What Can Rob Ford Teach Us About Leadership?

I teach a course on leadership to MBA students at one of Canada’s leading business schools. Typically I introduce current events to help the students better understand the complexity and dynamics of leadership. There is never a lack of material. We have talked about Hilary Clinton and Obama, Wall Street and the Occupy Movement, the Captain of the Costa Concordia who abandoned ship, and the local residents of Hurricane Sandy who wouldn’t let their communities sink. We debated the Arab Spring, the sudden death of Steve Jobs, and the slow demise of RIM. But nothing prepared me for Rob Ford.

Rob Ford

Rob Ford has single-handedly upended everything I have been teaching about leadership for the last twenty years. The chapter on leadership skills and attributes—throw it out! The section on Moral leadership—delete! The assigned reading on Followers—rewrite please. With every lurid revelation of the now in-name-only mayor, his approval ratings keep going up (this was before his latest admissions of drinking while driving, using the p-word, and physically knocking over a diminutive female city councillor). Not to mention the Rob and Doug media show, which has given Toronto-the-good a new-found international notoriety—alarming some, but which secretly pleasing many Torontonians, though they are too proper and polite to admit it. Sort of like “so you think I’m sexy”, blushed the librarian.

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