Lost lead­ers

The Amherst News - - OPINION -

Here’s an in­ter­est­ing the­sis: what ex­actly did we ex­pect? And here’s a sec­ond one — why is any­one sur­prised? The sub­ject of this the­sis is Tony Cle­ment, the shadow jus­tice critic who is now out of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive party af­ter em­bar­rass­ingly be­ing the sub­ject of an ex­tor­tion at­tempt over com­pro­mis­ing In­ter­net im­ages — not once but twice — and a host of other icky per­sonal is­sues.

Oh, and it’s also about long­time Ontario MPP Jim Wil­son, who re­signed as that prov­ince’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter and then left the party fol­low­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions. And it’s about for­mer Nova Sco­tia Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Jaimie Bail­lie, who left his job af­ter al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct. And … and … and.

So here’s the ques­tion: is our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem de­signed in a way that helps bring the wrong peo­ple to the top?

It’s only a the­ory, but think about it: we have for years known that it takes par­tic­u­lar types of peo­ple to run for of­fice. Some are re­luc­tant stars, drafted into pol­i­tics be­cause they feel that they have some­thing to give in the way of spe­cial­ized skills and knowl­edge, even though they don’t rel­ish be­ing in the pub­lic eye.

Oth­ers, un­for­tu­nately, are clearly nar­cis­sists, peo­ple who not only are adept at self-pro­mo­tion, but revel in the adu­la­tion that comes with it. They’re not slight­est bit em­bar­rassed about the trap­pings of power they ac­cu­mu­late — on the con­trary, they wear it proudly, as if it were recog­ni­tion they had al­ways de­served. The higher they rise, the more pro­nounced that pri­macy of self seems to be. “Pick me — I’m right. I’m the best.”

Is it any won­der that such a world­view would also ex­tend into their per­sonal be­hav­iour — and mis­be­haviour? Not re­ally.

This is not to say that all politi­cians show nar­cis­sis­tic traits — just that the traits that drive suc­cess­ful politi­cians to the top also dove­tail neatly into a darker side.

Many busi­nesses in Canada — aware that the skills that pro­pel some peo­ple to the top also oc­ca­sion­ally con­sti­tute the pathol­ogy of so­ciopaths — now do psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing of peo­ple mov­ing into se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tions to make sure the skill set they’re pro­mot­ing is ac­tu­ally made up of skills the em­ployer wants.

We don’t do that with politi­cians.

The #MeToo move­ment is be­ing ef­fec­tive at un­mask­ing the im­proper be­hav­iour of all sorts of high-rank­ing men. But often, those be­ing outed in the po­lit­i­cal sphere are long­time politi­cians — mean­ing their sense of priv­i­lege is likely not new.

It’s not an apol­ogy or an ex­cuse for their be­hav­iour.

Far from it.

But if you keep a dog only for hunt­ing, it’s hard to blame it for killing the neigh­bour’s chick­ens.

Per­haps we should be find­ing our lead­ers in a dif­fer­ent way — or at least bear­ing in mind that the skill set that’s push­ing them to the top can have other, untested-for and un­ac­cept­able side­ef­fects.

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