A healthy dose of decency - The Orca
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A healthy dose of decency

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Roslyn Kunin: We need leaders who are smart, recognize people’s needs and do something positive to meet them.

Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, ever-changing and often contradictory, screams at us from all directions. It inundates us as we work from home, self-isolate or have isolation thrust upon us.

At times like this, we would do well to remember that life continues beyond the pandemic, even if the current health crisis has pushed normal life out of sight and out of mind.

It might be a good distraction in these demanding times to turn our minds elsewhere. In particular, we shouldn’t neglect the ongoing issues that concerned us before the coronavirus appeared and will be there once we have put this whole pandemic behind us.

Ongoing and still far from a solution is the whole issue of leadership, particularly political leadership.

In Canada, there’s some dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Opposition Conservative Party is in the middle a leadership campaign that may or may not be postponed. And the party has yet to put forward the kind of admirable candidates who rally large numbers and easily win support and election.

In the United States, what has been described as the war of the grandpas continues for both the Democratic presidential nomination and ultimately for the presidency.

Rather than supporting a candidate who they can get behind, U.S. electors are settling for the best of a bad lot. Or they’re playing the ‘anyone but’ game and voting against someone rather than for a particular candidate.

What should we be looking for in order to get the calibre of political leaders we want?

Business needs leaders who can keep a company out of trouble, make profits and attract and retain the necessary qualified staff. Such leaders must also maintain the company’s positive image and be trusted by the public.

To meet these needs, companies have started looking for triple-threat leaders defined by IQ, EQ and DQ.

One basic quality that every successful leader should have is intelligence, usually measured by intelligence quotient or IQ. We don’t want dumb leaders. They should be at least as smart as we are. They should be able to see the big picture, make connections and get positive results.

Occasionally (and you can think of your own examples) a less than smart leader gets elected or takes over a company. Then we hope they’ll be surrounded by smarter people and take their advice.

A second quality leaders should have is people skills, or emotional intelligence, as introduced by Daniel Goleman in his book of the same name. This is referred to as EQ and includes being able to recognize people’s emotional circumstances – a very necessary skill for leaders.

However, EQ – or just recognizing emotional states – doesn’t go far enough. It can be used by politicians to make appealing promises they won’t deliver on or, worse, to manipulate others for their own selfish ends.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review described a third leadership quality: decency.

Decency, or DQ, involves doing the right thing and being smart enough (IQ) to know what that is. It involves knowing where people are coming from and what it is they want (EQ), and doing what you can to help them get it (DQ).

Not only do high-DQ people do the right things for others, they also avoid doing the wrong things – like lying, cheating, stealing and taking advantage of others. As a result, they attract and retain good people, keep loyal customers and create profitable companies. No wonder businesses looking for leaders put DQ on the list of required qualifications.

It’s time for us to make decency an explicitly desired quality in political leaders. Being rich and/or famous shouldn’t be enough, particularly if the means used to get there wouldn’t bear scrutiny.

Political platforms should include what should be done for the long-term good of the nation and its people. Almost no platforms do now. Instead, they try to bamboozle us with short-term goodies.

At one time, most people assumed that almost everyone acted decently almost all of the time. Trust and expectations were high and were often met.

Now, less-than-decent actions by some leaders have generated cynicism and distrust. They put our democracy at risk.

Let’s tell our leaders and the ambitious people who hope to become leaders that decency is now a requirement. They need to be smart, recognize people’s needs and do something positive to meet them.

And they need to avoid doing the indecent things that can bankrupt democracy.

Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.

© Troy Media

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