It’s been said that, if no one is following you, you probably aren’t a leader. There is some truth in that statement, yet I have always felt that real leadership is about creating other leaders, not more followers.
Leadership has been somewhat under siege recently and much of it has been self-inflicted. Political scandals, corporate corruption and abusive authorities have dominated the headlines around the world and have left many people feeling disillusioned by their leaders. On social media and news websites, some bloggers have made talking about leaders into a blood sport.
But what if leadership isn’t about the small minority of high-profile leaders who oversee our governments and corporations? In fact, what if leadership isn’t about the leaders at all?
Perhaps it is time see leadership with a fresh set of eyes and move the conversation to higher ground.
I believe we should create a culture of leadership that invites everyone to tap into their own capacity to lead. After all, leadership is really just a process of influence and all of us have the freedom to make a difference. Some would argue only a few people are born leaders. I would argue that everyone is born with the ability to lead. The real question is this: Are we affecting meaningful change?
Sudbury has a rich history of effective leadership — in labour, business, industry, government and in non-profit organizations. At the heart of Sudbury’s story of transformation is an extraordinary level of collaborative leadership that galvanized local leaders.
Our international reputation for environmental leadership is well-documented and those re-greening efforts have not only transformed our landscape, but have become a metaphor and a reminder that we can affect meaningful and sustainable change when we work together.
Leadership is one of our strengths and we ought to build on that asset. Local businesses take ideas and develop them into innovations and new technologies. Mining companies take raw ore from the ground and mill it, refine it and forge it into a marketable product. We ought to think about leadership as a human resource to cultivate.
The seeds for a leadership infrastructure are here. Institutions like Science North, the City of Greater Sudbury, Health Sciences North and Laurentian University have started a collaborative initiative called the Northern Leadership Project.
The new Goodman School of Mines is creating an executive learning centre to support local industry. Organizations such as the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce and the Sudbury Community Foundation have leadership development programs in place for local businesses and volunteer agencies.
Plus, we have a robust education and post-secondary school system, as well as a wealth of leadership expertise throughout our community. The idea of a Centre for Leadership has been around for years and it is an idea whose time has come.
At the end of October, Laurentian University will be hosting Sudbury’ first Leadership Summit. It will bring together local leaders from all sectors to discuss leadership and what we are doing to grow and support the next generation of leaders. It will be an opportunity to move the conversation to higher ground.
We will always have tough decisions to make, challenges to face and problems to solve. And while some people will suggest a variety of solutions, I suggest that the real answer is leadership.
JK Rowling’s fictional character, Professor Dumbledore, once said, “Those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”
We must take up the mantle of leadership and come together as a community, once again, to create our own future.
David Courtemanche is the president of Leading Minds Inc. and a former mayor of Greater Sudbury.