The day we become silent ...
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2012 FrontLine Defence (Vol 9, No 1)

Basic aspects of outstanding leadership have been contemplated and analyzed by many throughout the ages. Some of the widely accepted skills and qualities of great leaders include the following: Honest and Intelligent (to inspire trust); Forward-looking (with a clear vision of the future and a strategy of how to achieve it); Inspiring and Persuasive (persevering by example and encouraging others to reach new heights); Fair and Decisive (making just and considered ­decisions); Open-minded and Adaptable (embracing change as an opportunity); Trusting (relationship skills are key to team-building); and Communicative (maintaining the all-important flow of information).

This last quality is starkly missing in today’s government. At first it was mainly the journalists who noticed. Others may have vaguely sensed the tightening grip but shrugged it off as a ­necessary evil for breaking in a new government while trying to maintain strict adherence to the vision and plan – but now that the government is comfortably entrenched with a majority mandate for at least another three years, the people expect more communication, not less. Everywhere I go lately, people from all walks of life bring up the fact that the government seems less and less inclined to offer honest answers to the tough questions. Naming something “transparent” does not make it so.

“Lack of communication” is the most common complaint in all struggling relationships – both business and personal. One can assume, therefore, that such skills would be vital to fostering trust in government. However, this government seems to command its legions of “communications” specialists with a “control all information” mantra that seems to be interpreted even more strictly (if that could be possible) to: “thwart every possible attempt to communicate.”

For an impressive example of the galvanizing value of communicating with humour, honesty and clarity, listen to ­General James Mattis, Commander U.S. Central Command, particularly as he responds to a pointed question from a critical media during the CDA’s 2012 Conference on Defence and Security. Mattis did not shirk the tough question; he embraced the opportunity to patiently provide background and clearly explain his understanding of the situation and his position on the subject. This had the effect of diffusing the criticism and building respect among all those in attendance.

The general public is slowly recognizing that the stifling of communication is a real affront to integrity – indeed, to democracy itself. It’s time to turn that ship around and influence the electorate in a positive way.

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© FrontLine Defence 2012

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