Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Leadership Lessons from Past Generals

Posted by auroracitizen on November 1, 2009

Often business people and politicians look to past Generals for leadership guidance (Conrad Black often quoted historical Generals as an inspiration and look where he ended up). Possibly even Mayor Phyllis Morris sought inspiration from past Generals and business leaders for her current strategy.

Came across the following quotes from Napoleon Bonaparte while doing some research.

In politics stupidity is not a handicap.

In politics… never retreat, never retract… never admit a mistake.

If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.

He also make a couple comments that might explain the current situation on our Council.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.

Surely these people must believe that their behaviours are appropriate. Not to do so would leave so many questions unanswered.

14 Responses to “Leadership Lessons from Past Generals”

  1. Following Events said

    Thank you, Richard Johnson, for your very insightful post. The Blackberry-at-the-ready during Council meetings, and the necessity to file New Business items prior to the meeting, are very telling.

    Please keep us apprised on your FOI requests.

  2. Countdown to Nov 2010 said

    To Richard Johnson – excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on Phyllis Morris. I too campaigned for Phyllis. At that time I thought her earnest in her desire to work for the best interest of the town, and I thought her nemesis Tim Jones had had his time.
    It wasn’t long after that election victory that Phyllis made her true “character” known to me. It was swift and shocking and cannot be mentioned here for fear of my identification. I realized too late that I was mistaken in my hope of her ability to lead, and that her character flaws were to prove to be so detrimental to this town. I continue to be stunned into disbelief by her actions. And I know I’m not alone. There are many in this town who feel that sense of betrayal, and that this town has lost valuable time in its development, especially in such difficult economic times. Phyllis Morris has squandered time and money, and the citizens of this town will be the ones paying the price.
    I will work diligently to ensure Phyllis is not re-elected should she be so brazen to seek re-election. She must be held accountable.

  3. Richard Johnson said

    To: White Knight said
    November 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Yours is an age old question that is worth asking, but it is also very difficult to answer. After giving it some thought I’m not sure there is an answer to your question other than “yes”.

    I think that individuals with good intentions are drawn to politics along with those that have inflated egos and those that need to find something to do to fill their days, but maybe that is just a true reflection of our community in general. It takes all kinds to make the world go around therefore democracy requires a cross section to be represented.

    I also think that trying to be everything to all people when you do not have a strong set of core values or a wide range of experience is bound to lead to some inconsistent and erratic behaviour, which appears to be the case in Aurora.

    Phyllis as an example, is surrounded by a few advisors that write her speeches and I’m sure guide her thoughts where and when possible. That may explain the Blackberry going off throughout Council meetings. It may also explain the “new business” can no longer be brought up at the Council table. New business must be given to the Clerk well in advance of the meeting so Phyllis can figure out how to respond, presumably with the advice of some of her core supporters and advisors (it’s about control after all). I seriously question if she has the professionalism and critical thinking abilities required to handle the job as it should be handled and sadly, I have come to realise that she has no solid base of integrity. Why else would she slander Mr. Nitkin while accusing Evelyn of doing the same… while providing not a single valid example ? Why else would she manipulate procedures to suit her whim ?

    I once thought that good intentions and a willingness to learn and take good advice from a wide base of sources could overcome any shortcomings, but clearly I was wrong in this case. We all have short comings but in the Mayor’s case they appeared to be insurmountable when it came to living up to the job’s requirements. Clearly it is easier to promise than to deliver.

    I distinctly remember a debate I had with my mother-in-law from Scotland at the time I was campaigning through (sometimes through the rain) for Phyllis. My mother-in-law felt that all politicians are cut from the same cloth (and that is not a good thing), however at the time I disagreed and gave numerous examples to support my argument. Since that memorable discussion, I am not so sure. I can assure you that I have moved closer to her position than she has to mine.

    As a result of dealing extensively with all levels of government over the past five-and-a-half years I have concluded that there is a lot more hot air than action and a smooth politician usually has a fine tuned skill of saying a lot and doing correspondingly little. The key to real success and to true effectiveness is their ability to follow through with well respected and capable staff, but that is clearly not happening in Aurora.

    Full and conflicting schedules and trying to maintain the base of voter support makes the perception of integrity and the perception being an effective and engaged leader more important than the real thing. Mayor Morris is living proof that spin is the name of the game all too often.

    I am as confused as you with regards to how best to answer your question of how good people can do such bad things or why bad people are attracted to positions that are intended for good people (I also guess that last comment is all too subjective), but I can tell you one thing for sure… Mayor Morris does not in any way resemble the person I thought I was campaigning for. Read her inaugural speech and compare that against her performance and I will leave it to you to figure out why the discrepancy occurred.

    In closing, here is but a small example: I had to file two Freedom of Information requests on November 11th because the town would not answer two basic questions (both of which call into serious question the Mayor’s actions), just as Sean Pearce of The Banner had to do. Now how is that for open, transparent and responsive government ?

    At the end of the day Phyllis needs to be held fully accountable and only educated voters can do that so maybe the problem and responsibility lies as much with us as it does with “them”.

  4. Anonymous said

    We’re watching the council meeting and watching Mayor Morris in high-gear. Open Forum hasn’t even finished and she has lectured, electioneered and mugged for the camera. Now THAT is leadership!

  5. White Knight said

    To Evelyn Buck
    I think I stated clearly in my post (or maybe not)that I would be interested in debating the notion of the chicken and the egg. Are egocentric, self-serving, power hungry with little or no integrity drawn to politics because of these character traits? Or is it that politics turn ordinary, humble, honest individuals who have integrity into the above?
    This is my fascination.

  6. Richard Johnson said

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.
    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
    Winston Churchill

    It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
    Winston Churchill

    There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.
    Winston Churchill

    If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.
    Winston Churchill

  7. said

    White Knight would like a political debate on the difference between politicians and leaders.I’m sure there’s a relevant quote
    Conventional wisdom acknowledges politicians as leaders only after departure from cold cruel world…long after.

    We have the privilege of electing people like ourselves in all our myriad shapes and sizes,intellects and characters.

    Maybe the debate should be about how to deal with a particular issue?

    Few rules outline responsibilities of a Councillor.

    One of them is the requirement to vote. Abstention is not an option. If to vote is an imperative, it makes sense to explain.
    Aurora politicians are criticized for scratching,clawing and hair-pulling. Interesting choice of words

    Are comments to the Citizen not in the same vein?

    Should we assume,there’s that word again,they come form incognito politicians, Or that politicians are people just like other people.

    Elected representatives should srrive to put their best foot forward. That’s a given. It’s not always easy. It helps when people who voted for you continue to encourage you in tough times.

    Politicians need encouragement to do what’s right. The temptation to satisfy pressure groups who are potential voting blocks is powerful. Opposing them is hard. It takes courage or just being plain old bloody-minded. Instant popularity is a heady and tempting elixir, if not particularly long-lasting or reliable.

    Here’s a thought. People are called to jury duty. The Municipal Clerk makes a selection of names from the voters’ list and sends them off to whoever. Begging off jury duty is not an option except for good reason.

    What if….people were called to serve a term on council…whether they liked it or not.

    What if,,,each and every one of us were required to serve under the spotlight of public scrutiny ?

    Does anyone imagine ‘Tuesday is my bowling night” would serve as a valid reason to beg off?

    How would Cowardy Cowardy Custard in brackets look on a ballot?

  8. Anonymous said

    Morris quotes are plenty! But I’ve yet to see one that inspires confidence and credibility. Actions speak louder than words.

    Time for a fresh post. Go Elizabeth!

  9. Anonymous said

    “I will respect the trust you have placed in me and will always hold sacred your confidence.”

    Phyllis Morris’ Inaugural address as Mayor.

  10. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    In re-reading the initial post the following assertions caught my attention

    “Surely these people must believe that their behaviors are appropriate. Not to do so would leave so many questions unanswered.”

    Although not a general Seneca was a true leader and he had this to say:

    “There is a great difference between not wishing to do evil and not knowing how.”

    Ignorance is no excuse and several other leaders agree

    “The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” – Albert Camus

    “Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions, it is walled and roofed with them” – Aldous Huxley

    “Advice is judged by results, not by intentions” – Cicero

    “Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold but so does a hard-boiled egg.” – Anonymous

  11. Junius said

    And let us not forget this quote: “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” — Jean Giraudoux, French writer.

  12. White Knight said

    Thank you for this post and the result of your research… Bonaparte’s comments!
    Here we are almost 200 years later and his comments are as sad as ever. Nothing has changed on the political front and I certainly do not think that politician and leader are synonymous. Far from it!
    I am fascinated by the “chicken or the egg” concept when it comes to politicians. Is it self-serving, egocentric, ambitious, self-righteous, never wrong, paranoid individuals who are automatically drawn to politics… or do politics and a sniff of power and superiority change perfectly ordinary, honest, humble, people with integrity into the above?
    I would love to be part of a debate on this.

  13. Council Cop said

    There is no question that our Mayor is a modern day version of Napoleon in at least a few small ways, however she is more like Napoleon by committee given that she clearly needs help in processing concepts and basic information. She also has a lot less strategic “smarts” then Bonaparte. Mayor Morris does not often lead by example, as much as she attacks and then follows up with spin and damage control after the fact, while distorting and twisting both the facts and Council procedures along the way.

    Mayor Morris turns a blind eye to her own actions and those of her supporters while trying to stake the moral high ground with regards to Councillor Buck’s call for transparency and accountability. Take a close look at the minutes and ask yourself why Councillor Buck was allowed to be attacked by a resident of Snowball for the offence of asking for an accountability for the funds given to The Dream Team, which funds may well have been passed on to Sher St. Kitts husband’s band in no small portion. Procedure was waived by the Mayor so that Sher could go on the offensive (including both definitions of the word “offensive”) which was against the advice of our own town staff who said that open forum was not the place for such antics to be delivered and yet Mayor Morris claims to be delivering a new level of decorum. Ya, right.

    Mayor Morris criticises those that attack staff and then she proceeds to fire and then subsequently slander the professional credentials of a well established ethicist, David Nitkin who so happens to advise countries around the globe on ethics and corporate governance. Mayor Morris criticises others for nepotism and back door cronyism and then she does any number of favours for those that return the favour to her by writing letters to the editor in her defence while spinning their own reality. We’re talking politics of the worst kind here !

    Accountability, civility, professionalism and transparency are not words that spring to mind when one thinks of our current Council, no matter what picture the Mayor and her very small group of supporters may try and paint.

    Napoleon eventually had his “Waterloo” and if the good people of Aurora actually take a good hard look at what has actually transpired at Council since the promises of a new day were first made in the election of 2006, then we can once again hold out hope for a positive change at Council.

  14. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    I was waiting for someone to address the topic of leadership, in relation to her worship, because the two have been proven to be mutually exclusive.

    Leaders, lead by example. Albert Schweitzer once said “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” And for our mayor to be hoisted up as a role model by others is a pathetic.

    The examples our mayor has provided, are ones that show true void of experience and vision.

    Rosabeth Moss Kantor said “Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.” Instead of learning from her mistakes our Mayor has decided to ignore them.

    As for quotes from generals, here are a couple that seem to fit the bill:

    Napoleon said “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
    I wonder what our mayor deals in, because she has squandered all of the hope in this town.

    Given our mayor’s passion for micro managing, this one seemed most appropriate:
    “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton

    And a couple great quotes on the role of ethics in leadership:

    “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” – James MacGregor Burns

    “Leaders shouldn’t attach moral significance to their ideas: Do that, and you can’t compromise.” – Peter F. Drucker

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