Saturday Soapbox: Where Have All Our Leaders Gone?

Warning: This post is a little heavier than my usual fair and is about politics, although it is not political. If you don’t like to read about politics then jump off here.

We live in difficult times. Difficult from the point of view of uncertainty, both in terms of the emergence of a new world order and in economic terms. It is at these times people look to leaders, not so much for the answers to their problems, but for inspiration and motivation to find the answers to their problems.

Firstly, some terminology. In my mind there is a clear distinction between managers and leaders. Managers are responsible for delivering tasks and outcomes, they steer a process. Whilst a manager can also be a leader, managing and leading require different skills and it is rare that you find those skill sets together. There is some overlap at the centre between the skill sets, but at the edges, a leader has to have something more. Further, a leader does not necessarily have to be a good manager, rather he has to have the confidence and intelligence to delegate to good managers.

A leader has to have vision and to be able to articulate and paint that vision in a way that makes it real. A genuine leader:

    • follows when necessary and steps to the front where necessary
    • listens as much as she speaks
    • is a pupil as much as he is a teacher
    • has respect for all people no matter their culture, socio-economic circumstances, physical features or religion
    • behaves graciously
    • has confidence with humility
    • values imput from others.

Coincidentally, the quote on my desk calendar today comes from Mahatma Gandhi, who was a leader:

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind

This quote is particularly apposite to the topic of this post.

Australia’s system of government is modelled on the English Westminster system. The people elect members to the upper and lower houses of parliament as their representatives who debate policy and pass laws. The government is chosen from the party who has the majority of seats in the lower house. Debates are highly adversarial and members often grandstand, call each other names and point score – an eye for an eye. All of this may be tradition and somewhat theatrical, some might even say entertaining, but to me it is lamentable. There are ways of conveying a point of view, graciously and respectfully without personally attacking anyone. The whole show reminds me of a badly behaved kindergarten class where the Speaker kindergarten teacher has lost control. The behaviour is not confined to any one side of politics or any gender.

Just think if we brought this sort of behaviour into the boardroom, nothing would get done. Apart from the fact that everyone would be suing everyone else for defamation, people would be highly distracted by the theatrics and the real task at hand would be forever postponed.

Outside of parliament, our politicians are constantly selling their vision/message to the people. I use the term selling deliberately because the spin is nauseatingly dizzying. Sugar coating is for bakeries, not for government. The populace is not stupid, nor do they need to be patronized. If there is a bitter pill to swallow, I would rather be told straight by someone I respect and who at the same time as delivering the pill delivers the vision for dealing with the affects of that pill.

I believe the dearth of genuine leaders and authentic leadership is responsible for the close call elections and hung parliaments around the world. Australia itself has no clear governing majority party, the Labor government relies on deals with a handful of independents, Greece is returning to the polls after an equivocal election and England is also governed by a coalition government after its 2010 general election.

What example are we setting for our future parliamentarians?

Where has the leadership gone, where are all the leaders hiding? Where are all the authentic men and women with genuine presence, dignity and vision? We need you on all sides of politics, this is a call to arms and there’s not a moment to lose.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

14 thoughts on “Saturday Soapbox: Where Have All Our Leaders Gone?

  1. It’s actually disappointing to know that the crap goes on outside the US, where am I going to escape to now? You are so right on about the eye-for-an-eye behavior that takes place, it’s obviously clear to everyone outside of the room, yet they continue to behave poorly and resolve nothing. I am convinced it will take a revolution by “we the people” to make the change, that is if everyone can pull themselves away from the TV long enough to put up a fight.

  2. I love your explanation of a manager versus a leader.

    I don’t usually delve into politics but it seems governments everywhere are losing touch with the reason for their being. We, the people, are the only ones who can fix this but like one commenter said, “…if everyone can pull themselves away from the TV long enough to put up a fight.”

  3. I think this is very impressive and well reasoned articulate writing, and like others here, I am very impressed with your description of a manager versus a leader. Sadly, government in the US is suffering from a very similar state of dysfunctionality to what you have described, and for most of the same reasons. The resulting gridlock that prevents any real progress in a positive direction doesn’t bode well for our future.

    This is why I spend much of my time writing about humor and other subjects instead of politics, while still respecting bloggers like you, who can clearly identify the reasons for political failure that results in dysfunctional government. I become discouraged when I think about ways in which government can change for the better, because I’m all too aware of the lack of motivation to make those changes, and the vast amounts of money being spent by powerful special interests to influence members of government to not make the changes that could save our future.

    On a lighter note, thanks for your recent visits to my blog, and for reading and commenting on my posts. I’m now following your blog because I don’t want to lose track of you. This would be a big mistake on my part, since you’re an Australian woman, and once found, I don’t want to lose any of you! Lol 🙂

    • Thanks for the follow Chris. An Australian gem is worth her weight in gold – just ask the opal miners in Kalgoorlie.

      I actually perfer the humour also and don’t usually write about politics, but I have allowed myself a weekly heavy on Saturdays. It’s better than a burst blood vessel :).

      • You’re welcome, and I’m glad to be following! I am well aware of the value of an Australian gem, which is why I’d never want to misplace one.

        All joking aside, I’ve always loved opals and have bought them for my wife a number of times through the years, because I love to see the opalescent fire in them, when she wears opals.

        As far as politics, yes, it’s good to get it out of your system and blow off the frustration, since we live in such politically frustrating times. Maybe I’ll watch for your postings on Saturdays so I can join you, since I don’t want to burst anything myself. Lol

I would really love to hear what you have to say. C'mon.. you know you want to!

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