My Dad was an avid golfer. He was also a great man who I vividly remember mellowing with age. He was a service manager for a large farm implement and industrial truck dealership under the International Harvester brand. My Mom told me how much my coming into their home changed him from a gruff, sometimes “bossy” manager to someone who learned sensitivity and empathy for all the mechanics under his watch. He was tough to work for simply because he expected nothing but your best. He was a remarkable example for me. And this was the 70’s!

But where I learned the most about life wasn’t in his shop, but on the golf course, even though I couldn’t play the game. When playing the game and I’d tag along, I never saw him cheat, break a golf club or be disrespectful to other players. My Dad always referred to an expression for my moral compass and he called it…”The Golf Gods Are Always Watching!” It must have worked because I’ve held myself to that standard my whole life.

Teaching the world a lesson on Leadership

Now, the game of Professional Hockey is poised to teach the world a lesson on Leadership after the Calgary Flames and their head coach, Bill Peters, have parted ways in the wake of a huge controversy about racial slurs and inappropriate behaviour by Peters ten years ago when he was coaching a minor league hockey team in the United States. If you haven’t heard about this, Akim Aliu was a junior up and coming star in the AHL and he is black. It seems Peters used the “N” word in a derogatory way directly at Aliu, and depending on who tells the story, it was more than once. Aliu never did become a star in the NHL and while he’s not laying direct blame at Peters for his lack of success, he does strongly believe that Peters’ style of leadership was inappropriate on many levels, and it intimidated Aliu to the point he was demoted to a lower league and it broke his spirit so profoundly, he essentially “gave up”.

A headline in the Saturday, November 30th (2019) edition of the Calgary Herald proclaimed: ERA OF TYRANT COACHES COULD SOON BE OVER

Just below, a tag line says; Is this just a belated airing of grievances or a watershed moment for hockey? The column by Scott Stinson of Postmedia is an excellent read. But I’m not writing about hockey, or even coaches of any sport.

Watershed moment for Leadership

I believe this could be a watershed moment for Leadership…All Leadership! The “tyrannical boss” is almost it’s own caricature.

Think of Mr. Dithers, Dagwood Bumstead’s boss in the print cartoon, Blondie. He’s tyrannical, even abusive. But it’s just a cartoon, right? Indeed, it’s a very “weathered” cartoon and honestly, if Mr. Dithers had an “ah ha” moment and became Mr. Warm & Fuzzy, he wouldn’t be Mr. Dithers. But real life isn’t a cartoon.

Our society is changing, more quickly than I believe a lot of people are comfortable with. Indeed, things have become somewhat confusing. I will not attempt to suggest I know what it’s like to be a manager of people in a workplace in 2019. Honestly, the last time I had a “real job” was in 1988 when I was the Director of “The Disability Directorate” for the Government of Saskatchewan. I had two staff and they were administrative support. Honesty, they loved me! Why? My guess is, I didn’t “act” like “The Boss”. I was just “Alvin”, which I’ve always been good at being. I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here but haven’t we overcomplicated this?
Treat people, all people; men, women, transgender, straight, gay, not sure, black, white, brown, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, young, old..this could be a long list but can be severely shortened by one word…”Like Humans”. In fact, and being blunt, too many people view “Diversity & Inclusion” as an evil plot by minorities for “equality”. How in 2019 can “Equal Pay for Equal Work” be an evil plot? How can hiring someone with special needs be an evil plot? How can the efforts of people like myself who have dedicated their careers to “Changing The Labels” in our workplace be an evil plot?

If this subject makes you uncomfortable, angry or even worse, judgemental of those leading “The Change”, you may want to get over yourself. The legal and technical rules are available from Human Resources but the moral, ethical, and human components are on you. We can still be “The Boss” but Mr. Dithers has passed his “best before date”.

My Dad died in 2001 at 94 years of age. He had been retired from his Service Manager job since 1976. There were over 900 people at his funeral. It took two hours to finish the receiving line afterwards and the majority of those present were Jack Law’s customers. But what has stayed with me to this day were almost every mechanic he had managed had to tell me how much my Dad meant to them. Every single one were very emotional but not one of them said…”He made me a better mechanic!” They all said, “He made me a better person!”

My brother-in-law, Ron, was a career member of the Canadian Military and recently retired. The military is an almost perfect example of hierarchical leadership. Being warm and fuzzy on the “front line” might not be effective leadership. But I remember Ron telling me one time; “I’ve met a lot of managers in my career, but not many leaders!”

If you’ve heard that somewhere before, that’s fine, but I’d never heard that ever. Here’s my quote…”Leaders aren’t born, they are grown!”
Whether it’s Hockey, or Golf, or every organizational culture on the planet, it’s time to grow some better leaders because “The Good Old Days” don’t cut it anymore and the sooner we “Pull Back The Curtain On Leadership”, the sooner we all grow as a society. It’s about time!