The dirty little secret about leadership

Posted December 16, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

You may have caught the hubbub today over Canada’s sullied reputation on addressing climate change issues at the global summit in Copenhagen. Leading Harper into the meetings is word that Canada may adopt a controversial move to allow oil and gas companies to get special tax breaks in order to “remain competitive” once proposed efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions kick in.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice was coy in saying the he wouldn’t close the door on the possibility that Canada may need introduce a bill that offers tax breaks in order to allow the oil and gas industry to remain competitive and inline with the US.

From today’s Globe & Mail: “The bill would help some of these industries adapt to emissions caps and clean-energy regulations by giving them special allowances to cover their higher costs. … any U.S. industries that fall into the trade-sensitive category should be granted similar treatment in Canada.”

It’s this kind of action that tarnishes Canada’s global reputation as being a progressive, “green” country. A position that many Canadian’s identify with and want to be known for on the world stage. By making allowances to polluting companies, we’re not living our collective values!

Which leads us to the dirty little secret of leadership: it’s hard to cut your top performer, even if they’re polluting your world.

Let’s face it, the oil sands (which is on environmentalists top 10 “hate” lists due to their excessively high emissions), is a high performer for the Canadian economy. A lot of people are making a lot of money off this puppy.

In corporate speak, they’re akin to that self-centered, abusive, high performing sales executive that brings in 60% of your annual budget. If that guy is on your team and you’re his boss, it’s tough to actually “do the right thing” and cut bait… especially when your own personal bonus (think re-election) is going to take a hit.

Letting go of individuals who “don’t live the values” but who drive big results is much harder than firing the guy who’s not living the values AND not delivering results.

And that’s one of leadership’s many challenges. You really want to be that authentic leader that lives the values AND delivers results, but ultimately you’ll be rewarded on what drives your bottomline.

Leadership takes courage. It also requires sacrifice. By letting go of that arrogant high performing sales guy, sure you’ll take a short-term hit on your bottomline. However, over the long-term, you’ll be living your values and, many would suggest, will be building an organization, division or team that will ultimately produce greater things than any one performer can possibly do. And, isn’t that what being a leader is really all about?

Right now, we have global leaders who are feeling the short-term pressure of big business to bend the rules and, as a result, are sacrificing the long-term health of our planet. Short-term decisions may win the next few elections but we need global leadership that looks at things over the long term. We need the same in our organizations.

So, what tough leadership choice are you going to make today?

Happy leading!

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