Kim Campbell kicks off Lougheed College Lectures

Former prime minister leads off nine free public lectures as part of Peter Lougheed Leadership College curriculum.


(Edmonton) Spoiler alert: the answer to the question at the core of the inaugural Lougheed College Lecture—entitled “Why Do We Lead?”—is, according to the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, “Because we must.”

But Campbell, who became Canada’s first female prime minister in 1993 and is the founding principal of the University of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Leadership College, says the question is really a jumping-off point to explore prevailing notions about the meaning of leadership and the real-world impact of leadership in practice.

“There are people who think there is a mismatch between our psychology of leadership developed over tens of thousands of years and the way we lead today,” she says. “I want to talk about that, but also about the fundamental role that leadership plays in determining the outcome of a lot of group processes—and that leadership isn’t necessarily a positive. There are ways that people behave in groups and often the distinction between whether that behaviour is positive or destructive depends on the nature of the leadership. So the answer to ‘Why do we lead?’ is we lead because we must, but how we lead makes an enormous difference to the quality of human life.”

Much of Campbell’s post-politics career has been devoted to thinking about and teaching leadership, whether as chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, as a lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Governance or as a board member of numerous non-governmental organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and good governance internationally. At the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, the only undergraduate leadership development program in Western Canada, she says she hopes to help prepare the next generation of leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st century, whatever the scale.

“When people get into groups, whether large or small, leader-follower relationships just develop spontaneously,” Campbell says. “One of the things our leadership scholars will learn is how to create those relationships, how you make sure the right people are taking the lead, how you make sure everyone gets to contribute while still being effective.”

Campbell’s lecture, which takes place Monday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. in the Timms Centre for the Arts, is the first of nine Lougheed College Lectures that draw on experts with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise to present on topics ranging from ethical and moral dimensions of leadership to team-building, from storytelling as a leadership tool to overcoming barriers to social participation.

Though the lectures form part of the course materials for the pioneer class at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, the entire campus community and the general public are invited to attend the events free of charge.

“I hope the college will be a centre of excellence that will resonate through the campus and beyond so people outside the college will benefit from the resources that we bring in and the programs we create,” Campbell says. “We’re finding ways to share the experience and what we’re learning to maximize the number of people we can touch with what we’re doing.”

Find out more about the Lougheed College Lectures