Effective Citizen Book CoverThe Effective Citizen is recommended reading… for the strong of heart and resilient.

On my planner today is – “Finish Book Review of Effective Citizen – (make more positive)”… there are a lot of both insightful and inciteful elements to this book.

My original first paragraph was: “The Effective Citizen – How to Make Politicians Work For You by Graham Steele is an eye opening read by a jaded and disillusioned past politician. A lawyer, analyst and former Nova Scotian cabinet minister, Steele describes a culture in which compassion fatigue and burnout are necessary results of office. Written from the standpoint of helping citizens get things done after the election… when they stop being voters for a time… this book paints an often disheartening picture of ineffective, self-important busy work and bullshit.”

But, maybe I was a little sleepy at the time.

And, I must admit, it is still a valuable and informative read.

On the publisher website it touts the tome as follows:

A primer for anyone who wants to become a politician or influence one, The Effective Citizen explains how politicians think and what factors influence that thinking; how to interpret the “non-answer” in political speech; and acknowledges that in politics, “bland is safe.” Ideal for political neophytes and junkees all the same, Steele’s newest book will have the whole country talking.

Sounded like I had to read it.

The structure in the TOC caught my attention as me-against-them.

Part one: The Politician

  • How politicians think
  • How politicians behave
  • How politicians speak

Part Two: The Effective Citizen


The Citizen

In chapter 2 Steele states, “I wrote this book so you might better understand how to recognize political bullshit, and what to do about it.” And that’s a good summary.

If you are reading this book as a citizen who wants to become more effective you will find some valuable information in here.

As advice for someone looking to get things done and working with the politicians? It does a lovely job of stripping away your expectations.

The level of persistence and determination advised in the book – and the recommendations for follow-through – will hold you in good stead (anywhere you want to get things done and be more effective).

Taking responsibility for the change you want to make rather than dumping it on your elected official’s lap comes across as quite genius in the book – while it really is just simple sense.

The Politician

If you’re reading this book because you want an inside look at what may be your new career… you need to brace yourself. You need to cut through the disillusioned negativity and look for the gems of truth.

While acknowledging that most people get into politics for the best reasons, Steele avows that the culture erodes their fine points.

He describes the rules of the game from the stereotypical politician viewpoint… and they are not attractive. Including: “Nothing is more important than getting elected and re-elected. Keep everything as secret as possible. Fight for influence and status.”

Each of these is then unpacked in excruciating detail.

The description of “political thinking” describes processes of avoidance, laziness and blame. (I had to frequently recall the actual MPs MPPs and municipal council members I know to remind myself that – while the machine of politics is slow, the drivers I know are hard working, ethical people.)

I truly enjoyed the section about what a politician actually does in their day/week and even the filters and constraints through which they make a decision and take action.

There are some great sections on understanding the job thoroughly before you pursue it, and having a vision of your own for what you specifically want to achieve. Politics is a hectic world in which many are finished before they catch their breath and focus on a change that is important to them.

In fact, in the chapter of “Why Not Stand for Election Yourself”, some useful questions arise. For instance: Is this the best way to get your goals achieved? and, How does your family feel about you becoming a politician?

I grabbed this as an e-book through Hoopla – I love my public library.