Leaders learning from other leaders is the core essence of the YPO EDGE. Having the opportunity to hear directly from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an appearance at Friday’s program in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, gave EDGE attendees the chance to learn about Trudeau’s leadership journey and the qualities he thinks a strong leader embodies.
Like many business leaders, Trudeau’s career has been along many paths, including working as a teacher in British Columbia. His time in the classroom had a strong influence on how he sees himself as a leader.
“A good teacher understands his students’ needs and gives them the tools to figure out the answers,” he said. “Similarly, a good politician should be giving people the tools to create success while, at the same time, changing difficult, counterintuitive or challenging knowledge, and empowering people with that knowledge. It’s not so much how well you can explain things; it’s how well people understand your explanations.”
Making tough leadership decisions
Whether a chief executive of a business or an elected official of a country, the challenge of leadership to Trudeau is making sure that everyone who looks to you for leadership is empowered to do the very best in their jobs and responsibilities. “My focus is very much on how do you enable the best possible service out of everyone around you,” Trudeau said. “The key is the team, gathering amazing people around you.”
How do you make the hardest decision? “This is a leadership trick I learned from my father —strong leaders pull together the smartest people they can find and watch them disagree on the best solution to a given problem. Bring in those different perspectives. Hear all the examples, all the arguments. Ask them questions. Push back. Create a safe environment where people can disagree and push back on each other and then you figure out the best way forward.”
Setting himself up for success
The pace of a CEO’s and a prime minister’s day are chaotic at best. A good night’s sleep, exercise and eating well play a role in keeping Trudeau focused and better at dealing with pressure but he believes his determination to be a good father is key to his success.
“Being a good dad is not just important for me to be a good person, it helps me deeply be a better prime minister. Always that sense of if I’m going to be away, is it worth it? Am I doing meaningful things that are going to make a better life for them? That balance is actually how I prevent myself from getting lost in the busyness, the infinite number of things that are ‘urgent’ at any moment but not always that important and being able to make the distinction between those two things is really important.”
And his daily life – in the lives of his countrymen and citizens of all countries – disruptions big and small have become the norm which can hamper success if he, or anyone, tries too hard to control them.
“We are in a pivotal time of tremendous transformation,” Trudeau said. “One of the many things people are looking for in politics or business or investments is people who seem like they are able to roll with disruption, who have a grasp of how it is happening and how to manage it.”