Leaders leading us nowhere
by Peter Switzer
Australia has a leadership problem — and probably most of us do too. Even over the weekend, the respected Economist magazine got stuck into our political leaders for being populist and effectively ineffectual — that’s a regrettable contradiction, isn’t it?
Now, the Economist thinks that our leaders are not coming up with strong leadership — that’s reserved for Prime Minister Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan — while opposition leader, Tony Abbott is accused of being a populist leader.
And it has worked as he now leads in the opinion polls and his Coalition is the current favourite to win the next election.
This all comes when rumours are circulating that Ms Gillard is dead-PM walking. I was told on Friday that a senior spin-doctor is telling everyone that she will be replaced before Christmas. And Greg Combet and Bill Shorten are the favourites to get the gig.
Personally, I can’t believe that Labor could make the same mistakes they made in New South Wales of playing the leader merry-go-round game. Its consequences were one of the greatest electoral decimations in Australian political history.
But I guess you can never tell what desperate politicians will do when they’re staring defeat in the face.
And that’s what Labor is setting itself up for unless they embrace a leadership change ASAP. But by that, I’m not saying change the leader but simply get the leader to change.
Gillard has over two years to learn what great leaders have mastered — the ability to lead. Mind you, I think she can lead politicians — apart from Kevin Rudd and that’s for obvious reasons — but she has to learn to lead Australians. That’s her shortcoming.
Bob Hawke got Australians and so did John Howard. Paul Keating probably did but never looked comfortable hanging out with them. He understood the language that would win Aussies over but he seemed more at home with the Arts crowd.
What Gillard needs is to take a leaf from the book of Peter Beattie. He would have looked at the polls, which would have told him that he was not getting it right with the mob he was hoping to lead, and he would have said: “Sorry, it looks like I got it wrong, and so I will can the carbon tax.”
John Maxwell, the author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (who is in Australia at the end of June and I’m speaking with him) has argued that if you think you’re a leader and you look around and no one is following you then you’re not a leader.
But he says you can learn leadership. Leadership can be learnt over time — people skills, emotional strength, vision, momentum, and timing are all areas that can and should be learnt. “Leaders are always learners,” Maxwell insists and that’s what Julia and Labor need to commit to.
I think Julia needs a crash course in leadership and one Maxwell law she really needs to work on is his Law of Connection.
“You must touch the heart before you ask people to follow,” he says. “Communicate on the level of emotion first to make a personal connection.”
Ms Gillard’s carbon tax policy left her people behind. It was never properly explained and rested on a lie and that’s why she had to talk to us to bring us along on this costly journey.
Don’t get me wrong: as someone who has a book called The Carbon Crunch, my sales would increase with an imposed carbon tax but if Julia’s leadership game isn’t lifted she will never sell her policy and I won’t sell my books!
(John Maxwell is in Melbourne on 29 June, Sydney 30 June and Brisbane 1 July. For details go to: www.switzer.com.au/leadershipseries)
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Published on: Monday, May 30, 2011
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