Lobbying is a legitimate form of persuading those in power to do what’s best.

Or is it?

“During the seven-year period studied (2011-2018) by the Corporate Mapping Project and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC and Saskatchewan offices, the fossil fuel industry recorded 11,452 lobbying contacts with elected and non-elected federal government officials, which amounts to over six contacts per working day.”

Keep in mind that this is just one industry and represents only those lobbying efforts that are officially recognized and reported as lobbying. Casual squash games or happy hour conversations with junior staffers who organize schedules and manage information flow never make it on this list.

In the real world, no lobbyist worth their salt will lobby a minister or even an MP. If you lobby their staff you get the minister for free. That’s becasue people in power have to make difficult decisions about complex subjects that they often know little or nothing about. To make these decisions, they rely on their most trusted staff, advisors, and consultants for information and guidance.

Imagine yourself in that position. You are elected to make hard choices. All the people that surround you, the people you have chosen to rely on for advice, the people you have placed your trust in and who keep you safe,  are steering you in a direction that your gut tells you is wrong. Can you find the courage to stand up against all of them and choose a course of action contrary to their advice? Will you jeopardize their loyalty if you do? How will you interact with them when the next tough issue comes along?

This dilemma is what I call “The Leader’s Trap.” It’s real and it’s powerful. And it does not only apply to Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and MPs. The same phenomenon takes hold whenever there are people with limited knowledge, time or resources, placed in a position of power where they have to make monumental decisions.  Once their confidants are captured the person with the power is unlikely to advance an agenda that is contrary to the consensus in the room.

What most constituents don’t realize is that when you elect someone to represent you, you are not electing just one person, you are de-facto electing all the people that surround them on a day to day basis. Cumulatively it is these people, and the moral compass that directs them, that will carry the day. But you may not even know who they are.

That’s why it is so important that everyone is clear about the guiding principles and the fundamental premise that guides the moral underpinning of your activities. The premise that is the foundation of all decision making: Citizen participation or Might makes right? – Elected dictatorships or truly democratic processes? – Short term strategy or long range thinking?

The Courage to Lead 

Why is the moral imperative so important? Because the arguments swirling around the room need context. If the context is firmly established, advice that takes you off course, even if it’s the consensus in the room, will be exposed as inconstant with your purpose for being.

If your moral imperative is credible and timely climate action, the idea of buying and building a pipeline simply does not fit, no matter who its proponents are. If the imperative is honesty and authenticity, photo-shopping an image would never even cross anyone’s mind. And if the moral imperative is fostering an aware and engaged citizenry, there would be no question that dynamically showcasing a vision of the future that offers hope and empowerment would be the number one priority.

But if your imperative is raising money and winning power so you can advance your agenda, it places all your decisions into a different context.

That’s why it is crucial that you start with “WHY?”


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For an exploration of how our moral framework

can guide our decisions and actions

why not check out

What’s Next? A New Tomorrow