* This post appeared on the original Banff Forum blog on May 29, 2013.

Le Banff Forum à toujours voulu participer aux grands débats de notre société dans l’espoir de contribuer de nouvelles idées. Cette année nous allons explorer non seulement une question mais un élément essentiel à la base de toutes les solutions: le leadership. As John Quincy Adams once said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.   What does leadership mean in the current context and what are Canadians looking for from our leaders?

1. The Malaise

The 2013 Banff Forum began with a simple idea: For Canada to tackle tough challenges, it needs exceptional leadership. But leadership is a scarce commodity, and – according to recent studies of Canadians – growing scarcer. 35% of Canadians trust CEOs; 5% trust politicians. Relative to six other potential sources, CEOs and politicians ranked last in credibility. It does not need to be this way.

Global PR firm Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer makes it clear: Canadians are less cynical than others – but still distrustful of their political and business leaders. The 2013 Banff Forum’s opening panel discussion with Lyse Doucet (Presenter and Chief International Correspondent at BBC World Service), Marcel Côté (Founding Partner of SECOR Inc.), and Nik Nanos (Chair of the Nanos Research Group) breaks down the problem and attempts to pin down the source of leadership malaise.

We will also challenge basic assumptions about what good leadership and good leaders are about.  Harvard’s Dr. Karim Lakhani and bestselling author Dan Gardner will deliver case studies –  blueprints for great leadership.

2. Changing Terrain

Canada’s future leaders will work with a rapidly changing landscape whether they like it or not. The first is a generational challenge. Millennials seek out institutions with a sense of mission and a flattened hierarchy; teams willing to promote good ideas from the top, middle, or bottom. Also looming is a democratic challenge.  With democracy reports published by Samara Canada registering Canadian satisfaction levels with Parliament at only 55% and citing MPs who connect their own political disillusionment to party discipline and partisan rancor, how long can we continue to ignore this problem?  We are looking forward to a vigorous debate at the Banff Forum about whether the decline of Parliamentary leadership in Canada can be attributed to the nature of our political party system.

And there is a growing global challenge: how to solve multifaceted problems despite the preoccupation of the US with domestic concerns; Europe’s status quo-rocking financial crisis; and China’s perceived reluctance to match its economic might with global leadership.  A keynote address from Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of the Asia Society and former Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum and head of the World Food Program, will look at how global leadership might evolve.

3. Forum Innovations

Traditionally, the Banff Forum is one part discussion forum and one part incubator. Panel debates have spun off into academic studies and hallway chatter into new NGOs. Fireside chats and BF talks, modeled after TedTalks’ intimate-lecture format, enable new types of inter-forum interaction. These recent innovations are designed to seize on the Banff Forum’s greatest asset: its participants.

The 2013 Forum will kick off with an optional experiential learning day with topics including how to foster inclusive leadership (with Stephen Frost, former Head of Diversity for the 2012 London Olympics), how to lead in difficult negotiations (with Patrick McWhinney, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Insight Partners), how to foster the next generation of women leaders (with Change the Ratio Co-founder Rachel Sklar) and surprising leadership lessons from music (with celebrated musician and conductor Kevin Mallon). The day will end with a team-based strategic challenge, giving attendees the chance to take stock of their own leadership abilities.

Leadership may be Canada’s key elusive resource; the 2013 Banff Forum is devoted to taking stock of and learning how best to build our reservoir. Hearing from cutting-edge researchers and practitioners is one key to progress. Active discourse among future leaders is just as crucial if Canada is to bounce back from its leadership deficit and tackle the next generation of national challenges. We need to inspire each other to do more through our discussions and actions.

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