Cairine MacDonald has worked in community development, education, non profits and business. Now she brings that rich experience to government. We met and worked together when she was Deputy Minister, Housing and Social Development. I gained insight and respect for the passions that inspire the best of our public servants, from Cairine and the senior Executive team she assembled.
Among her many achievements, she was the key force who enabled community groups to lever the 2010 Paralymic Games to benefit all British Columbians with a disability. She is currently Deputy Minister of the Environment. She was recently recognized as one of Canada's most powerful women.
Love and Leadership
I saw Tina Turner perform in concert when she was 62 – a survivor who rose to all of lifeʼs challenges. Tina, in her raucous and raspy voice, demands to know "whatʼs love got to do with it?" In terms of leadership, whether in the private, public or not for profit sector, the answer is everything.
As Kahlil Gibran put it: "Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half a manʼs hunger."
As a woman in leadership, I early formed the view that: "You earn your stripes as a woman. I donʼt think itʼs automatic. Itʼs certainly not based on the camaraderie, back-slapping kind of thing. Itʼs really a lot more… you work hard, you demand results, you get stuff done and you also care about people." So it is not a touchy-feely type of love – rather more robust, results focused and outcome driven.
One of the key strategic drivers is how to make the circle bigger – for everyone – with a focus on inclusion. My mother taught us a poem by Edwin Markham, for times when we were feeling left out of things, which can also serve as a call to action for leaders:
He drew a circle to shut me out…
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
Leadership, to be effective, must be inclusive – it must open and embrace all of the employees and not single out those who are unique in some way. At the same time, it must be open and embrace all employees including those who are unique. The best management is management that makes the circle bigger and invites employees to take their places in the circle. Good management for women is also good management for men.
Love is not an easy conversation to introduce in the workplace. My former ADM Allison Bond recently wrote in her own blog about this love thing:
"Cairineʼs hallmark was to ʻlove the customerʼ. In the first few months she started at what was then the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, she stood by that phrase – ʻlove the customerʼ – despite the clear discomfort of her executive team. We came to understand that loving the customer meant so many things: understanding our clients, believing in our clients, and sometimes making decisions that would be hard for clients in the short term, but so much better in the long term. We werenʼt expected to like all of our clients, but we were expected to look at them, and our work, with fresh eyes. Cairine had a knack for pushing the envelope, and her leadership team."
At the same time, it is love that helps determine the tenacity of the leader in the face of obstacles. During the economic downturn over the past few years, Daniel Golemanʼs question from Primal Leadership has resonated: "Is there enough that I love about this company and these people to keep me here through the tough work coming up?"
Also central to leadership is taking care of yourself – Rainer Maria Rilke speaks about work with both deep perception and true beauty: "Like so many other things, people have also misunderstood the position love has in life… those who want to have deep love in their lives must collect for it and save for it and gather honey." I love that "collect for it and save for it and gather honey".
Leadership makes a difference when it is visible – we speak of "walking the talk". As Lewis Mumford said: "Men become susceptible to ideas, not by discussion and argument, but by seeing them personified and by loving the person who so embodies them."
It comes down to that quotation by Markham: "Love and I had the wit to win: Let's draw a circle that takes them in".
( I have spoken on this topic for over 10 years and never written it down. Thanks Al, for forcing my writing hand.)
NOTE: To access my previous post on Cairine click here.
Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc. I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.