Friday, July 23, 2010

How to reduce government:scare away the young folks

It's walking the fine line of being a positive leader of the federal public service, but at the same time pushing them and not being captive to them.

---Stephen Harper, CBC Radio Interview

Watch what you wish for, as the saying goes. The fine leadership line has to be the right one and one of the styles clearly unworkable for Gen X and Y is not “my way or the highway” or something mushy called “positive leadership”. They want the right kind of leadership at the right time, often characterized by “What do you think?” or “What do you know?” or “How can we get to this exciting goal?”. Come to think of it, so do baby boomers. But, they are already captive and awaiting their pensions.

The latest skirmish between Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and federal civil servants on the Stats Canada long survey (now to be made voluntary which messes up the reliability of the data) illustrates to the younger generations that only the submissive should apply to the federal government for a job. It’s a brilliant strategy by a leader who wants to downsize without having to pay the costs of letting people go. Decide what you want in advance. Pretend that you have consulted. Pay no attention to any contrary evidence. Stare down the protesters, many of whom are experts in their fields about the matter in question. Do what you want anyway. The downsizing takes care of itself quite tidily. Speeds up the numbers who can retire but haven’t. Scares off any talented folks, especially the young, who want to make a difference.

Gen X and Gen Y want to be involved in decision-making, want to feel that their opinions count and most certainly to have fun. A dictatorial culture of fear is not on their checklist as a nice place to work. Further, as a highly educated bunch, they know a thing or two about “the truth”. The evidence from research does merit serious consideration in the decision making process. Debate, dissent and “brainstorming” help steer the path to solutions that have lasting value.

All generations and cultures value authoritative leadership: being visionary and passionate about a cause, valuing teamwork and getting the job done. Few like authoritarian leadership as it muffles wonderful talent and the potential for great innovation. Stephen Harper may only have meant that his opinion matters too and that he should be "authoritative" as a leader. But, in practice, his fine line seems to be bending toward "push" than "positive".

1 comment:

Connie said...

Great article, applicable at all levels of government in my opinion.

Regardless of generation, people wish to truly participate in their government. To reach the higher levels on the Ladder of Citizen Participation where partnerships are built(Sherry Arnstein ). Only when we truly engage can we pass the rungs of non participation and tokenism.