Stephen Harper has no experience as a manager in a real job. That need not be a problem in and of itself as he could have surrounded himself with able managers and delegated such tasks. History has many examples of inexperienced people running entities well by choosing the members of their teams with care. Harper’s mentors were Flanagan and Manning, who themselves have never really run anything that was wasn’t bequeathed to them by their daddy or was a form of political welfare. Harper unfortunately feared being shown up by those more experienced and able than himself and chose the safe, the familiar and the politically sanitised.
“I feel a fundamental, crippling incuriousness about our officers. Too much body, too little head.” TE Lawrence.
And this is where the second problem comes in, his abject and appalling judgement of the characters of those he appointed to positions of power. Duffy and Wallin are two recent examples of his appallingly bad judgement based on the wrong motivations. This PM has sought to use every arm of government to push his political agenda at every opportunity. Spending on advertising and the use of the Government of Canada website for partisan purposes are the tip of the iceberg. The appointment of high profile Senators not for their experience, knowledge and love of the institution, but for Party political purposes and fund raising illustrates only too well how such undermining of Canadian institutions can backfire.
Add to the above his appallingly terrible choices for Ministerial positions and you complete a sad picture and an indictment of Harper’s personal judgement. In Dixon’s “On the psychology of military incompetence” it was apparent that British Staff Officers promoted people exactly like themselves only not quite as good and I fear that there was a bit of that in this case. MacKay, Clement, Fantino, Ritz, Kent and Oliver for heaven’s sake? There also appeared to be a degree of thumbing his nose at those who would oppose him based on facts and an appeal to reality and nowhere was this more apparent than in the appointment of Goodyear to the Science position.
He has been shown repeatedly to have very poor judgement and acts out of petulance, again coupled with his lack of experience, this does not auger well for Canada.
How my achievements mock me. Shakspeare
Even given his appalling lack of experience and judgement the whole thing could have been made to work if he could keep control of the bureaucratic Frankenstein he had created out of the left overs and off cuts of the Canadian political scene. Alack and alas it was not to be. His authority over his assembled coterie of lightweight intellects, opportunists and bagmen was tenuous from the start. Those with even a modicum of quality, like Jim Prentice, left and those that arrived were soon suck dry of any integrity they once held. Then the uncontrollable elements were never dealt with fully, while others who committed lesser infractions seemed to be punished mercilessly. Compare the Guergis case with any of the men in cabinet who screwed up and just look at Rob Ander’s career.
The final indication that Harper is totally unfit for office comes with the revelation, that even though Harper operates the most powerful and centralised PMO in Canadian History he says he can’t control that office. If we are to believe the PM from his utterances this week, his Chief of Staff and other PMO staffers have clearly been running things without his authority and behind his back. So he appears to have lost control of the PMO and any remaining shred of authority that he had left.
… a form of adaptation is thus achieved by narrowing and distorting the environment until one’s conduct appears adequate to it, rather than by altering one’s conduct and enlarging one’s knowledge till one can cope with the larger, real environment.” KJW Craik.
Ideologues rarely make good leaders because once their dogma is shown to be imperfect they won’t change their ideologically important beliefs, instead they will try and change reality to conform to their wishes. Examples of such regimes are too numerous to list but a leader who refuses to admit when they have it wrong, to adapt to the reality on the ground and to overcome obstacles is no leader of worth. Add to that the lack of any depth in the three areas examined here and you have a recipe for catastrophe.