What Toronto’s mayor can teach us about leadership.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, and by default Toronto, has been excruciatingly mocked across the globe thanks to a video we’ll never see of him allegedly hitting the crack pipe.  Enough already we say.  Give it a rest.  Move on.  Let it go.

But not before we weigh in.  (Wait.  What?  That wasn’t very PC?  We know).

We all love a train wreck (see our post on if it bleeds it leads) and this is the mother of all train wrecks.  It’s hard to pull our attention away because every day delivers a ripe dose of ridiculousness.  Crack!  Murder! Disappearing contacts! Shredded documents!  Deleted emails!  Demands for addiction counseling!  Sigh.

What we’re failing to do here folks is diagnose the bigger issue.  Let’s stop attacking Rob Ford as he is just the symptom of a larger problem.  And that problem is, why on earth can Toronto not vote in a world class mayor?!?  We’re the 4th largest city in North America, we’re smart, we’re nice.  But we have a horrible track record.  Mel Lastman…David Miller… (he was right out of central casting but spent our money on flowers for sidewalks).  Ford got elected based on one powerful sentence: “stop the gravy train”. Would you choose your spouse, your job, even your vacation based on one pithy turn of phrase? No way. C’mon Toronto raise the bar on who we elect.  By contrast, have a look at Michael Bloomberg in New York and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel.  Now these guys are Mayors (wonder if the fact that they are rich and powerful has anything to do with it).

Here are our lessons for marketing leaders:

  1. As simple as it sounds, do your homework on the leadership candidates.  Dig a little.  If Toronto did we would never have voted in Rob Ford.
  2. Great organizations attract a stream of great leaders and future leaders. Attack the root cause of mediocrity not just the poor leader.
  3. Marketing leaders bring silos together. They don’t drive a wedge between “416 and 905” (area codes for our non-Toronto readers), they create a common purpose and squash the squabbling.

Fellow Toronto Lovers, let’s not be doomed to Lastmans, Millers and Fords…if we don’t demand more, we’ll never get more.