At last night’s Founders Dinner, the former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, talked about the many challenges of leadership. According to the Prime Minister, today’s political leaders are too often driven by popularity polls and short term victories, and he pointed to Canada’s greatest Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, as an example of someone who was willing to pay the price for taking the long view.
MacDonald lost an election because he would not compromise on his vision, and yet, in the long run, it was MacDonalds’ dream of uniting a continental nation, which eventually made Canada what it is today.
Mr. Mulroney mentioned that President Gerald Ford admitted that he knew, even before he did it, that pardoning Richard Nixon would cost him the presidency. But Ford did this because he was convinced it was the right thing to do.
That willingness to do what is unpopular in the short term – that willingness to do the “hard, right thing” is what separates leaders from the well intentioned. Before closing, the Prime Minister referred to Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.”
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.