its values–for what it stands.

There have been many more bad and incompetent top leaders than effective ones in both business and government. The consequence has typically been financial scandals, environmental calamities and stock price collapses in business, and the resignations or voted out of office of politicians at national and sub-national levels due to improprieties or just plain ineffective policies.

Depree There have been few managerial leaders in the business world who have attained the sustained respect by peers, academics and industry journalists as Max De Pree (pictured). Now 91, De Pree was the CEO of office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller. His father, D.J. De Pree, founded the company in 1905 after acquiring the Star Furniture Company in Michigan (he renamed it in honor of his father-in-law, Herman Miller).

What made Max De Pree such an incredible business leader was his incredible respect for employees and involving them in the company’s decision-making. He believed in people building their leadership skills, assuming responsibility for their work and actions, and achieving results. He didn’t pander to employees, but also didn’t throw non-performers under the bus. In these cases, employees were treated humanely when they were let go.

The author of several concise leadership books, De Pree’s approach contrasted sharply compared to such hard-ass peer CEOs as Jack “Neutron” Welch of General Electric, who achieved results for the company but in more draconian ways; firing employees and managers was a matter of course.

Herman Miller remains one of the most respected companies in the United States. Fortune Magazine has placed the company at the top of its list of most admired companies in the U.S. for the past 18 years. The company has retained its employee culture of innovation, strong financial results for shareholders and people-centered management approach. Since retiring as CEO in 1987 and from the board of directors in 1995, De Pree founded the Max De Pree Center for Leadership in 1996, and has served as a mentor to many young employees in the company.

Current Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker (since 2004) operates in a vastly different manner from his competitors (eg, Steelcase), preferring to work in an open office setting at a modular desk. His executive follows suit. Walker, however, is always on the move, participating in meetings held in open areas in other parts of the building. His team’s focus is on executing the company’s mission, achieving results for shareholders and enabling employees to bring out their best efforts. Of significance, Walker has over the past six years led the company in a drive to work towards reducing its carbon footprint to zero by 2020.

The overarching challenge for organizational leaders and for those leading teams throughout the organization, is to align and enroll their people in a common purpose, and then lead them forward towards that guiding light. Strategy execution will follow as a natural part of the process.

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.
– Max De Pree

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When Leaders Take the High Road – and Take Action

November 16, 2015
Lincoln Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860. Soon after, he faced what would become his biggest leadership challenge: seven states seceded from the union, with the secessionists stating that the Constitution allowed for states to leave it.

Lincoln’s opposition to secession was based on five reasons:

1. The states could not separate physically.

2. Secession was unlawful.

3. A government that allowed secession would disintegrate into anarchy.

4. Americans were not enemies but friends.

5. Secession would destroy the world’s only democracy, proving to future Americans and to the world that a government of the people cannot survive.

Four months later Lincoln delivered his inaugural address on March 4, 1861.

Intently trying to prevent the outbreak of war, Lincoln concluded his address with this impassioned plea:

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Trudeau The rest is history as the United States was almost torn apart. While the country remained united, it took the lives of some 620,000 soldiers, in addition to civilians. That would translate today to six million people, based on two percent of the U.S. population being slain during the Civil War. Unfortunately, the U.S. has still has not fully healed.

Fast forward to October 19, 2015, in Toronto where just-elected Justin Trudeau (pictured above campaigning) spoke to his fellow Liberals in the hotel ballroom and to 36 million Canadians on national TV. Trudeau chose to borrow a line from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. Lincoln was still hoping to heal America’s widening rift: “We are not enemies, but friends, the better angels of our nature,” he told the people of the seven seceding states.

While in a very different context, Justin Trudeau stated: “You can appeal to the better angels of our nature and you can win while doing it.” His remark was part of a broader effort to express to Liberals and Canadians that it was time to move forward, remembering that “Conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbours.” He continued noting, “Canada is a country strong not in spite of our differences but because of them.”

It was a unique moment in recent Canadian political history where a decade of acute Conservative partisanship, not to forget the scandals of the previous Liberal government, had created a sense of darkness in the country. The 2015 fall election campaign had only deepened the country’s dark mood, accelerated by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s negative advertising against Trudeau, his attempt to use Muslims as a tool to scare Canadians, and his controversial anti-terrorism legislation (Bill C-51).

Justin Trudeau, 43 years old and a relative political novice, took the high road, talking about “real change” and the need to engage Canadians (pictured below with his wife Sophie). He delivered on that during his campaign and in the short time since winning the election he has moved quickly to lay the ground work for new legislation and attending to the country’s many problematic issues.

Witness his swearing ceremony and that of his new cabinet on November 4. Several Canada firsts occurred on that beautiful sunny day in the nation’s capital: first child of a former prime minister to be elected (his was father Pierre Trudeau), a cabinet composed half of women, diversity from across Canada (eg, immigrants and the disabled), provincial representation, and opening the ceremony on the grounds of the Governor General to the public.

Trudeau and Sophie Of course, there’s no comparison to a politician of Abraham Lincoln’s stature. Lincoln led the United States during its most difficult period in its 239 year history. Widely revered and viewed as being one of the top three American presidents, he was a complex man. His oratorical skills, dry wit and ability to connect with people contrasted with his strong tactical political skills, combined with his ends-justifying-the-means approach when necessary.

However, Lincoln, like Trudeau, was not initially viewed as being a serious contender for high office. The gangly six foot three president with sunken facial features didn’t fit what the public perceived as a potential president. And when Lincoln won the presidency he set about educating himself on warfare, pouring through books on military history from the Library of Congress. Trudeau, in a modern context, is proving to be a quick learner on a vast number of files, from defense and security to employment to healthcare to international trade. (Trudeau stands six foot two and is very athletic.)

It’s easy for a contemporary politician to adapt a historically significant phrase from, in this case, 150 years ago. However, Justin Trudeau wanted to emphasize his commitment to taking the high road while holding the country’s highest political office, and to immediately take action to initiate positive change for the country. Time will be, of course, the true and ultimate test for Canada’s new prime minister.

Citizens place their trust in their political leaders. It is the foolish politician who doesn’t respect this trust because a four year government term passes by quickly. The elusive second, and even third term, may never materialize.

I’m a slow walker, but I never walk back.

– Abraham Lincoln

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Real Leaders Embrace Duality: The New 21st Century Leadership Competency

November 9, 2015
Goats Our world is not black and white when it comes to the wide array of interconnected issues and challenges facing those in leadership roles. Whether you’re a politician leading a developing country, the head of a multinational company or the owner of a small business, every day you’re facing new problems. And one major part of a leader’s daily challenge is the people dimension.

As society becomes increasingly mobile, with people migrating from poorer countries to Western nations, one emerging issue is the potential for a clash of values, beliefs and traditions. This is being born out in Western Europe and Great Britain, and to a lesser extent in the United States and Canada. Specifically, the focal point has become the integration of Muslims in Christian-dominated countries, fueled by a post-911 security crack-down and the very recent and ongoing surge of people exiting Syria.

What we’ve witnessed over the past 15 years is the political pandering to the legitimate concerns of citizens, but which have been ramped up by the manipulation of politicians and those running their defense, security and intelligence organizations. In Canada, for example, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper devoted a decade to creating an “Us and Them” division between what he called “Old Stock Canadians” (presumably old white people) and those who didn’t purportedly share the values of Canadians.

Justin Trudeau Stephen Harper’s overwhelming defeat at the polls on October 19 by 43 year-old Justin Trudeau (pictured; oldest son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau) was enabled by Canadians finally realizing the poisonous path the former prime minister had tried to take the country. While some of Harper’s Old Stock Canadians formed his electoral base, soaking up his fear-mongering messages about niqab-wearing Muslim women and Jihadists hiding under beds, most Canadians rejected this polarizing approach.

What a national leader such as Stephen Harper never seemed to understand was that the world is composed of many shades of grey. When you have a country of 36 million citizens in the world’s second largest country by geography, with immigrants arriving daily from dozens of countries with diverse cultures, the future is one of diversity: of culture, of beliefs, of ideas.

Whether it’s gay marriage, reproductive rights for women or wearing a turban as a Sikh with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (a hot issue 25 years ago), national leaders have to adopt the mindset of duality–viewing both sides of a contentious issue. Duality may be simply explained as the quality or condition of being dual, of a situation where two concepts are being compared or held in contrast.

The issue of a Muslim woman insisting on wearing a niqab at a citizenship swearing in ceremony drove Stephen Harper to distraction. Despite losing his case to the Supreme Court of Canada he vowed that his government would appeal it. During the summer-fall 2015 federal election campaign, he made the niqab issue one of the center pieces of the Conservative’s platform. The irony is that while Canadians were against the niqab being worn at such an important ceremony (83% based on a Statistics Canada poll), in the end they voted in part against Harper’s politics of intolerance and fear. Other preceding polarizing issues advocated by the Conservatives have been abortion, gay marriage and incarceration (Harper’s manipulated war on non-existent crime).

Yin Yan The key point is that a national leader must be capable of holding two diverse and opposite concepts in his or her mind while working through solutions that will be accepted willingly by the electorate. This means that leaders, whether in politics or business, must be able to see the possibilities and opportunities as they navigate through the daily onslaught of problems brought to them.

In business, as companies become more virtual as they connect with customers, suppliers and employees in far-flung countries, leaders need to practice tolerance for things that are different from their established mental models. Different customs, work habits, religious beliefs, ideas and so forth become an embedded part of the leader’s dualism: seeing and accepting both contrasting sides of an issue or situation. The only way a leader can create an inclusive organizational culture is by embracing diversity.

Duality may be seen as the new leadership competency of the 21st Century. Regardless of level in society or the organization, those of us who wish to lead others would benefit from developing our ability in this area.

Take a moment to share your thoughts and suggestions.

A country can be great not in spite of its diversity, but because of its diversity. When people come together to create opportunities for one another, the dreams we hold in common will crowd out the fears that would divide us.

– Justin Trudeau (speaking in December 2012 at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention)

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Elon Musk: the 21st Century’s Change Catalyst?

November 1, 2015
Musk As a society, we like to talk about how much and how fast change is affecting us. For example, we’ve become overly enamored with the rapid advancements in consumer electronics over the past 20 years and social media during the past decade. Yet we’ve become collectively drooling, multi-tasking drones who are more concerned with the next iteration of Android and Apple devices, incapable of focusing on tasks one at a time or indepth reading, in contrast to scanning media headlines.

We tend to forget the many monumental change events that have occurred in the past, such as the huge impact of the introduction of the steam engine, electricity, atomic energy, the telegraph, the integrated circuit, and the combined introduction of the internal combustion engine and highways, the latter of which strongly influenced the expansion of cities to create what became known as suburbs.

And we forget that major change comes slowly, and often with huge resistance from citizens. As much as innovators such as Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg and Reid Garrett (co-founder of LinkedIn) deserve admiration for their accomplishments, they pale in comparison to the above-noted inventions, not to mention other 20th century ones such as the polio vaccines (Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin), the first manned and motored airplane (the Wright brothers), and the radio (Gugliemo Marconi).

In short, these major inventions and innovations helped propel society forward in the 19th and 20th Centuries, generating new wealth for citizens and vastly improving their standards of living.

Earth Let’s reflect for a moment on the mess that planet Earth is in:

• Rising sea levels due to climate warming (press delete on the rantings from America’s Republican right-wing fringe)
• Disgusting air and water pollution in emerging economies (most notably China)
• Technological advances (eg, hydraulic fracturing) in extracting yet more oil and natural gas from once impossible to access reserves (thus prolonging our dependence on dirty fuel sources)
• Government paralysis on how to store spent nuclear fuel
• Inadequate public and private sector investments in renewable energies (the consequence of substantial continued subsidies to the non-renewable energy industry)

Despite these huge problems, and respecting the efforts of those individuals diligently working on finding solutions, society is largely ignoring them. Contemporary innovators who are in the public eye (e.g., Tim Cook of Apple and Travis Kalanick of Uber) are effectively consumer innovators, and not societal-shifting change agents, as were people like Marconi, Sabin and Orville Wright.

Fortunately one guy gets it.

His name is Elon Musk.

And he’s got big plans for the human race.

In addition to his well-known achievements in creating Zip2 (sold for $305 million to Compact), co-founding Pay Pal (for which he received $165 million from its $1.5 billion sale), Tesla Motors and Solar City, Musk’s biggest and most complex project is SpaceX. His vision to colonize Mars may be met with cynicism by some and doubt by others, but he’s totally focused to make it happen around 2026.

Musk’s acute concern for the future of humanity and its survival, combined with reducing society’s carbon footprint on the planet, has oriented his life’s work towards renewal technologies. With SpaceX, his engineers are working diligently on developing reusable rockets, in contrast to disposable ones used by NASA in the past and Russia.

Musk 2 This is big stuff, when placed alongside such news-friendly topics as social media developments, new Apple products or Uber. Musk’s vision to have recharging stations across the U.S. for his electric cars, Solar City’s huge battery farm, and the technological down-stream benefits from SpaceX will exert major positive gains for society and the planet. In short, these are macro events from a planetary perspective, compared to the more micro developments we’ve witnessed over the past two decades.

True societal change catalysts think big and in the long-term. They enlist a devoted group of followers by enrolling them in their vision. Sure, Steve Jobs of Apple had such a devoted followership, despite his well-known abusive practices on employees. Elon Musk is no choir boy either, known for his demanding management approach.

However, to achieve what’s regarded as the impossible, something that has and continues to plague Elon Musk by his critics, means an out-of-the-box management style–whether you like it or not. Of credit to Musk is his all-in approach: he’s been on the edge of bankruptcy at times but has always persevered. His 100 percent commitment to his cause and vision continues to propel him forward. Indeed, his life style is highly unorthodox, in contrast to other billionaires who build Taj Mahals as symbols of their power and wealth.

Elon Musk comes across as a human being, who, despite his warts, truly wants to effect very significant, positive change on planet Earth. What’s so fascinating is that he has accomplished so much in such a short time period. The next 10 years should prove to be a fascinating time as we watch how new technological developments benefit society.

The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall.

– Orville Wright

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