Lead­ers in a Dan­ger­ous Time

Amid po­lit­i­cal tu­mult at home and abroad, fig­ures from Al­berta’s his­tory re­flect on great lead­er­ship – and why we need it now more than ever

Alberta Venture - - Contents - By Rob­bie Jef­frey | Pho­tog­ra­phy Ryan Gi­rard

For the in­au­gu­ral story of Al­berta Ven­ture’s 20/20 series, we talk to for­mer prime min­is­ter Kim Camp­bell about what makes a great leader – and what makes Al­berta’s unique


Don­ald Trump won the U. S. 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, beat­ing by the sparest of mar­gins the woman whose des­tiny in the White House seemed fore­told. The Right Hon­ourable Kim Camp­bell, Canada’s first and only fe­male prime min­is­ter, is on va­ca­tion in France, watch­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s con­ces­sion speech. “I know how dis­ap­pointed you feel, be­cause I feel it too,” Clin­ton says. But Camp­bell, a vo­cal Trump critic through­out the cam­paign, feels more than just dis­ap­point­ment. Camp­bell’s brief ten­ure as PM – she served four months af­ter for­mer prime min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney re­tired, be­fore los­ing the 1993 elec­tion to the Lib­eral Party – was marked by some of the same at­ti­tudes to­wards women that haunted the Amer­i­can cam­paign: dis­missal, dis­be­lief, misog­yny. Camp­bell’s mother raised her to be­lieve she could do any­thing, and ex­posed her to fe­male role mod­els like Char­lotte Whit­ton, a fem­i­nist and mayor of Ot­tawa, the first fe­male mayor of any ma­jor Cana­dian city. “What­ever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” Whit­ton fa­mously said. >

Camp­bell feels sol­i­dar­ity with Clin­ton in de­feat. “That’s one of the hard­est things about lead­er­ship – main­tain­ing the right tone in the face of loss,” she says. “The com­bi­na­tion of re­spect for the sys­tem but also a be­lief in what you’ve been do­ing. I was there my­self.” The tim­ing is co­in­ci­den­tal: Al­berta Ven­ture was pub­lish­ing a piece on lead­er­ship and I wanted to ask Camp­bell about her role as found­ing prin­ci­ple of the Peter Lougheed Lead­er­ship Col­lege at the Univer­sity of Al­berta, which is ded­i­cated to train­ing stu­dents for a world need­ing cre­ative, flex­i­ble and in­no­va­tive lead­er­ship. But the elec­tion re­sults – and the state of dis­be­lief that fol­lowed – has changed what was sup­posed to be a con­ver­sa­tion about lead­er­ship in the ab­stract to one about spe­cific, real- world ap­pli­ca­tions. Bet­ter than any sem­i­nar speaker could pro­vide, Clin­ton’s down­fall is a lead­er­ship les­son in real time.

Jean Chré­tien, who led the

Lib­er­als to de­feat Camp­bell and her Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party, once sum­ma­rized Al­ber­tans by say­ing, “Those peo­ple out there are dif­fer­ent.” Coin­ci­den­tally, that quotation opens Aritha van Herk’s 2001 book, Mav­er­icks: An In­cor­ri­gi­ble His­tory of Al­berta. “Al­ber­tans are re­garded as crea­tures from the swamp, Ne­an­derthals, fig­ures of fun, fools and dare­dev­ils, lu­natic Bi­ble- thumpers, gun- tot­ing rene­gades, and crazy oil­men who re­ally don’t ap­pre­ci­ate their tol­er­ated po­si­tion within this great nation,” she writes in its in­tro­duc­tion. “And when those same mar­ginal heretics get an­noyed and start ag­i­tat­ing for re­spect from the Cen­tre of Canada, they’re branded as cry-ba­bies and whin­ers and il­log­i­cally well-off hill­bil­lies. It’s a tough po­si­tion to oc­cupy.” Al­ber­tans might find it re­mark­able that in most of the world, “mav­er­ick” doesn’t have the same self-ex­alt­ing con­no­ta­tion. Else­where, a mav­er­ick is some­one whose un­ruly dis­sent is un­jus­ti­fied, whose re­bel­lion needs to be quelled. But from the bad­lands to Lake Athabasca, “mav­er­ick” is a badge of hon­our – a qual­ity we ex­pect from our lead­ers. (Cal­gary’s Glen­bow Mu­seum has a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion de­voted to mav­er­icks, in hon­our of van Herk’s book.) So why does Al­berta choose rebel- lead­ers? Is there some­thing about Al­berta that en­gen­ders a com­bat­ive lead­er­ship style? Af­ter I spoke to Kim Camp­bell, I met Doug Grif­fiths for cof­fee. Grif­fiths, who has been a teacher, one of Al­berta’s most rec­og­nized politi­cians and a best-sell­ing au­thor, hails from Coronation, the kind of small town Al­ber­tans love to mythol­o­gize. He grew up in the coun­try, farm­ing grain and rais­ing Black An­gus cat­tle. “Grow­ing up on a farm and in a small town, it taught me when to work with other peo­ple and when to work alone,” he says. “If you’re out bail­ing 30 miles from home and some­thing breaks down, you’re not call­ing some­one to fix it – so you fix it. And that’s what lead­er­ship is about. You can’t help but learn it.” Grif­fiths the MLA ran against Alison Red­ford for lead­er­ship of the Pro­gres­sive

Con­ser­va­tive Party in 2011 and later served as her min­is­ter of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs. He re­signed from pol­i­tics in 2015 to ded­i­cate him­self to 13 Ways, an or­ga­ni­za­tion he’s based off his book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Com­mu­nity. If any­one can speak to a uniquely Al­ber­tan style of lead­er­ship, he’s one of them. But he turned the mav­er­ick stereo­type around on me: “I wouldn’t de­scribe Al­berta’s lead­ers as mav­er­icks,” he says. “If some­one was go­ing to say what Al­ber­tans ex­pect from their lead­ers, I’d say it’s to be moved – they want them to be au­then­tic, they want to see them shak­ing hands or to run into them at the gro­cery store.” Think of some prom­i­nent Al­ber­tan politi­cians, he says. Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, Ed Stel­mach… Not ex­actly flam­boy­ant char­ac­ters. “Yet when they’re on the na­tional stage, I think that’s what makes them feel like mav­er­icks, be­cause they’re or­di­nary peo­ple do­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things,” Grif­fiths says. He says Ralph Klein, later mythol­o­gized as ma­cho and unapolo­getic, said “sorry” more than any­one he’d ever met. “We pick some­one who’s a nor­mal, hard­work­ing, ev­ery­day per­son, who stands up for our prov­ince in na­tional and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions,” he con­tin­ues. “Then Al­ber­tans think, ‘ Not only is he or­di­nary, but he’s fight­ing for me.’ He’s a mav­er­ick, not to Al­ber­tans, but to them – the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional politi­cians. So when Al­ber­tans pick a leader, they end up with a mav­er­ick.”

Take Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley and the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Plan. De­spite the cries of op­po­si­tion, Not­ley is no rad­i­cal: the bul­wark of her eco­nomic agenda is sup­port­ive of the en­ergy sec­tor. But be­ing thrust into the po­si­tion of pre­mier has made her a pariah. The right pil­lo­ries her for not sup­port­ing the en­ergy sec­tor enough, while the left crit­i­cizes her for sup­port­ing it too much, even though her cen­tre-left po­si­tion has given Canada its only NDP gov­ern­ment. De­spite her best ef­forts, Not­ley has been made into a mav­er­ick: to her de­trac­tors she’s a dan­ger­ous out­lier; to her sup­port­ers, a brave one. When she takes Al­berta’s con­cerns to the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional stages, she’s a mav­er­ick to her op­po­nents be­cause a gov­ern­ing NDP is an ex­per­i­ment in so­cial­ism, likely to end in catas­tro­phe; to her sup­port­ers, she’s a mav­er­ick for bring­ing to th­ese stages a bold style of lead­er­ship, and a will­ing­ness – in the case of the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Plan – to en­act one of the world’s most pro­gres­sive plans to curb global warm­ing. And there is some­thing rad­i­cal about a lead­er­ship style that takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for its prov­ince: long crit­i­cized for its in­ac­tion on global warm­ing and hos­til­ity to crit­ics of the oil and gas in­dus­try, we now lead the world. What’s more “mav­er­ick” than that?


in Al­berta like Peter Lougheed’s. He built the Tory dy­nasty that would reign over the prov­ince un­til Not­ley’s or­ange

“Al­ber­tans think, ‘Not only is he or­di­nary, but he’s fight­ing for me.’ He’s a mav­er­ick, not to Al­ber­tans, but to them – the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional politi­cians.” – DOUG GRIF­FITHS

crush, and fought to de­fend Al­berta on the na­tional stage. And, as the cre­ator of the Her­itage Sav­ings Trust Fund, a pool for re­source rev­enue, he clearly had Al­berta’s legacy and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in

mind. Camp­bell says the Peter Lougheed Lead­er­ship Col­lege, whose first batch of stu­dents will grad­u­ate this spring, is meant to re­flect that same kind of long- term, vi­sion­ary think­ing. “Our stu­dents are in ev­ery dis­ci­pline, and we don’t know what they’re go­ing to do,” she says. “The chal­lenges of mo­bi­liz­ing peo­ple to an end can come in many dif­fer­ent parts of your life.” But one thing that stood out to her about Lougheed was his men­tor­ing of the politi­cians

who’d fol­low him. He fa­mously men­tored Alison Red­ford, and fought to avoid in-fight­ing when he ran his cau­cus and cabi­net. “As some­body who was him­self ad­mired as a leader, he was also a teacher of lead­er­ship, and peo­ple who knew him and worked with him car­ried the lessons he taught them and they can ar­tic­u­late them in ways that would be very grat­i­fy­ing for him,” Camp­bell says. “But it’s re­ally a mea­sure of his suc­cess. One of the best lead­er­ship tools is to have the op­por­tu­nity to work with some­one who’s a great leader. You learn by watch­ing. It’s one of the most pow­er­ful tools in hu­man so­ci­ety, and yet we don’t of­ten get the chance to do it.”

Grif­fiths em­pha­sizes this, too. “You can’t be a good teacher if you’re not a good stu­dent,” he says, re­mind­ing me that his years teach­ing ele­men­tary and high school stu­dents weren’t so dis­sim­i­lar from work­ing in gov­ern­ment. (“The only dif­fer­ence is you know the Grade 4 stu­dents will grow up,” he says.) And this gets to the core of what both Camp­bell and Grif­fiths be­lieve makes a great leader: there’s a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity that has to be present in ev­ery­thing they do. Grif­fiths says lead­er­ship is never about the leader; it’s about help­ing oth­ers. Some pur­sue power, or po­si­tions of power, but true lead­er­ship ac­quires it al­most by ac­ci­dent. “When you seek power, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily know where you’re tak­ing ev­ery­body,” he says. “If you’re only

“I hope the stu­dents in our col­lege will have a broad sense of the moral obli­ga­tion of

lead­ers to be tol­er­ant, cu­ri­ous, hu­mane and con­struc­tive in what they do.” – KIM CAMPBEL

talk­ing about what’s wrong and get­ting ev­ery­body mad, you’ve spent no time on how to make things bet­ter and where you’re go­ing to­head to. Lead­er­ship’s about the fu­ture, not the past.”

Ah, the fu­ture, clouded as it is by the Amer­i­can elec­tion re­sults. From the mid­dle of what feels like an un­end­ing re­ces­sion, with the far-off fu­ture of our oil and gas sec­tor in doubt, Grif­fiths and Camp­bell have sim­i­lar pre­dic­tions. They fear that amid the down­turn, and all the vit­riol di­rected at Rachel Not­ley and the NDP, the prov­ince is vul­ner­a­ble. Don’t think Trump can’t hap­pen here, they say. “That’s why I hope the stu­dents in our col­lege will have a broad sense of the moral obli­ga­tion of lead­ers to be tol­er­ant, cu­ri­ous, hu­mane and con­struc­tive in what they do,” Camp­bell says. “We teach about emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, but that’s a dou­ble- edged sword – it can ma­nip­u­late peo­ple.”

“We used to go to church and ask for mir­a­cles,” Grif­fiths says. “Now, we de­mand from our politi­cians, ‘ I want this fixed now!’ That’s where we’re at with lead­er­ship. We have peo­ple say­ing they’ll fix ev­ery prob­lem, as though we can leg­is­late our­selves into utopia.” But the big­gest mis­un­der­stand­ing, he adds, is that the im­pact of a politi­cian ac­counts for only about 10 per cent of the out­come – the other 90 per cent is up to us. Lead­ers don’t prom­ise to solve ev­ery prob­lem at the drop of a hat; they em­power peo­ple to fix things them­selves. Al­berta’s his­tory is full of bril­liant, com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers who led us to where we are today. To pros­per in the com­ing decades, we’ll have to de­cide what kind of lead­ers we want to take us there.


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