While Barack has one, Stephen refuses to carry one. And once again, Canada lags the US. I’m referring to the US President’s now-famous BlackBerry. The one he fought tooth and nail to keep in the days leading up to – and immediately following – his historic inauguration. His high-profile, high-stakes battle with the Secret Service to hold onto the Canadian device that had connected him to the outside world throughout his campaign isn’t strictly about a famous, powerful guy and his favourite gadget. It’s about a different kind of leader. It’s about leadership in an increasingly technology-driven era. It’s a signal that things are evolving quickly, and conventional leadership processes won’t cut it. A scary new era dawns We all know the business world seems to be spinning down a scary-looking vortex. Car companies are imploding, newspapers are dying, retailers are desperate for any strategy to fill their stores and get skittish consumers to part with their cash, and everyone and his dog is holding a hand out, begging the government for help. Today’s massive job losses point to a leaner future where the companies that survive the downturn will be smaller, more agile, and more reliant on technology than ever before. And they’ll be operating in markets where only the most technologically agile will survive. There’s no room in this future for antiquated business processes and backward technology roadmaps. Which begs the question: does a CEO who’s never carried a BlackBerry truly understand – to the depths of his/her corporate soul – what it’ll take to succeed in the coming new age of business? Does a technologically disconnected executive have the leadership chops to inspire the troops – well, those that still have their jobs – to figure out creative ways to squeeze profitability out of leading-edge technology? It isn’t much of a stretch to extend this kind of thinking to our political leadership. Governments at all levels are cracking open the vaults and spending countless billions of dollars to jumpstart the economy. But as we watch all this money being pumped into today’s Internet-driven economy, it’s fair to ask whether it’s being managed with yesterday’s business world in mind. If Canada’s most powerful politician hasn’t internalized how technology can drive market efficiencies, who’s encouraging his underlings to get with the technological program? And until they do, are we simply tossing countless taxpayer dollars into an old-tech economic abyss? It’s barely comforting to listen to the PM’s underlings trot out the same old excuses when asked to explain why he doesn’t carry a mobile device, check e-mail, do his banking online or play around on YouTube: Security reasons; he’s an important guy, so he doesn’t have time to play with gadgets; he has assistants to handle trivial things like e-mail. If my PM can’t be bothered to roll up his sleeves and get geeky, I doubt he’ll relate well to the legions of Canadians currently wrestling for the first time ever with applying for Employment Insurance online. Do unto others I’ve often called it eating your own dog food. It’s the technological equivalent of applying the lessons you’re giving to others to your own situation as well. If you’ve used a certain gadget, tool or piece of software, it gives you credibility. If you’re a leader – of a company, a country, or even the volunteer group that runs the lunchroom at your kid’s school – it gives your followers that much more reason to believe in your vision. If you deem yourself too important for stuff like that, it sends quite a different message. And as accelerating numbers of businesses issue pink slips and desperately look for any solution to stem their losses, it would be nice if we had leaders who used these tools, too, and empathized with us. I don’t think Canadians expect Stephen Harper to challenge that other famous Stephen – Jobs, of Apple fame – for technological supremacy of the world. And in a thumb typing contest with President Obama, I’m betting our PM would lose. But as citizens, business owners and employees alike hold their collective breath and wait for some sign that Ottawa and the provinces are succeeding in turning things around, they expect to be led by someone who uses the same tools that we do. Oh, and President Obama’s BlackBerry? Invented in Canada. Even if he never actually uses the thing, it represents a perfect opportunity for our PM to hawk Canadian technological prowess at a time when our economy desperately needs any push it can get. That’s one job we really shouldn’t leave to an American.