Leadership—never more important

Pulitzer Prize winner, David Hackett Fischer, wrote, ‘Champlain’s Dream’, a biography that all leaders or aspiring leaders should read. A highly informative, action-packed history book yet it was Samuel de Champlain’s admirable leadership skills that was the major takeaway.

Champlain made long-lasting friendships with the majority of Indian tribes. He gave genuine respect to their elders and their peoples, showed appreciation and regard for Indian culture, and learned how to survive Canada’s harsh climate by embracing their practical knowledge.

He would approach new tribes in a non-threatening manner by taking only one or two people with him and leaving his guns aboard the ship. He was able to bring warring tribes together by showing the benefits of cooperation. 

Twice he took up arms in support of tribal nations to fight against the Iroquois who had continued their warring ways. 

Champlain participated in such campaigns until the Iroquois were pushed back but never to the point of revenge and mass slaughter.

In the last chapter, Fischer quotes Champlain. “Above all, a good leader keeps his word in an agreement; for anyone who does not keep his word is looked upon as a coward, and forfeits his honour and reputation; valiant a fighter he may be, and no confidence is placed in him.  

“A leader should be liberal according to his opportunities, and courteous even to his enemies, granting them all the rights to which they are entitled. 

“Moreover, he should not practice cruelty or vengeance, like barbarians rather than Christian, but if on the contrary he makes use of his success with courtesy and moderation, he will be esteemed by all, even by his enemies, who will pay him all honour and respect.”

Champlain’s leadership was in sharp contrast to Premier Kenney’s—a man who unilaterally tears up contracts, changes legislation with limited or no debate, slashes budgets and demonizes our professionals. In contrast, Champlain used harmony and respect to build the first successful European settlements in Canada.

Kenney’s latest manoeuvre requires doctors to publish fees received and number of patient visits with no corresponding expenses. He wants the public to believe that ‘doctor fees’ are ‘salaries’ rather than gross income that also pays for employees, rent, supplies, expensive equipment and the increased costs of Covid-19. 

Kenney’s comment that doctor’s remuneration takes up 10 per cent of the entire health care budget is another strategic attempt to get citizens to resent doctors.

It’s equivalent to publishing a farmer’s gross income, including government subsidies, but not acknowledging expenses. Such data would make urbanities completely jealous of the life of the “rich farmer”. 

Of course, this is nonsensical as is Kenney’s unfair portrayal of doctor’s incomes.

Champlain was a respected leader because of his humility and willingness to seek counsel from others. 

Doctors, nurses and managers working in the system and closest to the front lines are in-the-know and should be respectfully brought into major directional changes in health care. 

Instead, Kenney exclusively counts on blue-ribbon panels stacked with experts who have zero or very dated front line experiences.

The doctors have acknowledged changes are needed, yet the Kenney government won’t seek their help. 

The teachers, too, want to be involved in discussions about the safe reopening of schools, yet Kenney’s government has completely excluded their majority voices from these decisions. 

Next up, the nurses.

Alberta’s fortunes are not going to change quickly. We’re in for a rough ride. Today Alberta is moving into the future with only one voice. 

Yet history and every case study on leadership shows the best long-term outcomes are derived through collaborative efforts, multiple opinions, humility in leadership and respect for all.

 

Schimke was the Director of Instruction and College Advancement at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC from 1992 to 1997. 

B. Schimke

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