hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach
The success of Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister Designate of Canada is not often attributed to him, given the perception in some circles that he is ‘privileged and naïve’, along with his ‘pretty boy looks’, youthfulness and his father’s political legacy. However, he clearly deserves much more credit than critique for he has taken a relegated third party from political doldrums to form the next government.
In this article, I highlight seven leadership lessons to be learnt from his involvement in public life and curating a distinguished career as a leader who is collaborative, thoughtful and respectful.
“To get involved in the public life of this country….and to know that a positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream. It can be a powerful force for change.”
The best leaders inspire a shared vision, even in the toughest times. It is the vision that provides leaders with actions that can bolster their credibility, engage and inspire those individuals they lead. Furthermore, vision communicates the leader’s values, ideals and actions that they are passionate about and have the conviction to pursue. Justin has embraced his role as a servant of the people, public life and the expectations and has cultivated the passion, humility, the persistence and tenacity to relentlessly commit to serving.
“I believe that, together, we can achieve these ambitious goals. That’s why I want to be Prime Minister. I have a strong sense of this country, where it has been, how it became great, and how it can become even better in the future. People from all walks of life and all corners of the globe have come to Canada because they share that belief.”
Through his vision, Justin presents a clear perspective that connects the present to the future, which attracts commitment and energizes people; challenges the status quo and creates a context for change.
Justin won the trust of Canadians with a majority government during the recently concluded federal elections. He espoused that trust is a critical lesson in leadership for both the leader and the followers. He understood that there is trust and trustworthiness, and from the day he assumed campaigning for public office, that became an essential trait in his relationships. Understanding his role as a son, brother, teacher, advocate, husband, father, Member of Parliament and leader, he embraced the values instilled at an early age by his parents. Justin learnt to trust and understood his role and the expectations in his relationships.
Trust is a key lesson in leadership for both professional and personal development; and success. It becomes an expectation and a fundamental aspect of being in public life, in building your credibility whether you are in politics or business. Trust ought to be foundational in its essence and character for leadership, so as to build a culture of trust and prevailing legacy. The trust Justin developed with his constituents, party members and the Canadian public engenders transparency in communicating even the most difficult decision, such as Bill C-51. Trust allows Justin as a leader to be upbeat and honest in communicating pathways of possibility, in a forthright and practical manner.
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.” Lucille Ball
He proved that optimism is a powerful elixir in the lesson of leadership. With the odds against him and the party, Justin employed optimism as his tool of choice to win the leadership of his party and the hearts of Canadians. Optimism fueled the energy that was needed to move his party from being a third party to forming the new government. Justin’s optimism made him believable. As a leader he knew things will be better because he has the conviction and belief in himself, his team and the people; and they themselves want to make things better.
Justin knew that Canadians looked to him for real change, and his best preparation for confronting a difficult yet challenged economic future was with an optimistic outlook. He showed Canadians and the world, that amidst fear mongering and divisiveness, optimism is one of the most important lessons, which builds a character of resilience and transformed constituents amidst the challenge by his opponents.
Being a leader, Justin embodies the qualities of an optimist, even though he noted to Peter Mansbridge, “I have always been underestimated.” His ability to embrace optimism, not just as a lesson, but also in how he thinks, feel and behave, created the atmosphere to convince others that he has the ability to achieve success through collaborative leadership.
“We beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”
Justin consistently presented a message of hope. Inspiring hope is a critical message for leaders and leadership, not simply because it was easy, it evolves where there are changes in the environment and the difficulties experienced; it is a universal human phenomenon. Where difficult decisions have to be made given the challenges, leaders need to employ hope to communicate possibilities. Justin built on Canada’s greatness as an inclusive country, where it seemed, albeit, for a fleeting moment, that divisiveness and fear mongering was the country’s new image to its citizen and the world. Being a leader, he listened, acted on what he learnt and inspired hope in others and engaged them in helping him to lead, to create success for the future and collectively for all Canadians.
He commented, in his early days of leadership, that ‘so much of politics is fleeting and ephemeral.’ However, he embraced that the hope for a better country will be his single message, through the connections he made with the people who invested their hope and trust in him. That hope he carried throughout his leadership race and political campaign for the leadership of his country – ‘the people’s hope’. Justin knew that with hope, it made the task at hand worthwhile doing. He believed that’s what mattered and knew it would get him through a gruelling and long campaign.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
Justin realized the need to listen when he decided to enter public life and campaigned for the leadership of the party. It was not a responsibility that was just thrust upon him; he learnt it from his parents, being an advocate, a teacher, a husband and a father.
As a leader, he showed us the need to balance our intensity and desire to perform with compassionate and attention, to listen to the needs of those in our care. With leadership, the ability to be more mindful augurs well for the leader, the organization and the followers. Justin embodies mindfulness; it brings about the impact for the issues that matter and signals what requires the greatest attention, and help to set priorities.
“……. I said a few words about what I hoped we would accomplish over the course of the weekend. I talked about how it was very important that we come out of our gathering with a shared sense of purpose. I asked everyone to answer a simple but important question: “Why are you here?” One by one, people told stories that any Canadian would recognize. It was a heartening conversation.”
He understands that listening is absolutely critical to leadership. It is an essential skill for him as a leader to create the trust with his team and citizens, but also to actively listen and thereby be given a clear path or mandate to guide or direct his party and the country.
Listening fosters an atmosphere in which people will decide on their own to become highly motivated, committed, fully engaged, and in that kind of condition they’re going to literally make every effort to support the leader, given that the feeling is mutual. Justin shows that listening to the people transmitted that kind of respect for him to lead them to a better future. The fact that he showed a genuine concern for the issues that matter, showed that he cared; and that is the only way as a leader you can espouse care, by listening. As highlighted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC News), Justin credited his stunning electoral success to an “old-fashioned strategy” of meeting and listening to Canadians. He is “committed to lead a government that is hard-working, transparent and inclusive, reaching out to Quebecers, aboriginal people and ethnic minorities.”
“Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership. The talent here lies in the ability to shift attention to the right place at the right time, sensing trends, emerging realities, and opportunities.”
Justin had a keen focus on the issues that mattered to Canadians, and he nurtured the talent to continually learn how to do even better, and the ability to tune out distractions. He noted that he received a lot of advice from experts on the proposed economic plan, but at the end of the day he was the person who was able to decide whether it was going to ring true with what Canadians wanted, because he’d had thousands and thousands of conversations with regular people.
As a leader, he understood the need to foster and cultivate the ability to focus, build awareness and emotional intelligence in abundance and balance what mattered to him and Canadians. He highlighted what were some of the fundamentals that mattered to him and his constituents:
“Most of all we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less, that good enough is good enough and that better just isn’t possible.”
Justin could be considered a late entrant into politics given his father’s political legacy. However, he was always aware of the legacy of his family and the expectations it carried. He became very self-aware and developed an authenticity tempered with humility that Canadians admire and love. As Daniel Goldman noted in his article The Focused Leader awareness and authenticity as traits are critical to leadership, combining our experiences across time into a coherent view of our authentic selves.
In the development of his focus, Justin was authentic and this involved him paying attention to what others thought of him and those whose opinions he felt mattered and who will be candid in their feedback. With this ability to be his authentic self, he was able to assess, censor, or tune out; negativity and he simply focused his message on what he heard from the people. Although he entered politics late, he was able to focus his message and mobilize his party to move from third place to overtake his opponents in the longest electoral campaign in Canada since the late 19th century.
“Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do…. It’s time for a change in this country my friends, a real change.”
- Adversity as Opportunity
“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit, we are all the same in this notion. The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
Justin assumed the leadership of a party that was relegated to a third party, even in the midst of pundits espousing that he lacked the experience to lead. He did not challenge his adversaries, instead he embraced the criticism in a manner that allowed him to personally transform, those perspectives into a winning strategy. He saw adversity as an opportunity, by learning from it and coined a message of hope, unity, understanding and compassion that resonated with the people.
He was the focus of attack ads. Justin did not ignore the seemingly constant ridicule from his political opponents. He viewed it as a potential strategy to strengthen his resolve by reinforcing a strong sense of self and energy tempered with humility. He has influenced a generation of Canadians who believed that potential for greatness lives within each individual. He brought a fresh approach to the political landscape with his charismatic style and an approach to leadership that is respectful and collaborative.
(c) 2015 Hugh Anthony
Hugh Anthony is a public speaker, lifestyle writer, and researcher, with interests in the creative industries, tourism and hospitality, and not-for-profit sector. He is the Co-Founder | Curator and Lifestyle Director of Consulate | Milieu® a boutique lifestyle consultancy firm in Toronto, Canada that specializes in creative, avid and exciting art-based and lifestyle projects for its diverse clientele. Hugh Anthony is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Waterloo, Canada where he is undertaking research on the Film Festival Industry, with his current focus being on Curating the Cinematic Muse: The Role of Programming in the Film Festival Experience.
Hugh Anthony is an enthusiastic and consummate thought leader who loves to write and is the author of the forthcoming book The Ultimate Guide to Public Speaking: 7 Steps to Professional Mastery to be published Summer 2016.