Ethical Leadership


I’d be less than honest if I claimed to have a deep understanding of Canadian politics, but I am intrigued by something Bob Rae once said.

Rae, who had been a member of the NDP, had the misfortune of becoming Premier during a recession, and as a result, he had to make some painful budget cuts. (You may remember “Rae Days.”)

When he was asked about this afterwards, “Hey, you promised to expand the social safety net, but when you were in power, you did just the opposite!” Rae responded with this question:

Is it better to keep the promises you made during a campaign than to do the hard, right thing you know you need to do once you are in a position to make decisions?

I think the take-away may be that Rae’s decisions were ethically sound, but that politicians in general should talk about what they “intend to do” (rather than promise or guarantee) and above all, avoid what the elder President Bush did when he bellowed, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Thunderous applause can sound somewhat feint through the distance of time.

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