Desperately seeking leadership

Lee Iacocca was one of the most famous leaders in corporate America in the 20th century. It is well known that he took a company, Chrysler Corp., from almost bankruptcy to a thriving company – a miracle by any measure. He cut and slashed, he divested and acquired and ultimately in a fairly short time came up with a formula that worked and worked well.

What business schools don’t say very often about Mr. Iacocca, was that he also nearly ran the company into the ground not long after the miraculous turnaround.

You see, and now every Business 101 textbook includes a chapter on this, there is more than one kind of leader. Lee Iacocca was a ‘turnaround specialist’. He could come in, kick some arse, and make the kinds of decisions that most corporate executives could never make. However, when it came to the ongoing management of a successful, thriving company, he sucked.

The lesson here is clear. Different situations call for different leaders.

And that brings us to New Brunswick.

What is needed in New Brunswick is a leader (and a leadership team) that, like Lee Iacocca, has a keen sense that New Brunswick is on the verge of economic collapse (not imminent – but within a few decades) and can make the hard decisions and aggressively tackle the issues that must be addressed in order to turn the ship around and get New Brunswick back on the course toward self-sufficiency.

What we have is a leader and leadership team that are really ‘managers’. Now, I am not qualified to judge their performance as managers but it is my humble opinion that this is the best way to describe them. They tinker with health care, they shift a few dollars here and a few there, they wax long and hard about their own plans for prosperity, education and health care. They hum and ho about auto insurance. They ponder and tinker with NB Power.

They, essentially, keep the lights on and the cheques signed.

But address the critical issue of the econony? Nada. A loftily written Prosperity Plan with some loosely defined targets and no real plan to get anywhere near them. That’s it.

The Premier and his government are acting like the ‘Unknown Comic’ that performed in Moncton this weekend at the Hub Cap Comedy Festival. They are all walking around with methaphorical bags on their heads – tweaking and adjusting – just like managers of a company without a care in the world.

Somebody – either sooner or later – is going to get serious about fixing our economic crisis. About declining industries, about increase dependence on welfare (EI), about the growing sense of dispair in rural New Brunswick. About our education challenges. About the lack of investment.

Somebody – Tory, Liberal, NDP or none of the above – will get serious.

The question is. Will it be someone inside New Brunswick or outside? I can guarantee that the ultimate outcome will depend on the answer to this question.