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.