One of the most important attributes of leadership is the ability to unite your team, to set the direction, and to get people collaborating towards achieving stated goals.
Malcolm Turnbull has shown himself incapable of doing that. He is not a good people manager and nothing in his history indicates that he can become one.
When he was undemocratically appointed head prefect at school, the other students carried out an “Anyone but Turnbull” campaign.
The principal who chose him for the job said “When he bossed people around he did it in an abrasive way people didn’t like. He makes it clear that he thinks people are perfect fools and haven’t got a brain in their head – that’s not how to make friends and influence people.”
After a failed attempt at preselection in the 1980s, Turnbull gave away any political ambitions saying “I’m not sure that I’m really suited to the democratic process.”
As Opposition leader, Turnbull was unable to get his party to support action on the most pressing issue of our time – emission reduction. So incapable of leading the debate was Turnbull, so hated by many of his colleagues, that the unthinkable happened and the very inadequate Tony Abbott fell into the leadership, a reward for his conversion to climate change denial.
Abbott proved so bad at the job that Turnbull seized the opportunity presented by disastrous polling to have another go at trying to lead but it is proving just as problematic as all his other attempts.
When he was 21, Turnbull told radio broadcaster David Dale that he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40.
“For which party?” asked Dale.
“It doesn’t matter,” responded Malcolm.
And therein lies the problem. Turnbull wants the kudos, the prestige, but he doesn’t have a clue how to get people on board. He doesn’t seem to have a direction let alone the ability to steer others along with him.
Any pretence of a “strong united team” has been blown out of the water.
Bernardi has been openly critical and is collecting conservatives together in what he assures us is not a rival party…yet. Abetz and Dutton have been calling for an Abbott comeback. The climate change deniers are continually calling for inquiries into the science and for bans on renewable energy. The xenophobes are calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, and the homophobes are determined to deny marriage equality and to demonise programs designed to stop the bullying that has seen so many children take their own lives.
Senator Ian Macdonald wants Queensland MPs and senators to sit apart from the Liberal and National party rooms and for the LNP to be considered a separate party, presumably because, despite being a shadow minister, he did not get a ministerial position in government.
Barnaby Joyce is demanding more power for the Nationals and we can only speculate on what he is insisting on for his agreement to give support to form government.
And George Christensen has, only two weeks after an election, threatened to cross the floor unless he gets his way on no changes to superannuation.
In uncertain times, a team must be able to look to its leader for guidance. They must trust his or her judgement to decide on a course of action and have the loyalty to support them in pursuing it.
There is no such confidence, trust or loyalty on display in the Coalition who, under Malcolm’s lack of leadership, have splintered into disgruntled groups competing with each other for more power and influence.
And Malcolm seems powerless to do anything about it.