Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

I think it's slowly becoming apparent that academics do not necessarily make good political leaders. Yes they're highly educated and, in their own ways, quite bright and they've read a lot of books and, usually, written a few but they've also picked up some habits and traits that can be drawbacks at the top tier of politics.

Academics don't lead. They direct. They don't amass their power from below - from the rank and file students they teach. They're endowed with their power from the institution and its governors. They're directors, not leaders.

Professors are poor consensus builders. Their tools are course plans and reading lists. They impart knowledge that way but they don't shape their courses to conform to the interests and views of their students.

Academics are poor fighters. They may be quite skilful manipulators but they're not really good at the rough and tumble stuff that seems to lie in the background of most great politicians. Many academics tend to be timid sorts and, when they do show a bit of courage, it often comes across tinged with bitterness or resentment.

Academics tend to be bland and uninspiring. They come from a world that doesn't highly value charisma and fiery rhetoric. I'm sorry Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff but the two of you have been boring, at times even stiffs. It's hard to get people to vote for boring stiffs, even accomplished ones. Ask Bob Stanfield.

In so many ways the political arena must seem positively alien to an academic. It ill suits them and, try as they might, they can't help but exude a scent of unease.

Why is it that, when one looks at really great leaders from the past, they usually come across as colourful people who brought to politics rich, eclectic pasts often marked with an element of adventurism, real adversity, even controversy.

I'm convinced that Canada is in urgent need of that kind of political leadership that's nowhere to be found today in any party. Yes the current party structure makes it harder for any leader to obtain a majority government but surely that simply calls for much better leadership than we have today.


Cari said...

Pierre Trudeau was a Professor and he was a good leader

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes he was, briefly, but he was so much more than that. He was also a businessman, an adventurer, early on a radical, a labour supporter - on and on and on. To categorize him as a "professor" is to do him an enormous disservice. It was his eclectic and even controversial background that he brought to politics that served as the foundation for his leadership. Trudeau makes my point, not yours Cari.

Cari said...

Sorry, he was an Associate Professor of Law