How much does a promise count?

By Glynnis Rengger

The TrudeauMeter gives us the following stats – Trudeau has been in office for 394 days, has not even started 90 of 223 things he promised to do; has achieved 37 of his 223 promises; and has broken 28 of his commitments to those that elected him.

Quite the scorecard!

I wonder what my scorecard as CEO of Immersion Lab would look like? Or for that matter … yours? I’m sure I have delivered on many commitments, failed miserably on others and haven’t started a million things I thought were merit-worthy ideas.

But does it really matter? How does one judge the success of a leader? Is it her ability to follow through on prior commitments made? Is it his agility to flex as the situation requires? Is it the ability to be in the very tumultuous moment, applying common-sense and judgement while holding new information in balance with previously held ideas?

Fundamentalists would argue honouring your commitments is King – delivering on your promises trumps everything. Pragmatists would value the in-the-moment judgement – there is a certain beauty in being able to process at speed and pivot on new information and situations. But I would argue that the good leader has a True North as their compass. A set of values, beliefs, mindset and fundamental ideas that shape and guide everything else. And in some way these are tangible – they make that leader’s actions and choices coherent and obvious to all. So the reaction isn’t “he or she changed and let us down” but “he or she changed and of course that makes sense”.

So what is that thing that would give leaders this latitude to flex their promises as needed in a fast-changing environment and not end up disillusioning their supporters or pleasing their antagonists? How do they articulate their True North – that lens against which decisions will be made? And in a way that everyone understands and can make sense of.

I think about this as we watch very powerful individuals flip flop on matters that gravely affect our future and wonder what their True North is. And how might we develop leaders who can articulate their True North and be agile in the moment?