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ACL Leader in Focus – Kevin McPhillips

Kevin is from Vancouver, British Columbia but has lived in Ontario since 2010. He moved in order to study at Western University, where he graduated with a BA in Political Science in 2014 and an MA in Comparative and Canadian Politics in 2015. After graduating he lived for a year in Swansea, Wales, while his wife completed her own Master’s degree.

After moving back to Canada, Kevin spent time working in government at both the provincial and municipal levels. Kevin recently attained his Economic Development certification and strives to study and promote how governments can engage with businesses and the wider community to best promote economic growth. Currently, Kevin works as an Administrative Coordinator, Ancillary Operations for Ridley College.

In your view, what’s the most important attribute of a leader?

I think that the most important attribute of a leader is understanding that you are not some fearless behemoth sent to revolutionize everyone’s life, but rather act as a catalyst for continued growth. The best leaders I have worked for understood that they were not going to fix every problem or do everyone’s job better than that individual. Instead, they were available when needed for advice or support but otherwise allowed the people they worked with to grow on their own time, in their own way. By providing guidance rather than authoritarian direction they allowed each of us to find the best in ourselves. Additionally, they did not assume that they knew everything better than everyone who worked under them. Everyone has unique skills and the best leaders seem to be the ones who can identify and amplify those traits.

Too many leaders I have found believe that they immediately understand every issue and can pinpoint the best way forward, regardless of “localized” knowledge. These people inevitably alienated themselves and allowed production to lag, constantly believing that if people would just “get on board” then these issues would be resolved.

How do you define civic leadership?

To me, all leadership stems from a desire to make everyone, and everything, surrounding you better. It is said that true leaders look not at how to gain success for themselves, but to embolden those around them to succeed. In this same way, civic leadership is about building up your surrounding community. Here in Niagara, we are blessed with some of the most beautiful lands in Ontario, in one of the most welcoming, inclusive, and all-around tremendous countries in the world. Our civic leaders should strive to help every individual gain the most that they can out of the incredible opportunity that comes with living here. To me, engaging with all of our community’s residents in the hopes of brightening our communal future embodies civic leadership.

Why are you personally motivated to explore civic leadership?

The answer to this question speaks directly to how I define civic leadership. The world can only be a better place when those with the opportunity to support others look beyond themselves. I have been blessed with incredible opportunity and luck in my life, and it is only right that I leverage my good fortune into support for others.

My wife and I are beginning our careers and family and as we grow together it is our dream that we can help support the growth of Niagara as a whole, in whatever capacity we are able to do so.

What, in your view, is the most significant issue/opportunity facing our community? Why?

The economy is always going to be top-of-mind for any local leader, but I think moving beyond that we as a society are at a crossroads. No shortage of attention has been paid to the increasingly fractious dynamic between those who are welcoming and believe in inclusion, and those who hope to shut the door to outsiders. It takes strong leadership with moral discipline to stand up against those who profess hatred towards others and retreat into nativism. Though perhaps our challenges are not as glaringly obvious at the moment when compared to the United States, we are still seeing an increase in vile attacks from small-minded individuals.

I think it is absolutely imperative that the leaders of our next generation have the mettle to stand up for what is right and promote a welcoming, inclusive environment that supports the shared success of all individuals regardless of who they are.

February 10th, 2020