“Will no one rid me of this troublesome…”

Since the days of Henry II, civilized society has found ways of ridding our leaders of their troubles. Today, we call these trouble shooters chief of staff or principal secretary. It is a position that wields the authority of the leader, on the leader’s behalf. It is a position of considerable trust.

But it is not deniable. The chief of staff is not a fall guy. He or she is not there to take the blame. The role is that of alter ego. You do not guess at the needs and wishes of the leader. You have to know what is wanted. You are a team. And you are jointly responsible for the actions of the office.

If you are looking up the job description, good luck. Every job of this magnitude is different. Every relationship is different. The key to power is the “Pen.” This is a very simple machine that can sign the leader’s name on letters and documents. The chief of staff is expected to have the key to the Pen. That is what signifies the level of trust.

How does this relate to Prime Minister Stephen Harper? This is a man who micromanages his job. This is a methodical man. While his chief of staff would pick and choose those things that he would report to Harper, there is no way that he would keep information from the Prime Minister. Yes, he might say simply that “the Duffy matter has been looked after sir.” That would mean that he has followed instructions to find a solution. The details of the solution are immaterial to the Prime Minister. He is responsible because he gave the authority to do it to his chief of staff.

While it might be very convenient to have a chief of staff who can write a cheque for more than $90,000 to help out a friend of the Prime Minister, that can hardly be the end if the matter. When the Prime Minister’s chief of staff wrote that cheque to Senator Mike Duffy, he obviously had no concern about being paid back anytime soon. There is always a pay back. It comes with the job.

Having known various chiefs of staff—for different parties and different jurisdictions—we are pleased to report that all are comfortably off, thank you.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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