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Leadership solves most problems

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With New South Wales and Queensland now locking horns with their annual State of Origin bash-and-barge affair, and with economic as well as political malaise dominating news headlines, it might be time for Julia Gillard to take a few leaves out of the books of legendary rugby league coach, Wayne Bennett, and leadership guru, John Maxwell.

With the economy looking dodgy and the stock market in spooked mode, and in the wake of the budget, what is needed is some lateral thinking.

And I reckon thinking outside the square on the subject of leadership could help the country, the business sector and, in fact, all of us.

Just to make the point as strong as I can — I believe leadership is the starting point to solving many of our life problems from building our wealth to killing money chaos and even improving our relationships with our family, friends and work colleagues.

Government and leadership

The latest opinion polls don’t make good reading for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Labor Government with Tony Abbott now the preferred PM and the Coalition significantly ahead in the popularity contest.

Ms Gillard’s response to her party was that she was “playing the long game” but maybe it’s time she thought about not playing but actually living the leadership game.

Right now, the opinion polls say they don’t like the leadership messages coming out of Canberra. The turnoff factor is linked to the problems with asylum seekers policy, the carbon tax implications and the fact that a promise was made by our leader, Julia Gillard, that no carbon tax would happen after the election. 

Influential words

In his book — The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership — John Maxwell sums up his definition of leadership as “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less”.

In this book, which has sold over one million copies, he focuses on the ability of the leader to influence others. This includes perceived followers “and those outside that circle”.

To Maxwell, you can’t separate the leader from the leadership character that travels permanently with a leader. Maxwell argues, “without maintaining integrity and trustworthiness, the capability to influence will disappear.”

Sure, in politics leaders who have acted in an untrustworthy manner have got away with it in elections but it has often been because the opposition leader had greater flaws.

The PM also has the matter of apparently stabbing her old leader — Kevin Rudd — in the back, and while she might have been driven along by her party, the stain is still on her hands.

Listen carefully

Making political life even harder for Ms Gillard is the fact that the economic circumstances of a strong China and its demand for our resources is tightening both the job market and interest rate policy. This adds to the cost of living and while the Government is not directly responsible for China’s growth and the RBA’s relentless rate rise strategy, as a leader of a country that’s hurting, I don’t think either the PM or Treasurer Wayne Swan are using the right words to soothe a nation.

I would argue that the fast-forwarding of the carbon tax is a case in point that proves that Labor’s leadership team isn’t listening to their followers or would-be followers. 

Learn leadership

A few years back, I emceed a conference in Dubai where John Maxwell was the keynote speaker and I was knocked out at the calibre of this guy’s message. He showed me that while I was building a successful business and employing more and more people, I had one weak suit that I had never really worked on and it was called leadership!

It might come naturally to a few but Maxwell says it can be learnt.

He argues you don’t learn leadership in a day but daily! And he explains that his biggest lesson was when a mentor asked him what was his self-improvement program? Like many of us, Maxwell, then a young man, admitted that he didn’t have one. 

Lead yourself first

Maxwell makes a strong point that leading others starts with self-leadership and being committed to a self-improvement plan is step one. As a financial planner I always make the point to clients that we have to turn their money chaos life into one that’s characterised by order.

And that’s what Labor needs at the moment. There seems to be a sense of chaos, with the Treasurer currently accused of misleading parliament over whether he knew the WA Government was planning to raise mining royalties.

I suspect the Gillard team will try and win us back with some nice compensation for the carbon tax and it might work but I really believe that Julia should look at the work of the likes of John Maxwell and even the great rugby league coach Wayne Bennett.

Leading Gen Y

Bennett is one of the most successful premiership-winning coaches in modern times. I spoke with him at a conference a few years back and a part of his coaching success that few recognise is that he has been able to win with a group of people that most employers say are impossible — Gen Y.

When you think about it, most footie coaches’ teams are mainly Gen Ys and that’s why leadership is critical. Lots of these guys have come from broken homes, had poor schooling and have lacked leadership figures. That’s why Bennett has done so well — he’s what Maxwell calls a 5th level leader and that’s the best you can be.

Look around

By the way, John Maxwell comes to Australia at the end of June and I will be introducing him at three lectures. He’s in Melbourne on the 29 June, Sydney 30 June and Brisbane on 1 July. For those interested check out: www.switzer.com.au/leadershipseries.

One final Maxwellism before I sign off. He suggests that if you think you’re a leader and you look around and no one is following you, then guess what, you’re not a leader!

This is a point that should be thought about in Canberra.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, June 03, 2011

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