Friday, December 18, 2015

Generational Change in Leadership

This fall's federal election was remarkable for many reasons, one of which is that it resulted in more "Generation X" MPs elected than ever before, about 88, not to mention about 19 "Generation Y" or Millennials, depending on how one defines their generations.

There are 8 MPs born during WWII (the Silent Generation or the "Lucky Few"), and all the rest are Baby Boomers, still the dominant group in terms of numbers if not influence. While the average age in parliament is a respectable 51, it is without a doubt a youthful and fresh set of faces.

This turnover includes our first ever Gen X Prime Minister -- Justin Trudeau was born in 1971; he is two years younger than me. Shortly after the election, we had our first Gen X Leader of the Opposition -- Rona Ambrose is the same age as me. This certainly makes me feel what I already know, that I am officially older rather than younger than most (the median age in Canada is 40).

The other remarkable things about the election is the fervour (and fomentation) for change. Canada's relative disdain for "The Harper Years" hit a new level on election day, and seems to have risen since. The gagging of scientists (and destruction of scientific archives), erosion of social programs, embarrassment on the world stage (including our record on carbon emissions reduction), vilification of environmental groups, use of taxpayer dollars to promote The Harper Government™, mocking of parliamentary procedure, role in the senate scandal, misuse of stimulus spending, and the generally controlling/manipulative nature of our former prime minister (that's the start of a list) has left a bad taste for many Canadians. In short, we're tired of autocracy, rule by fear, and regressive policies. To be sure, there are positive contributions to Canadian life by the government in the last decade, but even hard-core Conservatives are anxious to move on and focus on what's next for their party.

Countering the negativity is a remarkable and swift set of actions by the new government to re-establish Canada's heart and vision both at home and abroad. We'll have to wait and see how much is "new values" and how much is optics or politics, but the response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the acceptance of Syrian refugees, the commitment to action at the Paris Climate Conference, and the lifting of gag orders on federal scientists are all good signs that all the talk of change may actually result in change.

Closer to home, we learned a couple of weeks ago that our Prince George School District 57 superintendent has resigned. The staff room/water cooler discussions about the "The Pepper Years" are very interesting (some amount of analysis and judgment is inevitable), as is the speculation about who our next permanent superintendent will be, and what kind of changes we can expect. With a province-wide search underway, the odds are reasonable that our next superintendent could be Gen X, and thus, again, I can feel what I already know, that I am on the older side of the teaching profession. Will a Gen Xer handle things differently than a Baby Boomer? Are there management styles or educational philosophies that are tied to the generation to which one belongs? No doubt other factors are more important, such as vision, character, honesty, or abilities to communicate, problem-solve, and collaborate. Whatever kind of generational change we see, I'm looking forward to comparing the change that gets talked about versus the change that actually takes place.


Anonymous said...

In the quest for a renewed vision of leadership, a well thought-out vetting process is vital. A great leader is foremost a listener without all the answers, yet possessing a critical mind attuned to ideas that move an organization forward. Truly listening to stakeholders and acting in a manner that reflects input builds the confidence that true collaboration actually occurs.

It is time for a leader who can provide evidence of such change.

Thielmann said...

Thanks, Anon. I'm hoping the school district releases the feedback, at least in some form, that they gathered during the strategic planning process last year. The elected board and new superintendent will have plenty to work with there. I'm also hoping the feedback doesn't get "massaged" in order to align with previous or pre-determined directions. We saw that in 2011 with the result of feedback on "technology directions" -- both the summary of feedback and the actions taken did not actually reflect the input submitted by stakeholders. I can say this with some certainty because the stakeholder input was posted as it was received, and I made copies of it all before it was taken down. The eventual synopsis differed substantially. I suppose they learned their lesson though. In 2013 (or 2014?) when they asked for input to the board on the district achievement contract (DAC), there was no indication of what would would be done with the feedback, and indeed the board itself was not allowed to see the feedback! At the public board meeting where they asked to see the feedback gathered on their behalf, they were told that to release the feedback would break privacy policy. I think a new superintendent (as well as the current board) could learn a great deal by reading the collected input from both the "tech directions" input, the DAC feedback (with names removed, I suppose), and the raw data collected during the strategic planning sessions.