Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: Is Pride getting in the way of judgment?

Posted June 28, 2011 in Communication, Latest News & Insights

As leaders we have a little saying that goes “you need to know which hills to die on.”  It seems that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is choosing his this week as he continues to insist that heading to the cottage instead of joining the Pride festivities is how he’ll be spending the Canada Day weekend.  Watching from the sidelines, it’s making me wonder if Ford’s own pride is getting in the way just a smidge.

For those outside of Toronto, the Pride Parade has been attended by every Toronto Mayor since the mid-eighties.  Seen as a symbol of tolerance towards the LGBT community, Pride is a weeklong set of events that culminates in an all street parade like no other.  (On a side note, I highly recommend checking
it out.  I guarantee you won’t find a more amazing vibe anywhere.)

Recently elected Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, has opted out of this year’s
parade.  Apparently, he has a tradition of going up to his family’s cottage this weekend and, it seems, that’s taking precedence over participating in the parade.  Of course, this has created a huge amount of discord in the not just the LGBT community, but in various pockets across the city.  Then, to add a bit of gasoline on the fire, Ford didn’t participate in a flag raising ceremony to kick off Pride Week.  Questions are now flying around as to whether Ford will make an appearance at any of the planned festivities or if he’s going to snub the entire week.

Of course, lots of people are barking about Rob Ford being homophobic.  Maybe he is.  Maybe he isn’t.  Maybe he’s just the kind of leader that gets a little bit pig-headed when he feels that people are pressuring or guilt tripping him into doing something that he doesn’t want to do.  Maybe Rob Ford is a really stubborn guy who doesn’t like backing down once he’s made a decision.

And this, my friends, is the trap that many leaders can fall into.  Sometimes our pride, ego, blind ambition or hubris can get in the way of making smart decisions.

It will be interesting to see if this particular hill is the one that’s worth dying on for Rob Ford.  The way I see it, once you get elected Mayor – or frankly land any new job that requires a massive increase in scope – you won’t get to do the things you used to do before.  Sometimes you’re just going to have to suck it up and make short-term sacrifices for the long-term good.  Surely Rob Ford’s family could have gone to the cottage the following weekend? Instead, he’s decided to alienate an entire group of constituents and one has to wonder what the long-term effect of that will be on his leadership.

It’s a great lesson for all of us on whether the fight you’re fighting is worth it and what blind spots you might be suffering from if you dig in your heels and act like a stubborn two-year old.

Happy leading!

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  1. Agreed. Rob Ford’s family tradition for 30+ years has been to head up to the cottage for the long weekend. Groovy. I love traditions, but for the last 30+ years, Rob Ford hasn’t been mayor. Pride puts millions of bucks into the City of Toronto coffers. Mayors are elected to help throw out the welcome mat and make way for tourists, gay, straight or miscellaneous to come on in a spray their money everywhere. Seems to me Mayor McCheese is a mayor of convenience – here to suck up the gravy, but not when it comes to city building. I have my doubts this will hurt him, though, as all those old people in the outer ring aren’t attending pride anyway. Big sigh…

  2. corey gillingham says:

    Why is there so much discussion about this…its very clear he’s homophobic plain and simple….you just cannot spin it any other way.
    Those of you that do and say its his shyness, inexperience etc, are excusing him. Pride is one of Torontos biggest moneymakers for this city. The Mayor should acknowledge and LEAD it as a good representative for this CASH STRAPPED city.

  3. Thanks to you both for chiming in. Public leaders always create great fodder for leadership lessons. I gave Arnie and Weiner a miss this month, so I’m due to weigh in on some local leadership lunacy. Even if Ford is the most homophobic guy on the planet, he should still suck it up and act like a leader. Because (as the Warren Bennis says) leadership is about doing what’s right. And blowing off Pride isn’t right on so many fronts. The least of it being about money (in my opinion). Let’s see if he’ll cave to public pressure.