Last Thursday night certainly did not end as I anticipated. I gained a firsthand insight into why people like you and I are becoming increasingly disillusioned with our political leaders at all levels. We were invited to attend a meeting with the local council member to enter into what we thought was going to be an open discussion on a neighbourhood risk due to traffic flow that has the potential for people to be seriously injured if they are unaware of the prevailing circumstances in the area.
Our invitation came from a neighbour active in local politics. He told us it was to contribute to a discussion with the council member for our particular Council Ward before the council member participated in a meeting of “the party faithful” to marshal support for his upcoming election campaign.
This council member broke five core leadership principles in the first five minutes:
- He arrived late for the meeting well after the appointed meeting commencement time with no apology to those gathered.
- He heard but failed to listen. The meeting moderator did a very good job of introducing our topic and establishing that there were two groups gathered in the same room, one was the party faithful and the other, us along with other neighbours, as interested residents with a challenge to which we were seeking a solution. It had been agreed this would be discussed first and we would then leave. The councillor did not listen to a word the moderator said because he launched into five minutes of political diatribe about the future aimed directly at the faithful. It took the moderator to interject and restate to the councillor the meeting purpose and agenda.
- He lacked empathy. The councillor found it impossible to “walk in our shoes” to gain perspective and understanding of the situation. In fact, by inference he suggested that we simply wanted the problem shifted so it was no longer our challenge and that we were acting only out of self-interest.
- He spoke over the top of people and cut people off mid-sentence particularly when perspectives and alternative options offered differed from his own views of the situation and solution. He took the position of “know it all” and essentially was signalling for those present to “put up or shut up”. I think that is called arrogance.
- I don’t recall which leader said “serving others is the rent we pay for having a place on the planet” but clearly our self-serving councillor has never heard it, yet this is one of the foundation principles of effective leadership.
I took about ten minutes of this so called discussion and left as the outcome was clear – nothing would change. Apparently the meeting continued for another fifteen minutes. I was told later that during subsequent discussion after the meeting between the neighbours someone posed the question as to whether our issue will be resolved and a neighbour was heard to respond “and pigs might fly. Our leaders seem confounded by the fact we have no faith in their leadership, tonight we gained a good insight into why! ”.
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