Monday, April 6, 2009

Sabia makes a virtue of Obama’s “I screwed up” on Daschle appointment

Translation: "The Captain is as lost as his boat."

Below is Sabia’s article that I referred to earlier today. I have never read a piece that extols the virtue of “plain talk”, that is as convoluted and rambling as this. But you decide.

Meanwhile, why can’t Sabia simply admit to the fact that “I screwed up”, in his appointment to lead the Caisse, in the same way that he’s praising Obama for admitting to when he yanked Tom Daschle’s appointment as HHS Secretary in the US?

What gives? Are we to heed Sabia’s wise advice, but he is free to ignore it? How can Sabia take himself seriously in light of this article and the subsequent controversy over HIS appointment?

Time for Sabia to listen to Sabia and admit “I screwed up”, and call upon the Caisse’s Board to conduct a PROPER PROCESS to fill this important role.

Plain talk: Leading through the tough times times

By Michael Sabia has worked in both the public and private sectors in Canada - most recently as CEO of BCE. IA
Friday, March 6, 2009
Globe and Mail

A few weeks ago, Tom Daschle quit as the nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A bad day for a fledgling administration.

Barack Obama responded simply: "I screwed up."

His words were plain, direct, approachable. Familiar, casual language.

That may seem a small thing, and at one level, it is. But at another, his simplicity was an important act of political leadership. His words represented a style of governing precisely tuned to the challenges of these difficult times.

To get how significant it is to marry style with substance in these troubled, we need to step back.

The economic crisis that continues to unfold around us has become a global crisis of confidence: the confidence that people have in institutions - especially market and business institutions; the confidence of institutions in themselves, notably financial institutions; and the confidence of everyone in the future.

This is a toxically vicious circle.

Failing to break out of it will make a very long, hard recession a self-fulfilling prophecy; a direct result of our collective insecurities.

That said, breaking out is hard to do. It requires leadership capable of redefining issues. Where to find it? People are not likely to turn to the business class. Its credibility has been severely undermined - perhaps unfairly and certainly with too broad a brush - but the daily assault on everything from the credit squeeze, to the breakdown of the auto sector, to bank bailouts and Ponzi schemes has had a corrosive effect. So like it or not, our ability to break the cycle of insecurity will be determined by the quality of leadership provided by politicians like Mr. Obama.

While it may be a scary thought for some, they are the last leaders left standing with the power and position to stem the tide. I believe that their success or failure will be determined not just by "what" they do, but by "how" they go about doing it.

The "what" side of leadership is familiar. It's the substance of the actions that leaders take. Facing our current difficulties, it's things like acting to shore up the financial system, to stimulate the economy with more aggressive fiscal policy, or to ward off protectionist impulses. These actions are indispensably important and are rightly the subject of intense expert debate and equally intense scrutiny in the media. Get the "what" wrong and you're eventually dead as a leader. The results won't be there. A harsh electoral verdict awaits.

But facing so much shattered confidence, just getting the "what" right will not be enough. No matter how clever they are, actions launched by government will always have only a modest impact on confidence and in any event, they will take a long time to be felt.

No, it's the "how" of leadership that connects immediately to confidence.

The "how" establishes credibility through honesty. It's the "how" that has the power to engender faith in leaders and thus to offer hope. It's the "how" that can help alleviate the cycle of insecurity, setting the stage for recovery.

So leadership style is important to getting things turned around. Mr. Obama gets this.

In these times, the right style of leadership is about two things: boldness and approachability.

Boldness is about making a clean break from the status quo and looking to the future. It is about looking through the current crisis to the shape of things once recovery takes hold. It is about connecting actions taken now to the better conditions they will create two, three and four years from now.

Put simply, boldness is not about a grab-bag of stimulative measures: It is about having a plan that shows how actions taken now can help reshape a post-crisis world.

In short, it's about demonstrating coherence and using it as a platform for hope.

This is exactly what the Obama budget is all about. And it was precisely the goal of his "We will rebuild - We will recover" speech to Congress last week.

He has set off on a risky course, incorporating health-care reform, energy and climate change all at once. And his plan may fall short. But taking risks may also be the only option for politicians forced to govern in these times.

Leadership that tries to temporize with ad hoc, incremental steps is not leadership at all. It is low-grade political management trying to stay one step ahead of the electoral sheriff.

For its part, approachability is about connecting with people. At its simplest level, it's about being visibly out there in communities - not captive in a capital city or in the media. More important, it is a special kind of political communication. Too often communication is one way: just delivering a message from on high - even when the forum is designed not to look that way. Too rarely is communication about listening. And listening is the magic that connects. In a word, conveying a message while authentically listening is a conversation.

Politicians who can pull this off are rare. Obama is one of them. And finally, approachability is about speaking plainly. With simple language. It's "I screwed up" not "The President regrets this development." The first is language from a dinner table where conversations happen. The second, well, it's from some other place.

This kind of approachability does not come easily. Political leaders - maybe all leaders - get where they are by being unusually tough and calculating. That's part of the job. But these times demand another quality: empathy, something that is often at odds with the very qualities that got a leader to the top of the heap. It's the naturalness of Mr. Obama's empathy that sets him apart.

It may be what causes him to succeed in the face of tough odds.


Anonymous said...

I thought this translates to "The Captain is as lost as his boat."

My French does suck these days so I could be wrong. A real French Canadian will have to tell us. Or let us know of other interesting, informative things in their media.

Even if I am wrong - I still like my translation as Sabia seems "lost" and in over his head at Caisse. Everyone else seems to know he is unfit for the job but him. Based on yesterday's post - sounds like maybe he is a puppet for the Desmarais family and some other players?

CAITI said...


Thank you, that makes a lot more sense, the words:

"The Captain is as lost as his boat."

I translated the words on Google Language and went with their translation, which didn't make nearly as much sense as your interpretation.

I have made the change.


Brent Fullard