But we need to com­mit to a new way of do­ing busi­ness, writes Jim De­wald.

Calgary Herald - - OPINION -

The first half of 2020 has been quite mon­u­men­tal. We’ve seen rail block­ades, a pan­demic, oil prices be­low zero and now global protests against racism. Make no mis­take, this has been a chal­leng­ing year, but I see a light at the end of the tun­nel by com­mit­ting to eth­i­cal lead­er­ship.

Ex­plor­ing these chal­lenges, we see a com­mon fac­tor. They were each pre­dictable, to vary­ing de­grees, and fail­ure hap­pened by not be­ing pre­pared and not act­ing ef­fec­tively.

From Bill Gates to Hol­ly­wood and with re­cent pan­demics such as H1N1 and SARS, the COVID pan­demic was pre­dicted count­less times. Sadly, lit­tle hap­pened. Famed his­to­rian Niall Fer­gu­son pre­dicts that we should ex­pect his­tory to re­peat it­self as the COVID-19 ac­tive case num­bers keep go­ing down.

In Al­berta, the be­low zero oil prices were harsh con­sid­er­ing the five-year slump in the en­ergy mar­kets. But, this was not only pre­dictable, we ac­tu­ally had some­thing to do with the cur­rent over­sup­ply. Between 2009 and 2019, the world de­mand for oil in­creased ap­prox­i­mately 18 per cent. Over that same pe­riod, Canada’s pro­duc­tion went up ap­prox­i­mately 100 per cent, and the U.S. pro­duc­tion in­creased 128 per cent to be­come the world’s largest pro­ducer. In that con­text, are we sur­prised to see re­tal­i­a­tion in an in­dus­try with an ac­tual in­ter­na­tional car­tel? This is one rea­son why Peter Lougheed urged Al­berta to slow the pace of oil­sands devel­op­ment in 2007.

Our fail­ure in Canada to rec­on­cile with our Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, and protest­ing sys­temic racism po­et­i­cally book­end the first half of 2020 with the Fe­bru­ary block­ades and the May/

June protests. In the Cana­dian fail­ure to ad­dress Indige­nous re­la­tions, there have been no­ble ef­forts, in­clud­ing the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion and the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls. But, where is the real change? Sim­i­larly, far too lit­tle has hap­pened to ad­dress the sys­temic racism in the United States (and Canada). Black Lives Mat­ter. Lis­ten­ing and learn­ing are im­por­tant, but ac­tion is es­sen­tial on both fronts.

With each of these tu­mul­tuous events, I have re­flected on the wis­dom of Amer­i­can writer Neil Don­ald Walsch, who said, “Yearn­ing for a new way will not pro­duce it. Only end­ing the old way can do that. You can­not hold onto the old all the while declar­ing that you want some­thing new. The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will de­cry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.”

The point of Walsch’s com­ment is that you don’t know what the new way is, but you need to cre­ate space and com­mit to process and open ap­proaches to prob­lem-solv­ing. Ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly eth­i­cal lead­er­ship, is im­per­a­tive.

Fac­ing un­cer­tainty, New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern and her gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts were among the most ef­fec­tive at “flat­ten­ing the curve” of the COVID-19 pan­demic. Ardern com­bined sen­si­tiv­ity and em­pa­thy with among the world’s strictest lim­ited-term iso­la­tion and kept her coun­try to 22 deaths ( just two per mil­lion).

Na­tions that were most ef­fec­tive at han­dling the pan­demic re­lied on process, eth­i­cal lead­er­ship and pa­tience. In Europe and North Amer­ica,

na­tional deaths per mil­lion pop­u­la­tion vary from 20 to more than 800. Canada is just over 200 deaths per mil­lion. Fo­cus on process of dis­ci­plined so­cial dis­tanc­ing and self-iso­la­tion made a dif­fer­ence.

I also found in­spi­ra­tion in pow­er­ful ex­am­ples of eth­i­cal lead­er­ship among our chief med­i­cal of­fi­cers. Dr. Bon­nie Henry from Bri­tish Columbia was able to move her prov­ince from be­ing the early epi­cen­tre of COVID-19 to be­come a global ex­am­ple of flat­ten­ing the curve. The New York Times high­lighted her fo­cus on sen­si­tiv­ity, em­pa­thy and a com­plete re­jec­tion of puni­tive mea­sures. As she ex­plained, “If you tell peo­ple what they need to do and why, and give them the means to do it, most peo­ple will do what you need.” Between Al­berta, un­der Dr. Deena Hin­shaw’s lead­er­ship, and B.C. we have around 33 deaths per mil­lion, among the low­est in the west­ern world.

This stands in con­trast to lead­ers who cre­ate a sense of vic­tim­iza­tion. They fuel re­sent­ment and anger and iden­tify them­selves as he­roes who will pro­tect us. Sadly, this ap­proach has worked at the ballot box, which is con­cern­ing. How­ever, much more con­cern­ing is the mes­sage to all, es­pe­cially our youth, that this form of lead­er­ship is what they should adopt be­cause it leads to per­sonal, not col­lec­tive suc­cess.

The seeds of un­rest have been doc­u­mented by econ­o­mists and so­cial sci­en­tists. Robert Gor­don, in The Rise and Fall of Amer­i­can Growth, an­tic­i­pates so­cial un­rest as we en­ter a ma­ture “flat” stage of growth. In­te­gral the­o­rist Ken Wil­ber stud­ies a mea­sured shift from ego­cen­tric­ity and eth­no­cen­tric­ity to a world-cen­tric view of bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and cross-cul­tural har­mony. Paradigm shifts oc­cur in the shadow of di­a­logue, un­der­stand­ing and un­rest, and these events are a sign of the times. The eco­nomic growth that came from the sec­ond In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion pushed many so­cial is­sues to the side be­cause, well, ev­ery­one was grow­ing and pros­per­ing — some more than oth­ers.

In Cal­gary, we are proud of our past (with good rea­son), and be­come fo­cused on find­ing the new sil­ver bul­let so­lu­tion; a pipe­line, the Olympics, a new arena, or the Green Line. There is noth­ing wrong with any of these ini­tia­tives, but they are not the so­lu­tion. They are not a new way.

We are now in a stage where peo­ple are fo­cused more on ad­dress­ing our prob­lems rather than the fear of miss­ing out on eco­nomic growth. This is a unique time where we can ad­dress our prob­lems and trans­form who we are, but it won’t just hap­pen. We all need to be en­gaged.

As a busi­ness-school dean, you might ask of me, “Isn’t busi­ness part of the prob­lem?”

Let me sug­gest two rea­sons why you should care what a busi­ness-school dean thinks, (1) busi­nesses are a big­ger part of your life than you may re­al­ize, and (2) busi­ness schools can in­flu­ence and help make the room needed for new ways. Busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions are in­te­gral to our lives, and if we build more car­ing and em­pa­thetic busi­ness, we build bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties.

In that sense, we can make a dif­fer­ence, and I am com­mit­ted to build­ing a vi­sion, in­deed a re­al­ity of busi­ness lead­ers who truly care about com­mu­ni­ties and each and ev­ery per­son within those com­mu­ni­ties.

Jim De­wald is the dean of the Haskayne School of Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary. On Wed­nes­day, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Cal­gary Cham­ber and Cal­gary Foun­da­tion, the Haskayne School will host a one-hour we­bi­nar on eth­i­cal lead­er­ship in times of cri­sis.


Busi­ness schools can in­flu­ence and help make the room needed for new ways, writes Jim De­wald.

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