Two of Canada’s most recognizable leaders will debate the topic of leadership at the National Arts Centre Monday evening.

Former Chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier and Ottawa Police Chief Vern White will discuss their leadership strategies and experiences as a part of the Hillier Inspiration Series.

Hillier, who will be talking about “leadership lessons learned from the school of hard knocks,” said leadership is all about people.


“It’s people that make a success or failure,” he said. “And one person can make a difference. Whether it’s a junior individual or someone in a formal leadership appointment, someone who wants to commit to changing the community or the world can make a difference.”

Hillier, who has commanded troops around the world, was appointed Commander of the Army and Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan in 2003. He was promoted to his highest rank and assumed duties as the Chief of the Defence Staff in 2005 and retiring from the Canadian Forces in July 2008.

One of the stories Hillier will tell is the story of Vancouver Island resident Maureen Eykelenboom, whose son, 23-year-old combat medic Cpl. Andrew James "Boomer" Eykelenboom, was killed in Afghanistan.

In honour of her son, Eykelenboom organized a group to make caps for newborn babies in Afghanistan, where there is a high mortality rate for infants.

“This lady has made a difference in the lives of children and families and thousands of people,” he said.

Another aspect of leadership is communication, said Hillier.

“You’ve got to be able to talk with the people you lead,” he said.

White will be talking about leadership from a police chief’s perspective, including “creative policing,” and finding new ways to do things.

In policing, “you need to embrace risk,” said White. “Risk adversity doesn’t work. You have to take chances.

“Leading a police service, to me, is getting out in front and trying something new and different,” said White. “Managing, you can continue to go forward, but I’m not sure that you’ll see the same reward. You can have a manager at peace, but you need a leader in the middle of a war and in policing, we’re always in a war,” said White.

White said he was looking forward to talking with Hillier.

“I think he did a great job, a tremendous job,” said White.

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