Strengths of Australian leadership


Victor Perton is attempting to develop an understanding and confidence in the strengths of Australian leadership style and capacity. He asked me to contribute my thoughts to this ‘100 year project’ as he referred to it.

I have reposted my article below and if you click through to the original you will find a wealth of other thoughts by a huge variety of people.

Australian Leadership

I have been asked to write about how I perceive the strengths of Australian leadership – and as a ‘developer of leaders’, I am continually drawn to the question of ‘how does it need to be for us to find answers to the big questions now and into the future?’. So I am going to write briefly in relation to both questions.

Strength of Australian Leadership: Generous, quiet and pragmatic

At its very core, I observe Australian leadership as generous. It gives generously to others and I am thinking about those hundreds of people who quietly exercise their leadership within our communities every day. Many women and men see a problem and just decide to do something about it. This willingness to give is reflected in the number of not for profit (or for purpose) organisations in Australia estimated by The Productivity Commission in 2010 to be about 600,000 and they employ approximately 890,000 people. In addition approximately 4.6 million Australians volunteer through the not for profit sector. That is a huge sector highlighting so many people exercising their leadership to make a difference for others. (I make a distinction between leadership, taking action to make a difference, and people in positions of authority.)

It is also a ‘quiet leadership’ – by and large it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s not strongly ego based. This may be strongly influenced by Australia’s cultural ‘tall poppy’ syndrome, but its often a reflection of a pragmatic approach. Which is the third quality I would draw attention to. Australian leadership is most often pragmatic in its nature and approach. It is not drawn to big speeches and visionary idealism. Instead it sees problems and solves them – very well!

What type of leadership do we need for the future? More outward looking and more visionary…

The strengths of our leadership are obvious at a global level particularly in terms of our overall level of governance (perhaps a reflection of the three strengths mentioned above)… and … as the world continues to develop the layers of complex interdependence between us all, creating a context that is increasingly unpredictable and volatile we need to develop additional strengths.

The first is to be more outward looking and confident in our ability to contribute to major global challenges and there are many such as:

·      9 billion people to feed and water by 2050;

·      climate change;

·      decreasing supplies of critical materials;

·      the third greatest period of species extinction….

The list could go on, but the point is to recognise the powerful contribution our generosity, pragmatism and quietly, quietly approach can offer.

Secondly, we could develop the capacity for developing a powerful shared vision of the future we want as a way of orienting ourselves in unpredictable times.  This approach is both idealistic in terms of being values based and pragmatic because without one we will not know where we are going at all. (And some political commentators suggest we have already reached this point!)

Imagine our generosity, quietness (lack of ego), and pragmatism combined with a confidence in the difference we can make globally and an ability to orientate ourselves through uncertain times with a shared vision. Unstoppable!