VOCL 004 – The Last Day of Speakers in Halifax – Darn!

In this episode, Chris will summarize the 3rd and final day of the 2012 Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference plenary sessions.

Written By chris

On April 7, 2013

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Episode 004 – “The Last Day of Speakers in Halifax – Darn!”

In this episode, Chris will summarize the 3rd and final day of the 2012 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference plenary sessions.

Hi there!  Welcome to the 4th episode of the Voices of Canadian Leadership podcast.

  • This episode discusses the final day of the 2012 GGCLC plenary sessions (back story available in episodes 1 & 2)
  • Episode 3 and this episode are including Margaret (my wife) in the intro.  Include people in your goals (+ different voices until we get to having speakers)
  • Voices – new setup including microphone – sound quality should have improved.
  • Website: Learning lots about WordPress.  Can now play episodes straight from the show notes on the website.  Also, have SpeakPipe – leave voicemail!  I wanted to have a Skype # for voicemail but CRTC doesn’t allow!
  • Looking for leadership articles – not that easy to find Canadian content.  Many aspects are universal (at least for NA and many Western Nations), so I’m including them here.
  • International – greater file size means upgrading account.  I now get advanced stats – several listeners from the US, plus UK, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, and the Philippines.  Welcome to

We will now look at the main topic of the show – the 3rd and final day of the 2012 GGCLC that was held in Halifax, NS.

Summary of Day 2 – 7 incredible speakers providing different perspectives on leadership and the challenges thereof.  Also had a wonderful evening hosted at John Risley’s home – President & CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods.  Best hospitality ever – made me proud to be a Nova Scotian (or “Bluenoser”)

Let’s go back in time!

NB – Day 3 AM

A new day (after such a fabulous evening) brings about new perspectives. Our first speaker, Calvin Helin, observed that in order to build sustainable communities, it is important that all people need to understand why it’s important to help themselves.
If Canada wants to prosper, aboriginal people have to become engaged in the workforce and the economy – tying into David Foot’s presentation, there is a very large youth demographic. “Unlearning” learned helplessness” is not just an aboriginal issue, but also a poverty issue. He provided his belief that core values for aboriginal success in the past (and future) are founded upon self-reliance, being spiritual, and maintaining high standards of ethics. From his perspective, leadership is about sacrifice, humility, consideration, the mind of reinvention, hard work, dedication, and high standards of ethics.

The morning continued with Naheed Nenshi. After taking a picture of the crowd (it is already up on Twitter – see @nenshi) he provided the audience with his views. His first message focused on ensuring that the community provides the students with the skills that they need to succeed, yet cautioning that we shouldn’t only focus on the next generation, but to improve existing generations as well. We need to be critical about what isn’t working in Canadian society, but we need to view it in the global context.
People at all levels have to be able to speak clearly about what they do and what they want. He provided his experience with the “Go out and do three things for the community” campaign – it created a structure that encouraged people to discuss what their vision of a better city would be. Finally, he strongly encouraged everyone to run for public office.

Our final speaker of the morning was Thomas (Tad) Homer-Dixon. He argued that there are multiple converging stresses multiplying into a state of overload and that the overuse of natural systems and rising complexity is resulting in global “shock”. He mentioned that sustainability may not be the right theme for the conference; rather, the theme should be about adaptation to the inevitable changes that are coming in the near future. Leaders must increase the resilience of technological, economic and social systems by loosening coupling among components, increasing diversity, decentralizing problem solving and boosting the safe-fail experimentation. He closed his presentation with two views of leadership – traditional and complex-adaptive. Traditional leadership will not work in the future. Leaders must instead tell people over time what they need to hear to get them to face and solve their own problems (a common theme from all three AM speakers).

NB – Day 3 – PM – Final Round of Speakers!

Ah – the home stretch – well, for the plenary sessions at least. The afternoon began with Kishore Maahbubani, the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Although he has spent much time in Canada, he came to provide us with a view of how Canada can be perceived, how Asia has become the power that it is now, and the power that it will achieve in the future. We are at the end of an era where the West dominates policy. Much of Asia has internalized the seven pillars of Western culture that have made it predominant in the past century: free market economy, innovation in science & technology, pragmatism, meritocracy, a culture of peace, the rule of law, and education. Education was a key topic: one satellite campus for a Chinese university has 150,000 students! Each of the pillars has an impact, but the combination thereof creates an “explosion of cultural confidence” for these students – “They believe the future belongs to them.”

The last speaker (as per the schedule) was Frank McKenna, who provided a frank (bad pun not intended) and open assessment of some key problems/challenges that Canada faces today. The priorities of each social group (personal / enterprise / government) needs to circulate around knowledge. This should be a national priority, surpassing even health care. As such, we need to invest in education at every level. Sustainable communities are built around nodes of knowledge. Boston has created leaders that have in turn created tremendous wealth and opportunities across the world. Israel manages to prosper despite natural barriers, lack of resources, and adversaries across the borders; this is largely due to education.

Frank’s presentation (eschewing his written speech in favour of “stream of consciousness”) was perhaps the shortest of the three days but had conference attendees rushing for the microphone to ask him questions on a myriad of topics – perhaps due to his experience on some many levels of government and business. A key question was addressed regarding a “followership issue”. Sometimes the problem isn’t leadership, it’s the adamant refusal for the followers to obey the rule of law, to respect the democratic process and to accept majority rule. When you have a situation like that, you have few options and are required to rely on elections – it’s a somewhat unique and extremely difficult circumstance because it is effectively anarchy. Finally, and on a separate topic, leaders must have a mechanism to deal with non-performers within every organization.

This year, conference attendees were fortunate to not only have the serving Governor General present his views but to also receive the views of a former Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson. One message was for women to “Have Children!” (must be heard in context). Another was that Canada is a nation of losers (people rejected from other countries (again, must be heard in context)). Adversity in childhood (within reason) is a good thing since it makes you strong and aware of what is not adversity. Finally, she reminded everyone that leaders need to be authentic – people don’t need a Ph.D. to tell when something is not “on”.

The plenary was then closed, with some groups immediately departing for the airport for the “road trip” portion of the tours. NB, however, is fortunate enough to be leaving at 4:30AM on Monday the 4th of June. We thus had an opportunity to have a final relaxing supper in Halifax (Salty’s in the Historic Properties area). A great and humourous meal was had by all.

 Calvin Helin (author and lecturer) – bought both of his books “Dances With Dependency” and “The Economic Dependency Trap”. Latter has parallels with Haiti.

Calvin Helin

Calvin Helin

Naheed Nenshi (mayor of Calgary) – GGCLC 2008.  “Go out and do three things for the community.”  Running for office…hmmm…

Naheed Nenshi

Naheed Nenshi

Tad Homer-Dixon (CIGI Chair of Global Systems, Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Professor of Environment, Enterprise, and Development at the University of Waterloo) – Tell people what they need to hear, adapting to change.

Thomas Homer-Dixon

Thomas Homer-Dixon

Kishore Maahbubani (Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore) – very soft-spoken but everyone was listening so intently.  Education is creating a compelling vision.  Done with no slides!

Kishore Mahbubani

Kishore Mahbubani

Frank McKenna (Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial group) – he had a presentation ready but ditched it at last second based on Kishore’s approach.  27th Premier of NB (we’re going there!), diplomat, but his words felt as if they came from the heart, without “diplomatic softening”.  He called the issues as he saw them; he had the longest line-up of questions of any speaker (I’m sure it felt like another media scrum…)

The Honourable Frank McKenna

The Honourable Frank McKenna

Adrienne Clarkson – I’m not sure what to make of her presentation.  I respect her numerous accomplishments, but for me, the best one-word summarization of her presentation is “odd.”  I saw a lot of people looking questioningly at each other.  I do agree with her thoughts on being authentic – perhaps her presentation was “apropos” after all.

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

Closing – 7 groups departing starting at 1615 and 1645, the remainder had a free evening in Halifax.  We ate at Salty’s restaurant on the waterfront.  Not luxurious, though since groups were leaving on the next day from 0400 to (0730 – PEI)

Excerpts from the speeches and profiles of the people mentioned in this podcast can be accessed via the show notes.

Resources and Articles

 25 June 13 – The Canadian Leadership Summit – in Toronto, ON.  Extract:

 What will you learn?

• What it takes to be a great leader
• How these leaders got to where they are today
• What your organization can learn from the very best
• How to develop the next generation of leaders
• Tactics to advance your career to the next level

Not a paid endorsement.  Put on by Diversified Business Communications – David Barrett (Project World, Schulich Executive Education Centre)

“Eight Leadership Lessons from the World’s Most Powerful Women” by Jenna Goudreau at forbes.com

  • Stay determined
  • Be courageous
  • Think bigger
  • Take calculated risks
  • Remain disciplined
  • Hire smart
  • Manage your career
  • Delegate at work and at home

“If you’re not a little bit scared every day, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.”


“The One Leadership Trait That Separates Superachievers from Underperformers” by Carmine Gallo at forbes.com

You can always get better – don’t settle (relates somewhat to the previous article).  The older I get the greater the realization that I will never know everything (but it doesn’t keep me from trying – one of the reasons for this podcast)


“Leadership: What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Jan Birchfield, Ph.D. at Huffington Post.com

Military background – “love”?   “When leaders create and ensure alignment between the place where people feel connected and the actual day-to-day work that they do, reservoirs of energy and creativity are released. This life force is love.”


If you have any suggestions for the resources and articles section, especially Canadian content, please let me know.


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