Jordan Bateman compares and contrasts words with actions.
I took one for the B.C. political pundit team and read Speaker Darryl Plecas’ book, The Essentials of Leadership in Government over the weekend.
It’s a harmlessly milquetoast regurgitation of numerous other leadership books, full of classic stock photos (A lighthouse! Four hands, grabbing one another’s wrists! One bright goldfish leading several grey ones!) and lists of principles, sub-principles, and sub-sub-principles. If you love gobbledygook listicles, then this is the leadership book for you.
But if you follow B.C. politics, you’ll find it difficult to see many of these principles being walked out by the author in his role at the Legislature.
While the book is jammed full of leadership quotes, it doesn’t include the one that might be most apt for Plecas’ performance: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Let’s play a little listicle game of our own, called Plecas Writes, Plecas Does.
Plecas writes: “Employees need leaders who invest in them, encourage their growth and development, and give them opportunities to shine.”
Plecas does: By all accounts, acting clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd is a star – respected by every MLA except the one she reports to, Speaker Darryl Plecas. How is he encouraging her growth? By seizing her computer and driving her to leave meetings in tears. That’s some kind of leadership – but not the good kind.
Plecas writes: “However, trust is a natural outcome when there is effective communication… and when conflicts are addressed and reframed as they occur.”
Plecas does: When Craig James and Gary Lenz were making what he considered to be questionable expense claims, Plecas didn’t address or reframe the issue as it occurred. Instead, he signed off on them, seeing himself as some sort of secret agent gathering evidence. Or as retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin described it in her report, “It is not entirely clear why the Speaker did not bring his concerns to the attention of the Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms forthwith, as one would expect of a supervising officer, or in any event before taking the dramatic action of having them publicly expelled from the grounds of the Legislative Assembly.”
Plecas writes: “Encourage the heart. Praise people for a job well done and express confidence in people’s abilities.”
Plecas does: Despite a large staff, he brought in his own guy: Alan Mullen, and then tried to install him as the new Sergeant-at-Arms. “I was feeling uncertain about who I could trust,” he told reporters. “The prospect of having an adviser of my own choosing was attractive.”
Plecas writes: “Optimistic, positive approachable leaders are seen in a more positive light by those who work for them than leaders who possess other innate attributes such as intelligence… our emotions influence our thoughts more than we often recognize.”
Plecas does: “The Speaker viewed the matters that concerned him through the lens of a police investigation and criminal prosecution, rather than the lens of an administrator. He seems to have seen his task as to build a credible criminal-type case against Mr. James and Mr. Lenz, rather than promptly confronting and correcting the administrative practices that he questioned,” wrote McLachlin. Nothing says “optimism” like defaulting to a criminal-style investigation.
Plecas writes: “Good leaders guide themselves with a firm commitment to respect others and preserve human dignity, with a commitment to justice and human rights.”
Plecas does: On the final day of the spring legislative session, Plecas met with the house leaders of the three parties, defending his decision to seize hard drives. His behaviour was far from respectful – according to BC Liberal Mary Polak’s notes (which have not been debunked by any of the other parties), Plecas hammered the desk with his hands, called McLachlin’s investigation into his allegations “pathetic” and her “stupid”, claimed the Legislative security team was “corrupt”, and the advice of well-respected labour lawyer Marcia McNeil a “bunch of garbage.”
Plecas writes: “Having healthy, satisfied, and positively engaged workers is part of organizational sustainability. Good leaders not only foster this, but also commit to creating an environment where preserving dignity and maintaining respect are the norm.”
Plecas does: Who does Plecas think is a “good leader”? He told us in a speech on leadership to municipal politicians (according to the CBC): The “Hells Angels have good leaders. Organized crime generally has good leaders. Mafia has good leaders.” Yikes. He apologized when the media went crazy over the comment but still, YIKES.
Plecas writes, in a chapter deliciously titled “A Last Look in the Mirror”: “Not everyone can be a great leader.”
Well, he’s right on that one – and he proves it when he looks in the mirror.
Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.