Election 2019 in Canada: A Change Agenda Protected…

By Denis Bright  Canadians voted to continue a reformist agenda with a minority…

Brand Trudeau Wins a Second Term

“Brand Trudeau is: ‘Welcome to the new politics, just like the old…

The HMT Dunera scandal (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini  By the end of the second world war the…

The enemies of free speech

By Kathryn  The unspeakable, blatant ultra-right-wing bias of the Murdoch press in favour…

Is Labor doomed for oblivion, or can Albo…

Bill Shorten took over as leader of Australian Labor Party in 2013…

Equine Hypocrisies: Racehorses for the Knackery

It was always a probable fact: the dark consequences of having what…

Government Funding and the Free Press

By Jay Smith  In the domain of politics and state government, the relationship…

Protest tactics matter

By 2353NM  Those that demonstrated around the world for ‘Extinction Rebellion’ recently have…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: leadership

1964 – Pauline’s “Lucky Country”

Redcuchulain takes a look at the growing number of voters attracted to Pauline Hanson and puts forth suggestions for progressive leaders to combat this.

To quote an old Arabic saying , “If people are thirsty enough they will drink the sand”. I do not believe that 23% of Queenslanders are turning to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation because they are racist. It is more that they feel that they are not being listened to by anyone else. They will no longer put up with it.

The Lucky Country

There is no doubt that social inequality is increasing. The poor feel vilified and disenfranchised. All while we hear stories like we did last week about the six executives from Australia post taking home half the profits. Jobs disappear and it is the less educated who are suffering. Jobs are outsourced to countries where labour is cheaper. We are being replaced by machines everywhere from the coal mine to the supermarket checkout.

Back in 1964 Donald Horne coined the phrase , “The Lucky Country”. While this phrase is generally now accepted as a positive reference and has been repeated everywhere from cigarette adverts to patriotic Aussie songs, Horne’s original meaning of the phrase was somewhat different. He noticed that the structure of our economy was more like a developing nation. We export lots of raw material and then we buy back finished product.

We also do not have a great record on the management of our environment. Australia is essentially an Anglo-Saxon culture country in the middle of Asia. However, we haven’t really worked out our place in it. Australia was seen as ‘The Lucky Country,’ as it enjoys a very good standard of living despite all this.

Quite simply there are a lot of natural resources compared to the size of the population. Fifty years on from Horne’s book our luck is running out.

Hanson is the Opposite to What We Need

I believe the future of Australia requires us to structurally change our economy. It requires us to increase our educational standards. Our educational standards aren’t all that great compared with other countries. We need to invest more in science and innovation and actually start exporting knowledge and products. We need world standard infrastructure, like the original NBN.

Hanson is openly anti-science. She supports a dumbing down of educational standards for professionals. Hanson does not seem to have any original ideas other than to collect vastly less tax than even a conservative government would support.

Of course her followers do not seem to be able to deduct that this type of conservatism would flow to vastly less expenditure on everything from defence to education. Perhaps she thinks that everything in the new world will be priced in 1964 dollars as well.

Deny Change. Blame Islam. Easy.

It is perhaps ironic that that Hanson and her party are prepared to sit and deny that the world is changing and are in fear of Islam. They sit like the Byzantines who denied science and clung to their old religious beliefs right up until Mehmet was at their gates with his superior technology and took their city from them.

Except the Hansonites are chasing the wrong foe. It is not the Muslims who will destroy our way of life but our own failure to innovate.

Protectionist policies do nothing to lift productivity. They give a country the economic prowess of the South African rugby team when they first waddled around the pitch at the end of the apartheid era after being isolated for 25 years.

There is a difference between governments creating infrastructure and investing in research to give your industry a fighting chance and putting up trade barriers.

Populist politicians are tapping into the very valid emotion people are feeling that things felt better in the past.

One Nation’s idea seems to be to go back to 1964 when Australia felt lucky. I do not believe that rolling back social attitudes back to 1964, denying climate change or rolling back education to what was required in the 60’s is going to make us lucky again. It isn’t going to bring the jobs back.

Policies Should Be Front and Centre

It is my sincere hope that the next elections are fought over policy issues. I hope our debates move to positive ideas on how we don’t leave sections of our community behind in terms of rising living standards.

The first thing that progressive politicians need to do is acknowledge the lack of hope that sections of the community are feeling at the moment.

In 1964 a person could move from job to job, they had more in life than their parents had (their parents lived through a war but people often forget that) and the idea that growth could not go on forever without destroying our planet was the domain of a few academics.

The more narrow religion dominated social narrative, while abhorrent for progressives may have been easier for many people to understand. There is a large cohort of mainly white, 50 and over Australians who perhaps miss that country that they perceived lucky.

They make up a large portion of the electorate. They have less of their life in front of them than what is behind them.

The ‘serious’ consequences of climate change are always talked about occurring in 2050 and it is human nature to think of something beyond our expected lifetime as abstract and unreal.

They see things harder for their children and grandchildren and if we could just dial back the clock on a few things it would be better. Wouldn’t it? These people don’t care much for celebrating our progressive victories such as improved university participation, women’s rights or social justice. These are things that affect other people. The ‘elites’.

Drinking Pauline’s Sand Will Not Quench Your Thirst

Progressives need to find a way to reconnect with these people if we are to bring them on our journey forward. Part of this will involve acknowledging that there are bits of the old world that had value and that we have lost as well as gained.

These people have not enough hope to drink. They are thirsty.

Drinking Pauline’s sand will not quench thirst. It will make you even thirstier and your guts will end up… well…full of it. It is up to us to provide a different bottle.

In Times of Crisis, who are our True Leaders?

Yesterday, a heartbreaking tragedy occurred in the centre of Melbourne. Four people are dead including a young child. In times of crisis and tragedy, it is important to reflect on how our leaders respond.

Why are the Words of our Leaders Important?

It is important to reflect on the words of those who seek high office and those who eek to represent the people.

Their words can either unify us in strength and respond with solutions that will protect us from greater harm, or they can divide us and offer us non-practical knee jerk reactions.

The words of leaders should console us and give us the strength to carry on.  Their words should respect the lives lost and those who are injured.

These words should pay tribute to those who selflessly put their own lives in danger, whether it is emergency services or volunteers at the scene.

Our leaders should respond with genuine empathy, seriousness and concern. Their first concern should always be about the people.

The public and of course other leaders should outright condemn politicians who make a tragedy all about themselves or their agenda.

I will leave the responses from our various leaders and politicians below for the readers to judge.

Malcolm Turnbull – Liberal Leader. Prime Minister of Australia

The prayers and heartfelt sympathies of all Australians are with the victims and the families of the victims of this shocking crime in Melbourne today.  And we thank and acknowledge the heroism, the professionalism of the police and the emergency workers who rushed to the aid of the victims, joined by bystanders who mindless of their own danger sought to help those who had been attacked in this shocking crime. Their love, their selflessness, their courage, is the very best of our Australian spirit.

Bill Shorten – Leader of the Labor Party. Leader of the Opposition

All Australians stand with the people of Melbourne in this horrific moment.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the lost.

We pray for the injured and the frightened, in particular the very young children.

We pay tribute to the first responders. We give thanks for the bravery of the police, the speed of the paramedics and the skill of those who’ve worked to save the lives of the injured.

We salute those passers-by who rushed to the aid of their neighbours.

But we also know that on dark days like this, words are so inadequate.

Words can’t capture the horror we feel. Words can’t comfort those who’ve lost someone they love. Words won’t heal people who’ve been hurt or banish the fear. Words can’t put back the lives stolen in a few minutes of madness.

It’s difficult for all of us to comprehend how, why and what has happened. Harder still to understand that it happened here, in a country and a city that prides itself on being such a welcoming, safe and peaceful place.

Victoria Police have made it clear this was not an act of terror, it was an act of murder. A cowardly, senseless, destructive crime that has claimed the lives of innocent people.

We wait for answers, we wait for justice and tonight we hold all those in sadness and pain, close to our hearts.

People who are concerned about loved ones can call the helpline on 1800 727 077.

Daniel Andrews – Premier of Victoria. Leader of Victorian Labor Party.

Our hearts are breaking this afternoon.

People have died in the heart of our city.

Others are seriously injured. Young and old. And all of them were innocent.

All of them were just going about their day, like you or I.

Some families are just starting to find out the news about their loved ones, and right now, our thoughts are with each and every one of them.

I’m so proud of all the Victorians who reached out and provided care and support to strangers today.

I’m so thankful for all our police, paramedics and emergency services workers who launched into action, and will now be working around the clock.

And I hope that everyone can be patient and cooperative, so we can let these professionals do their job.

This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act – and justice will be done.

Richard DiNatale – Leader of the Australian Greens

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrible scenes we’ve seen in Melbourne’s CBD today.

Adam Bandt – Australian Greens. Member for Melbourne.

I’ve stood on those Bourke Street corners many times, including with kids. My heart goes out to everyone suffering today. Big thanks to emergency service workers, especially those trying hard tonight to save lives.

Pauline Hanson – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party

I have just been told that there has been a terrorism attack in Melbourne.

People don’t look right. That they are not going to assimilate into our society, have a different ideology, different beliefs, don’t abide by our laws, our culture, our way of life, don’t let them in.  Make this country safer for future generations.

All terrorist attacks in this country have been by Muslims. (Journalist: No they haven’t).

It is up to us to accept, revere, reject, condemn & shame

Australia is not immune to tragedy. Our tragedies are from the actions of other human beings or forced upon us by nature with fires, floods and cyclones.

Regardless of our politics, we should always seek to reject those who do not put others first. This is an automatic indicator that the inherent requirement to represent others is simply not a driver for that person and their motivations for public office are disingenuous and self-serving.

It is up to us to accept and revere Leaders who stand with us, comfort us and guide us in times of tragedy. Our existence as human beings, as community members, as families and as individuals is above all else.

It is up to us to reject, condemn and shame those who are not genuine in their desire to serve the people. It is up to us to demand that the media and other leaders do the same. However, trusted and true Leaders should need no encouragement from the people to do so.

A Very Stark and Dark Contrast

There is a very stark and dark contrast between the words of Pauline Hanson today and that of other prominent leaders. As someone who the media promotes as a potential next Prime Minister; it is really important to frame Hanson’s words as the central to her motivations in public life.

Will the media continue to give a free rein and a supportive kid-glove approach to someone who believes they ‘say what Australians are thinking’ yet puts herself before others, even in times of devastating tragedy?

Well Pauline, yesterday Australians were thinking about the lives lost, the people injured and those who were left terrified and the work of our emergency services and volunteers. Australians were not thinking about where your next vote will come from.

The media is constantly giving the Pauline Hanson One Nation Party an absolute gamut of free advertising and promotion in the media, through their reporting, radio and TV shows.  The media should take responsibility and cease this free promotion of this self-serving right-wing nationalist immediately.  They are not oblivious to the power of influence they hold over the voting public.

Clearly, the contrast is in the video of this interview, where Hanson actually smirks as she turns away from James Ashby back to the media, before she went into her tirade about blaming terrorism and Muslims for this absolutely devastating tragedy.

 

Zero Compassion

Not once did she show empathy, compassion, concern or horror at what had occurred. Not once did she want to know more. The scale of the attack. How many injured. Was there still a threat?

Instead, Hanson smirked, turned to face the media and with smug satisfaction she announced there had been a terrorist attack in Melbourne.  Hanson used the death of others and the serious injuries of others to promote her populist ideology. 

Considering Populism is the stark contrast between the corrupt elite and the will of the people; for Hanson to completely exclude any concern for the people from her rant, really reeks of blatant hypocrisy. It is time to put Australia first and reject this charlatan.

Clearly Hanson is all about the conversion of votes into cash and the luxury the power that public office brings, because clearly, no one but herself was her concern today.

Imagine Hanson leading the country in a time of war?  No thanks.

It no longer saddens me that Hanson’s popularity is increasing. It absolutely distresses me.

The Media need to take some Responsibility

The media is a very, very powerful being and it can and does shape the minds of the voting public. They media are very aware of their own influence.  It is time the media took some responsibility for their role in the promotion of politicians.

We can no longer afford to stand by and to continue to allow the media to promote politicians who are disingenuous and self-serving and this is always very evident in times of crisis and tragedy.   I thank the media who have called her actions out.

Let’s hope Channel Seven responds with a blanket ban. 

Our country and our people are too precious to waste our faith in those who do not stand with us, but stand for themselves.

I know along with everyone reading this, my heart goes out to the people who have lost their lives and were injured yesterday and also to their families.

I would like to end this article by directing readers to another very good article on this topic by Jennifer Wilson: Giving a Damn Still Matters.

Indeed it does. Let’s not lose that anymore than we already have.

Turnbull – A Friendly Mushroom and a Destructive Seagull

“You’re not saying anything Tony” a famous statement by a journalist in an interview with Tony Abbott, really summed up the former Prime Minister’s inability to defend his bad decisions, words or actions.

“You’re not doing anything Malcolm” is the thought that appears to be in almost everyone’s mind summing up what they think of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership and leadership qualities.

When people start reminiscing that Tony Abbott should come back, then that is a sure sign that Turnbull’s leadership has failed miserably.

The really sad thing about all of this, is Turnbull promotes himself as a great leader through his self-portrayal of positive leadership archetypes. It is almost as if he has a little read of popular coffee-top books about ‘great leadership’ and then pops up in public and acts out his newly found knowledge about ‘what makes a good leader.’  I’m not sure about you, but he always looks so fake and staged to me. It is my biggest annoyance with his ‘style.’

He has promoted himself as “The Change Catalyst” when he removed Tony Abbott and promised great change.  He has promoted himself as “The Communicator” promising everyone with pomp and splendour and great verbosity, that he has the communication style that appeals to those within the party, has great appeal with the public and the communication style desperately needed to discuss important issues with all the friends and best friends and bestest of best good friends in other countries.

Most famously, he has promoted himself as “The Innovator”.  He really got into character for this one. This one was like a full dress rehearsal – Apple Watch and reeling off a full gamut of tech apps. He was very careful not to include apps like Tinder, to give the impression he just ‘wasn’t just rattling off apps’, but he was an active app user. However it seems that everyone is now swiping left. Sorry Malcolm.

The disconnect between how Turnbull displays himself as a positive leadership archetype, to the negative leadership archetype he actually delivers, appears to be vast.

Turnbull in my view is a collective of negative leadership archetypes which are used to symbolise toxic, bad, poor, weak or useless leaders.

Turnbull’s leadership behaviour can be summed up as collective of the negative leadership archetypes of  “Friendly, mushroom, destructive seagull” leader. His leadership is so poor, that it is difficult to pick just one which describes his current failure in leading this country forward and providing good Governance.

The Friendly Leader

Although this sounds like a positive trait, this negative leadership trait is the most discussed amongst the media and other politicians. The Friendly leader is too scared to make waves with others he disagrees with, out of fear of being derailed or losing power. This leader enables subordinates to hold power over the leader and this leads to poor decision making through trying to keep the most powerful subordinates onside.  These poor decisions include unpopular decisions for the majority but favoured by the sub-group ‘in power.’ The leader ends up losing control and powerful subordinates end up being the defacto leaders. When people start asking “Who is really running the country?” it is almost certain a weak leader has enabled defacto leadership to occur.

The Mushroom Leader

The mushroom leader kind of fits Turnbull, but also kind of doesn’t.  The Mushroom leader effectively “keeps everyone in the dark and feeds them a load of manure.”

The problem is with a mushroom leader they have an agenda, but don’t communicate it to anyone else. So, what happens is only the leader knows what he wants to achieve, but everyone else….does not! This creates a lot of confusion and disarray (Pyne! Pyne! lock the bloody doors mate!)

A good example of this is the GST debate, where it was on the table, not taken completely off the table, back on the table, a thought bubble to gauge public opinion, and then Turnbull announced he had killed his own idea, because it was umm…not a good idea? Confused? I bow before Mark Kenny  who had the ability to be able to describe this debacle with a straight face.

The conundrum of using the definition of a Mushroom Leader, is does Turnbull have an agenda he isn’t sharing; or does he have no agenda at all?  Regardless, would there be consensus that we are being kept in the dark and being fed a load of manure? I would personally put my hand up for that one.

The Destructive Leader

Turnbull is more a passive-destructive leader in the way he has a clear absence of any agenda, be it the progressive agenda he pretended to promote prior to becoming PM (that is a story for another day) or a conservative agenda many in his own party value. The negative trait of insincerity speaks to this. Destructive leaders are about short term gain, usually to their own benefit.  They are driven by egoism and ‘the desire to take their rightful place.’  It doesn’t matter that they don’t know what to do when they get there, they will either bully or blame others and manage from a distance and avoid responsibility. A destructive leader does not understand nor champion the strong values of those he leads and is a danger to ‘destroying the brand.’  We are hearing strong arguments from those who truly value conservatism on this as Turnbull’s biggest failure.   We are hearing strong arguments from the general public, on his inability to champion what Australians see as important issues to champion, through his complete lack of vision and agenda.

Unless of course, I am wrong and the discussion of favourite TV shows in the Senate today are indeed matters of serious importance and this was not  due to the lack of matters of serious importance to debate!

The Seagull

The most famous of all negative leadership archetypes is the beloved Seagull.  The Seagull is defined as the leader who ‘flies in, craps all over everything and takes off.”  The interesting thing about the Seagull as related to describing Turnbull’s leadership is:

How do they fly in?
They normally appear (sometimes out of nowhere) puffed up, brave, resilient and knowledgeable in times of trouble, ‘as the hero who can save the company – or in this case – the country.’

How do they communicate?
Seagulls make a lot of noise. Normally about themselves to deflect any attention away that they have no idea what they are doing. They need constant attention and spotlight to talk about themselves, so they appear important. Squawk. Squawk. Innovation. Squaarrk. (Sorry Mr. Pyne, but Mr. Turnbull wants us to believe he is the real fixer!)

How do they relate to others?
The Seagull (when it is impossible to talk about himself to avoid responsibility) blames others. They will target others as a source of their anger and the Seagull never accepts blame.   It is unusual in politics for leaders to blame their own party members, so deflection of blame is usually, on other parties, members of other parties, or even the Media (Yes ABC – Sorry Turnbull had to cut all that money from you, but….Squark!)

Sometimes they will have hysterical fits and take things away from others (Sorry Scott, but Malcolm couldn’t talk about himself to get out of this one, so he just had to take that GST play thingy off you!)

When do they fly off?
I don’t have a crystal ball on this one, but to stay true to the Seagull form, Turnbull simply cannot be deposed (Put that thing back in the top drawer!). The genuine style of the Seagull is he would need to take a much more glorious job offer of much more importance (global position? Innovative start up which will be the cure all unemployment in Australia?), where his skills are in great need to solve greater problems than the ones he has offered to solve now. In true form he would tearfully wave goodbye to all those who adore him, with a great big long speech about himself and take off.

Once Turnbull takes off, the questions are:

What mess will he leave behind?  and…

Who will fly in to steal your chips at the beach? Abbott, Morrison or maybe Bishop?

Only time will tell.

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

Innovative PM? No Malcolm! You’re doing it wrong!

A year ago, Malcolm Turnbull downloaded Bruno Mar’s “The Lazy Song” and it has been on repeat for the past year. The first line of the song “Today I don’t feel like doing anything” completely epitomises every single day of the Turnbull Government.

The media also seems to be stuck in a cycle of just accepting this as the new norm (except for Andrew Bolt who has really pushed the point on this, with an interview with Peta Credlin this week.)

The problem for the innovative Prime Minister is although he promised new ideas and an innovative Government; his leadership behaviour is actually not conducive to innovative leadership.

Innovative leaders need to encompass idea generation, idea evaluation and idea implementation. Their personal qualities include an ability to continuously generate ideas, or the ability to lead people to generate ideas. Fearlessness in challenging the status quo, taking risks. The ability to know when to cancel projects and change course (the opposite to escalation of commitment!) and the ability to lead a collegial and cohesive team.

Turnbull has two main issues to address; or he will be playing “The Lazy Song” for another 365 days.

Escalation of Commitment

Escalation of commitment is when an individual or group persists on the same trajectory, even if they know it will result in a poor outcome. Normally, substantial time or money has been invested and this is the impetus for maintaining that commitment.

What has Turnbull invested? He has invested his entire career to get to this point. His investment success was that he was given the authority to over-throw a sitting Prime Minister. His other investment is that he guaranteed would be much more popular than Tony Abbott. Although Turnbull has won the 2016 election in his own right; one would be hard pressed to argue that Turnbull won the election as the “Popular Prime Minister.”

As onlookers, we will never be privy to the in-party investment Turnbull has made, until the ABC produces the sequel to “The Killing Season.” However, it seems clear that the investment was made to gain the support of the conservative right aligned faction of his party.

The leather jacket wearing progressive, forward thinking Turnbull he displayed to the public, as the ‘would be Prime Minister’ is in stark contrast to the conservative and dull Turnbull who is now the current Prime Minister.

Escalation of commitment can explain why although there is public opposition and a huge drop in his popularity, he is committed to maintaining Abbott’s:

1. A commitment to a Plebiscite on Marriage Equality

2. A commitment to stigmatising the poor by targeting welfare recipients as a budget savings measure, instead of treating them as human beings.

3. A commitment to offshore processing and a high level of secrecy surrounding asylum seekers

4. A commitment to supporting climate change deniers and climate change measures that are mere tokenism and not proactive.

5. A commitment to attack dog style politics due to the lack of policy ideas.

6. A commitment to blaming absolutely everyone else but his own leadership

7. A commitment to treating Gonski as a joke

8. A commitment to destroying our universal health care system – Medicare

9. A commitment to union bashing and disrespecting the worker

10. A commitment to the absence of Government intervention and lack of job creation.

Leaders who fear change

The conundrum is, is Turnbull’s escalation of commitment a true escalation of commitment due to his personal investment to secure the top position or is it something intrinsic within him as a leader? Could Turnbull actually have every leader’s behavioural nightmare? Is he a leader who fears change?

One of the most important areas to lead change especially as an innovative change leader is one needs to be transparent and open and honest about who they are, and accept criticism and reflect on their own personal development.

Turnbull does appear to use a strong avoidance technique for any of this to occur. He has not been open and honest about why his focus has shifted from progressive to conservative and he does not accept criticism or (I can assume as an observer) he does not reflect on his own personal development, as the signature ‘blame everyone else’ behaviour has not changed.

Around this time last year, Turnbull promised the voting public that he would be the innovation prime minister.

The difficulty for Turnbull with innovation is innovation requires constant evolving change and continuous improvement. Maintaining the status quo through escalation of commitment kills off innovation faster than one can say “Betacord.”

For a Prime Minister to become the innovative Prime Minister he promised he would be, Turnbull needs to adopt a transformational leadership style. To do this, it is necessary to do a number of things and I’ll use this next section as a pictorial to show how things have gone wrong:

 

1. Adopt a new unique leadership perspective. Don’t copy old leadership styles.

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong!

abbott mask

 

2. Develop a Culture of Trust – Have those you lead trust you and share your vision

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong!

Bernardi 18c

Source: Crikey

 3. Develop Formal Solutions. Generate new ideas. Think outside the box. Take risks.

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong

Credlin ideas

Source: Fairfax

 

4. Challenge old ideas and adopt new thinking

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong!

cartoons abbott

Source: Eureka Street / Kudelka Cartoons / Loon Pond / Timstoons

 

5. Take responsibility – Reflect on your behaviour and do not blame others

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong!

blame labor

Source: @SirThomasWynne

 

6.  Become a failure-tolerant leader. Re-examine, Re-invigorate and Renew

No Malcolm! You are doing it wrong!

turnbull sulking

Source: The Guardian/Australia

 

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from a true great leader.  May his words inspire Mr. Turnbull to have his first original idea.

pat dodson

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership: The Case of Tony

The position of Prime Minister of Australia carries the burden of possessing and continuously honing the ability of great leadership to meet the demands of a diverse and complex range of societal and economic problems. Great leadership requires astute political skill. The factors of political skill are social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and apparent sincerity (Ahearn et al., 2004). In addition, political skill is directly related to the subordinate’s or public’s trust in the leader and the ability for the leader to motivate others to champion the leader’s causes (Treadway et al. 2004).

A great Prime Minister – a great leader must feel compelled to progress the country. Progress as a nation for the betterment of its citizens should always be at the forefront of a Prime Minister’s mind.  For leaders to progress a country, they must lead through transformational leadership (Bass, 1990). Transformational leaders must have charisma (to gain respect & trust), inspiration (to inspire) and individualised consideration (so individual’s feel important to the leader) (Cossin & Caballero, 2013).

Intrinsic to transformational leadership and political skill is a high level of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2002).There are five factors of Emotional Intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness. The ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others
  2. Self-Regulation.The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgement and to think before acting
  3. Internal Motivation. A passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status
  4. Empathy. The ability to understand the emotional make-up of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions
  5. Social Skills. Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport

As I know many of you have, I have observed quite a phenomena of regressiveness in our country. Our country appears to have stagnated. The question that needs to asked, to understand why is:

“If high emotional intelligence is intrinsic to transformational leadership and political skill, and these are antecedents for progress; then, is low emotional intelligence in a Prime Minister, a hindrance to progress?”

Emotional Intelligence is normally understood through a self-observation method/tool. However external observation methods have also been used (Pugh, 2008).  For the purpose of this exercise, I am using a freely available Emotional Intelligence test (Institute of Health & Human Potential). Therefore, this is not as comprehensive as Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI) (Goleman, 2008) or other comprehensive EQ tests; but it will serve the required purpose.

goleman

Emotional Intelligence Analysis

As per the observation technique; I will show the question and my selection for the answer and qualify the answer below. I will then return the result for discussion. As this is a rather long blog post, feel free to skim past the explanations if you like. The responses are coded in red.

The Ratings Scale for all questions is:

Strongly Disagree / Disagree / Neither Agree nor Disagree / Agree / Strongly Agree

Question 1.  I do not become defensive when criticized 

Response:  Disagree

Although Mr. Abbott has a practised technique to expertly avoid questions and scrutiny; he also uses covert defence mechanisms when criticised. He uses mechanisms such as denial. Mr. Abbott is reknowned for his broken promises and denial of wrongdoing.  Another defence mechanism he uses is rationalisation.  Mr. Abbott will often explain away the problem or issue, as if the wrong doing is justified. For example, when he used the term ‘Lifestyle Choice’ to defend the closure of Indigenous communities, he then further justified this term by stating he was just being realistic. Another use of rationalisation is blaming others.  Blame Labor is a constant ‘go to’ for Tony Abbott to use as a defence for criticism. Therefore, I have chosen disagree instead of strongly disagree in this instance; as there are times that when challenged he does accept some responsibility (even if this is in the guise of a covert defence). Without a subjective perception, it is difficult to understand if he is using deep acting (genuine feelings) or surface acting here (non-genuine feelings) (Hochschild, 1979).

Question 2. I can stay calm under pressure

Response: Disagree

This question is actually quite tricky to answer as an observer; as I cannot directly experience any emotions Abbott may experience (thank God!). However, I have chosen this response due to the following reasons. Firstly, Tony Abbott definitely can remain calm under pressure to a general observer. As per the question above, he uses many techniques to deflect blame in a covert, yet defensive manner. Tony Abbott does have indeed some memorable responses when under pressure, such as when a journalist has backed him into a corner.  An example is: “I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say but sometimes in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark. The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks.”

On the other hand, Abbott is also well known for being quite prone to gaffes, captain’s picks gone wrong and just plain ridiculous comments, not befitting of a leader (or the infamous stunned silence). This question points to social skills and the ability to regulate ones emotions and also the ability to make sound leadership decisions. Although, outwardly he may appear to be regulating his emotions; his proneness to ‘gaffes’ can be supported by stress and decision making theory. Leaders who make poor choices under pressure are more likely to have both low self-efficacy (self-confidence/belief) in their own leadership skills and low-level emotional intelligence (MacKinnon et. al. 2013). In addition; Abbott often makes ‘off the cuff’ decisions and is known for not consulting others, including his well known ‘Captain’s Picks’ which have now left a trail of failures. MacKinnon provides some insight into the fluctuation of calmness and confidence and on the flip-side irrational thought and poor decision making.  This could be argued that this is due to state anxiety, rather than a constant trait.  Where Abbott is feeling quite pressured within a narrow time constraint, this is where the gaffes and Captain’s Picks and embarrassing comments are exposed.  Leaders with low self-efficacy and low emotional intelligence do not take the time to consider all the alternatives; they make decisions without considering all the information and they consider alternatives in a very disorganised manner. Therefore, I have concluded that this response returns a ‘disagree’ rather than a ‘strongly disagree.’

Question 3. I handle set-backs effectively

Response: Strongly Disagree

This question points to motivation and the ability to overcome setbacks and relentlessly pursue goals. I have chosen strongly disagree in this instance; as it has become evident over time that under the Abbott Government; our nation has become stagnated and regressive.  It is questionable whether Abbott had any long term goals as a starting point; or only to achieve his short term goal of winning the Prime Ministership.  Newspaper after newspaper, with even the most right leaning newspapers joining the fray; we now read stories about how his leadership is terminal, having achieved nothing substantial and already having one leadership challenge (although there was no evident challenger.) His inability to negotiate with the cross bench and opposition to pass legislation, speaks volumes that he lacks the ability to handle set backs effectively to and relentlessly pursue goals.

Question 4. I manage anxiety, stress, anger, and fear in pursuit of a goal.

Response: Strongly Disagree

Once again, this is difficult from an objective view point. I have chosen strongly disagree for this question; as historically Abbott is well known for his outbursts of anger from his University days, right through to his pursuit of the Prime Ministership whilst in opposition.  His one notable poorly managed anger response was the infamous ‘shirt-front’ incident; where he exclaimed “I’m going to shirt-front Mr. Putin. You bet you are, you bet I am.”  The nonsensical latter half of the comment also points back to question 2, with another gaffe. The shirt-front comment shows an inability to consider all the alternative responses when put on the spot.  As decision making is strongly tied to achieving goal objectives, I will refer the reader back to question 2, as included in how I have come to the conclusion for the response for this question. In relation to fear, once again, it is difficult to determine whether Abbott is using the technique of deep acting, where he genuinely is fearful of terrorism in this country and also believes asylum seekers to be terrorists. He is also accused quite frequently of using fear and nationalism as a tool to distract from contemporary pressures on the Government.

Question 5. I utilize criticism and other feedback for growth.

Response: Strongly Disagree

This question points to regulation of emotions and taking responsibility for your own performance. I have responded with a ‘strongly disagree’ as discussed above, Abbott has already had one leadership spill and he has promised to change.  Six months on, it is quite evident that nothing has changed.  Over the last six months, the gaffes, captain’s pick fails and inability to consult with others has remained static.  This also is supported by question 2; as Abbott, either a lacks the propensity to change or has the inability to judge the perspective of others’ opinions of his leadership. This provides strong support for strongly disagree in that he does not take criticism on board, nor does he apply criticism to his own self-development and growth.

Question 6. I am positive.

Response: Strongly Disagree

This is somewhat difficult to judge based on the subjective perception; but from my objective perception I have chosen strongly disagree as the response. This question points to social skills and regulation of emotions. With regards to social skills, positivity is a tool used to motivate others to champion your goals and as a regulator to remain positive about your goals and change. Abbott also has a very negative view of minority groups in Australia. It could be argued that his ideological punitive approach to minority groups is an agenda for stigmatisation. His agenda for stigmatisation is a negative act to attempt to debase these groups as the tool to motivate others to accept punitive measures. He has a reluctance to frame Asylum Seekers and Indigenous Australians as an inclusive and cared for group. He has made some absolutely inexcusable and ignorant comments regarding both groups. Where Abbott tries to reinforce positivity, by repeating his ‘achievements’ of stopping the boats and axing the carbon tax; this is viewed as empty and hollow and for some, suspicious that these have been achieved or are worthy to be called ‘achievements.’ The shrillness of his vocal during these times and the rhetoric sounds as if it is to convince himself and not just others, also points to low self-efficacy of leadership as discussed in question 2.

Question 7. I maintain a sense of humour.

Response: Neither agree nor disagree

For this response, I have chosen neither agree nor disagree. Abbott does indeed display that he maintains a sense of humour – Humour which he (and possibly some others) finds funny. His humour is either prone to a gaffe moment. During the election these were affectionately referred to as ‘Daggy Dad moments. These gaffes often lead to general public expressing his gaffes as cringe-worthy and he also gives the social media political punters ample fodder for meme making and some very clever you tube videos. The memes and videos are often viewed as more humourous than the original intended Abbott humour, usually at the expense Mr. Abbott.

Question 8. I try to see things from another’s perspective.

Response: Strongly Disagree

The reason I have chosen strongly disagree for this question, is that this question points to the use of empathy in leadership. Abbott’s ingrained ideology and punitive approach is evidence that he lacks empathy and humanity in his perspective of and treatment of those on welfare, asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians and the LGBTIQ community. Where others have tried to explain the situational factors which cause harm; he either champions the cause of operating in secrecy, fobs people off, deflects blame onto others (Labor) or insists on legislation which makes society more oppressive for these groups. In addition, his lack of negotiation skills to progress legislation through the Senate, clearly shows he has the inability to understand the different perspective of others. 

Question 9. I recognize how his or her behaviour affects others

Response: Strongly Disagree

This question points to the use of empathy and social skills.  I have selected strongly disagree as Abbott has a very poor display of empathy and also has a very low level of understanding how to negotiate and understand others to form collegiate groups who work together for common goals.  His lack of empathy in this area can be demonstrated with two recent current issues. The LGBTIQ community and allies are currently pressuring the Government for marriage equality. His lack of understanding of how the behaviour of those he champions on the Christian right is hurtful to the LGBTIQ community is quite evident. In addition, where the actions of his Ministers and border force agencies under the secrecy of Operation Sovereign Borders have been exposed to be cruel and heartless, with fresh allegations arising now of water-boarding and other harmful acts against asylum seekers, including rape and child abuse; his lack of understanding how the behaviour of others (his MP’s and agencies) affects others is overwhelmingly astounding. The other instance also relates to the secrecy of Operation Sovereign Borders with the recent allegations of covert spying on Senator Hanson-Young. To come to learn that you have been monitored in the privacy of your hotel room, must be extremely hurtful and shocking. Abbott’s silence on this issue, whilst he allows Minister Dutton to use derogatory language toward Ms. Hanson-Young is beyond reproach.

Question 10. I air grievances skillfully.

Response: Disagree

This question points to self-regulation and social skills.  I have selected disagree, rather than strongly disagree; as I am not privy to how Abbott airs grievances within his own cohort in the party room or amongst his colleagues. However, where he does have a grievance, such as opposition to Labor policies; he demonstrates very poor skill in airing his grievance.  His time in opposition as opposition leader saw a complete defiance to work with the Government of the day and he used a combative approach, rather than a conciliatory one.  Instead of negotiating, he chose to inflame situations to the detriment of Australians.  The tactic he used to air grievances whilst in opposition, was to champion three word slogans, rather than having any in-depth conversation with the public. This may have worked in opposition, as he had the luxury of assumed trust. However, as a political tool to implement as a Prime Minister, it will be difficult to bring others on board with change, with a shallow approach of sloganeering with a trust deficit.  As Prime Minister where he may have a grievance about a current situation, his approach is either to deflect blame (blame Labor) or where he cannot do this, he will be completely absent and in hiding (as per the recent Speakership debacle). 

Question 11. I can listen without jumping to judgement.

Response: Strongly Disagree

This question points to self-regulation and social skills.  I have selected strongly disagree, as this ties in with question 2 with regards to decision making. As discussed in question 2; Abbott does not display that he takes the time to consider all options and has an ingrained ideological perspective, which is regressive and stagnant rather than progressive. To progress; one must have the ability to listen to others and suspend judgement. His inability to consult with others, has lead to a range of failed captain’s picks which have caused embarrassment for the Government. His resolve in sticking to the side of climate denial, despite the overwhelming evidence, and the insistence to lag behind other countries (including conservative Governments) on both climate change and marriage equality, supports that he is far to rash in jumping to his own conclusions, rather than a strong leader who is open to suggestions and ready to receive and consider the advice of others.

Question 12. I can freely admit to making a mistake.

Response: Strongly Disagree

As discussed in question 1 and other responses, Abbott is prone to deflecting blame to others, or using the excuse of secrecy as a cover, or he removes himself from the pressure by remaining absent from public view. Although during the election, we heard empty rhetoric such as ‘responsible Government’ ‘grown-up Government’. Abbott has held a consistent line of avoiding responsibility for mistakes. The one instance where he did take responsibility was his broken promise on cuts to the ABC.  This question points to honesty and integrity as the sub-factor for emotional intelligence. It is fair to say that due to Abbott’s reluctance to take ownership of mistakes; this has created a trust deficit with the general public. The Abbott Government’s confidence rating has hit a record low; even lower than the period of the global financial crisis (Roy Morgan Research 2015).

Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire Result

Very Poor EQ

 

Based on my response selections, the EI Questionnaire has returned that Abbott would most likely have a Very Poor Emotional Quotient. 
Research Question Response and Consequences for Discussion

Although some may find the findings argued here as amusing or something to joke about; I wanted to raise some points to discuss the seriousness of low emotional intelligence and leadership. Although this analysis was completed using an observation technique, readers should consider my responses based on my supporting reasons for each answer.  I welcome any debate if your own conclusions differ.

Emotional Intelligence is critical for effective leadership.  In light of the original research question: If high emotional intelligence is intrinsic to transformational leadership and political skill, and these are antecedents for progress; then, is low emotional intelligence in a Prime Minister, a hindrance to progress? The conclusion based on the analysis would be yes.

Observing low emotional intelligence, including low self-efficacy of leadership skill in a Prime Minister raises some serious questions:

    1. Low self-efficacy and low emotional intelligence affects the decision making ability of leaders. Is it fair for Australians to be Governed by someone who may be prone to making poor decisions?
    2. Considering the elements of risk; what are the worst consequences of poor decision making? Could poor decision making by a leader with low emotional intelligence and poor decision making skills result in war, famine or a collapsed economy?
    3. Self-regulated emotions which are managed poorly, can result in a trust deficit.  What are the consequences if this causes a trust deficit between nations?
    4. When a leader shows a reluctance to welcome new ideas and rejects consultation with others regularly; how does this hinder progress and innovation to ensure a country is competitive and viable?
    5. How does the inability to show empathy and understanding towards citizens, particularly those in minority groups, increase stigma and isolation for these groups?
    6. To manage reform and progress, a leader must collaborate and co-operate with others. If a leader has poor skills in this area, how does a nation reform and progress?
    7. If we want the best people to lead the country, should testing such as emotional intelligence, personality testing, leadership skills and advocacy skills be included in the vetting process for candidate selection for all parties?

 

References

Ahearn, KK, Ferris, GR, Hochwarter, WA, Douglas, C, & Ammeter, A P, 2004, “Leader political skill and team performance” Journal of Management, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 309-327.

Bass, B, 1990, “From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 18 no. 3, pp. 19-31.

Cossin, D & Caballero, J, 2013, “Transformational Leadership, background literature review” Working Paper, IMD Business School.

Goleman, D, Boyatzis, RE, & McKee, A, 2002,  Primal leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Hochschild, A, 1979, “Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 85, no. 3, pp. 551-575.

Mackinnon, L, Bacon, L, Cortellessa, G, & Cesta, A, 2013, “Using emotional intelligence in training crisis managers: the Pandora approach.” International Journal of Distance Education Technologies, vol. 11 no. 2, pp. 66

Pugh, E V, 2008, Recognising emotional intelligence in professional standards for teaching. Practitioner Research in Higher Education, vol. 2 no. 1, pp. 3–12.

Roy Morgan Research, 2015, “L-NP support slumps following resignation of Bronwyn Bishop as Roy Morgan Government Confidence plunges to record low” available at: http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6387-morgan-poll-federal-voting-intention-august-10-2015-201508100947 accessed 16/08/2015.

Treadway, DC, Ferris, GR, Duke, A B, Adams, G, & Thatcher, JB, “The moderating role of subordinate political skill on supervisors’ impressions of subordinate ingratiation and ratings of subordinate interpersonal facilitation” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 92, no. 3, pp. 848855.

Zerbe, WJ, Hartel, CEJ, Ashkanasy, NM, 2008, Overview: emotions, ethics, and decision-making, in Wilfred J. Zerbe, Charmine E.J. Härtel, Neal M. Ashkanasy (ed.) Emotions, Ethics and Decision-Making (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley UK.

 

Forging the Wrong Leaders

rabbott-e1423656056322

 

“We are not the Labor party.”  Amongst the leadership tensions of the past few weeks in the ruling Coalition government, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have adopted this as a mantra of sorts, an incantation to ward off the attacks of his foes both inside and outside of his own party. A return to the internecine warfare of 2010 and 2013, he argues, would make the Liberal party as bad as their predecessors. He speaks as if there is something qualitatively different between the parties and the way they go about their operation, as if the Liberal and Labor parties have entirely different and incompatible DNAs.

Whilst the spill motion may have failed, the simple fact that the motion was raised shows that this is manifestly untrue.

Labor has not been slow to join in the chorus of jibes, directly quoting back invective initially directed at Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd by Abbott and his fellows. There is no shortage of material to use. Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and others were incessant in their criticism of Labor’s leadership woes, all at the instigation of the consummate attack dog who now finds the tables turned. The rich irony is that leadership battles are only unpalatable because Tony Abbott made them so. They are not new to Australian politics.

Admittedly, leadership changes at the Federal level are rarer than in State politics. Additionally, many Prime Ministers step down “gracefully” before the inevitable push.  It is not until Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – and the unedifying return to Rudd – that replacement of a sitting Prime Minister by force became somewhat common. However, the attempt by Liberal backbenchers to push a spill motion and depose Tony Abbott shows that leadership battles are not restricted to one side of politics. They are caused by something deeper – a malaise in politics.

“To lose one Prime Minister may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.” (With apologies to Oscar Wilde.)

Deposing (or attempting to depose) a sitting, first-term Prime Minister is, admittedly rare – at least, until recent years. So how is it that we’ve come to this?

Kevin Rudd came to power in 2007 with a sweeping majority and the hopes and aspirations of Australians behind him. Less than three years later he was pushed from office, a broken, tearful man. What forces wrought the triumphant visionary of Kevin 07 into the chaotic, vindictive morass he became?

The issue at the heart of Kevin Rudd’s downfall was his inability to govern. Rudd was a great communicator, an idealist, a visionary and a fantastic politician for elections. In government, however, he proved lacking in the skills and attributes required of a Prime Minister. This came about, essentially, because elections and governments require very distinct skill-sets. What makes a great leader during an election campaign does not make a wonderful leader in power. Unfortunately, the reverse is also often true: great leaders may be let down by their inability to win elections.

Our modern democracy revolves around elections. They are the fixed points at which the people can have their say. It has been argued that Australia is a democracy for a month or so every three years, after which it becomes an effective oligarchy. There is some truth to this.

Increasingly, however, the three years between elections are conducted with an unremitting focus on the next election. Oppositions have this easy: they spend their years in the political wilderness with nothing but the next election to think about. Government is a harder job. Making decisions in the greater good, aware that every action will have detractors, will be attacked by the opposition and by the media, requires courage. Making decisions aimed solely at bolstering the government’s reputation at the next election is easier.

During elections, enormous sums of money are spent on revealing and promoting policy, on attacking political opponents, and on strategising the message. How much do you reveal? How long can you keep your best offerings hidden, in order to best capture public approval whilst restricting the other party’s opportunity to respond? All is done with an eye on the prize – the all-important twelve hours when the electoral booths are open.

Elections are replete with unreasonable expectations, with impossible promises, and unfortunately often, dirty tactics. Throw a partisan media into the mixture and an election becomes so much froth and noise, a lot of the detail can be obscured.

But then the election is over. The winning party is expected to segue into governing. Suddenly there is no money for advertising. The messaging takes a back seat: governing is a long game. In governing, there is limited value to continuing to attack the other side. Even a party which had the media’s partisan support during the election can find, all too soon, that it becomes hostile. Sudden attention is paid to detail. Promises were made during the campaign, but when it comes to execution, any number of headwinds interfere: from the quality of the public service to unexpected financial setbacks. Changing circumstances require flexibility, but promises and public expectations are not flexible.
In the public’s view, the choice has been made. The election is over: it is time to make good on the promises. And woe betide a party that cannot deliver on its promises, the next time elections come around.

Promises are the currency of elections

Campaigning requires a particular skillset of a political party and its leaders. Leaders must bring inspiration and vision. An election from opposition can be carried on criticism of the government, but only insofar as plans can be proposed to address the identified shortcomings. Attacking your opponents will get you only so far; a party needs to explain what it would do differently. The universal truth of electoral campaigns is promises.
Kevin Rudd was a great campaigner. He brought vision and grand plans. His rhetoric inspired the young and the old alike in an idea of what Australia could be. He promised changes that would be difficult, but he made them sound easy, and he had obvious commitment to his cause. Kevin 07 was a whirlwind of hope, and with a strong team behind him, he made his promises sound convincing.

Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd proved to be terrible at governing. The essential qualities of a government leader are the ability to negotiate, persistence to follow-through on projects, focus on detail, delegation and empowerment of your team, and detailed planning. These were not Kevin Rudd’s strengths. In eternal search for polling approval, Rudd lacked the ability to push projects through to completion against critical media campaigns and public resistance. His inability to delegate power and responsibility was also a detriment. In an election, the leader’s visibility and personality are critical to success. But Australia is too large and complex for a single leader, however frenetic, to manage. Kevin Rudd and his centralisation became a bottleneck, and Labor was unable to effectively execute on its promises.

Kevin Rudd was a great “wartime leader” but a mediocre peacetime one. When he was deposed in favour of Julia Gillard, the priority was to regain some momentum on the projects that had stalled. Fulfilling at least some of the promises that won the 2007 election would go some way to address the electors’ buyer’s remorse. Such was Gillard’s success in a short period of time that she won Labor another term of office.

Gillard was amazing at the things that Rudd was not. Negotiation and persistence were the hallmarks of the Gillard administration. With Gillard’s direct intervention and follow-through, outstanding issues got resolved. Promises made at the previous election, sabotaged by poor planning and policy backdowns, were resolved in short order – perhaps with suboptimal outcomes, but enough to get them off the table.

Gillard was a very successful peacetime leader and history will likely judge her kindly. However, she was let down in the face of Tony Abbott’s incessant campaigning by a poor communication style. Gillard was not seen as a great campaigner. A last-minute return to the Great Campaigner, Kevin Rudd, in late 2013 was insufficient to address the extended election campaign Tony Abbott had run from the moment he ascended to the Liberal leadership.

Uncomfortable parallels

Tony Abbott was also a great campaigner. His approach was different to Rudd’s; he brought no grand plans or vision to the table. Instead his approach was to sow discontent wherever possible, and his pitch was for a return to the Good Old Days of prosperity under Howard. His messaging was consistent and strident and believable. With no grand plans to propose, details of execution were not required. Tony Abbott ran a three-year election campaign leading up to his election in 2013. The primary promise of Tony Abbott’s Coalition was to “Not be Labor” – a message he is still pushing today, over a year after taking government.

Abbott’s success on the campaign trail has not carried through to success as Prime Minister. Tony Abbott and his cabinet repeatedly point to their grand successes – the mining tax, the “carbon tax”, and three free trade agreements. Regardless of whether you consider these outcomes to be successes, unstated are the Attacks on Everyone of the 2014 budget, the ideological attack on industrial relations, the Captain’s Picks, or the reliance of the Coalition on a model of Australia’s prosperity (mining and export) that is rapidly coming to an end. Not described is the government’s lack of a plan for developing the country into a nation of the 21st century – nor the failure of the government to progress its plans to forge the country into the preeminent example of a 20th century country. Not mentioned is the changing circumstance which is the belated acceptance of the rest of the world that Climate Change is an existential issue demanding action.

Like Rudd, Abbott is also a centraliser. The inability to entrust his Ministers with management of their own offices, let alone their own portfolios, has led to internal dissatisfaction – just like Kevin Rudd. The inability of the Abbott government – with its hard right-wing policies and its head-kicker parliamentary supremos – leads to an inability to negotiate in good faith with their political opponents, which leads to legislation languishing in the Senate. In turn, this leads to further deterioration of the budget. This government seems to know only one way to respond to a budget problem, but this approach does not have the approval of the people the government is elected to serve, nor the Senate which protects them.

The skills and attributes that brought Tony Abbott to government are not the skills and attributes needed to effectively govern this country. This is the malaise of our democracy. The focus on winning government means that leaders are forged who can win elections but not lead the country.

The enormous political cost of changing from Rudd to Gillard, and back to Rudd, led to Rudd introducing new rules to the Labor party around leadership contention. This was good politics. It is not, necessarily, good government, if it serves to protect the interests of an incompetent or unsatisfactory Prime Minister. Such rules, ironically, would serve to protect Tony Abbott, and a similar set of requirements have been proposed for the Coalition that would further endanger Australia’s ability to unseat a leader who can campaign but not govern.

Where to from here?

History shows us that Tony Abbott is unlikely to survive as Prime Minister to the next election – unless the Coalition follows Labor’s lead and institutes new rules to prevent the unseating of a Prime Minister. If Tony Abbott is unseated, perhaps as a result of another poor Captain’s Call or a further string of poor polls and State election results, who would be expected to replace him? And would Abbott be replaced by a good governor – or a great campaigner?

Amongst the ideologues and right-wing extremists, the climate deniers and the silver spoon born-to-rule set, who on the Coalition’s side can be the great governor Australia needs? Malcolm Turnbull looks like the most likely candidate for the top job (despite the particular loathing which some of his Coalition colleagues reserve for him). Can Malcolm Turnbull the Despised become the negotiator, the facilitator, and the project lead that the Coalition so desperately needs?

 

Waiting For Lefty

Clenched_human_fist-e1405239872603

Tony Abbott’s days as leader of the Coalition are numbered.

Whether or not he takes the LNP down with him remains to be seen.

This weeks Senate debacle was simply another of a long line marked by inept leadership which rests on a conceit that the government has carte blanche to mold Australian society ‘in their own image’ without opposition or accountability.

It is not the failure of Abbott’s efforts to rush the repeal of the Carbon Tax through the Senate, nor is it the government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the arrogance of the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison in refusing to reveal information ‘for operational reasons’ that has driven the final nail in the coffin of Abbott’s leadership, although these have certainly been deciding factors in the mind of the Australian public.

The deciding blow fell far more quietly when a panel of leading economists who took part in Business Day’s mid-year survey rejected the government’s claims of ‘a budget emergency’ with former chief economist of ANZ and now senior economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Saul Eslake, labelling the government’s claims as ‘an abuse of the English language.’

Eslake was not alone in his condemnation. Chris Caton from BT Financial dismissed the claims as; “Simply absurd.”

Those who took part in the survey ranged from market economists, academics, consultants, industry and unions.

Opinions varied but most like AMP Capital’s Shane Oliver, agreed that “Australia was not facing a budget or public debt crisis.”

While the government’s claims of a ‘budget emergency’ had been challenged even before it was delivered by the Treasurer in May, the added weight of the ‘doyens of the dollar’ such as Eslake and Caton, and academics such as Mitchell and Madsen, have effectively sunk any remaining credibility of what Tony Abbott had hoped to be the showpiece of the LNP’s ‘reforms’.

Faced with the combination of a hostile Senate led by the unpredictable cross-benches, and plummeting polls that reflect the electorate’s dissatisfaction – if not outright loathing of the government and its ministers – the LNP now faces a number of choices – none of them palatable.

In the first instance, the government can back down and attempt to negotiate with the cross benches to pass its bills.

In the face of Abbott’s statements that he would not negotiate with independents or minor parties, the back down would leave the LNP humiliated in the extreme, and effectively neutered in the eyes of the electorate.

In the second instance, the LNP could replace Abbott as leader, modify the budget and attempt to win over the cross benches with a consensual approach.

Once again, this may prove embarrassing but much less humiliating and may serve to shore up electoral support in order to stave off  the very real possibility of becoming a one term government.

The third option carries far more risk.

Abbott can declare a double dissolution, claiming an obstructionist Senate is preventing governance and take his budget policies to the electorate in the hope that the Murdoch machine and to a lesser degree Fairfax, will throw their weight behind his claims.

This can only be done however, if the Senate rejects the Carbon Tax repeal bill for a second time.

The double dissolution option is unlikely due to the fact that it requires both the House of Reps and the Senate seats to be declared open for contest.

Neither Abbott nor Palmer want to risk this occurring.

Abbott for fear of losing the LNP’s majority in the lower House, and Palmer for losing his leverage in the Senate.

What is likely, is that the repeal will be passed with the amendments demanded by PUP.

If not, then despite Minister for the Environmen Greg Hunt’s posturing, it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will shelve the repeal in an humiliating climb down, and attempt to justify this as ‘bowing to the will of the people’ rather than face an election.

Whatever the outcome next week, the results do not bode well for Abbott and his hold on the leadership of the LNP.

The father of modern political strategy Niccolo Machiavelli, observed that if you find your enemy waist deep in a mire then it is prudent to lend aid in helping him freeing himself.

If however, your enemy is up to his neck then it is good sense to push him under.

Abbott is not yet up to his neck in the mire but he’s certainly up past his waist, and while the ALP have largely remained silent and content to give the Coalition enough rope to hang themselves, the time for action draws nigh.

Since coming to office, there have been few Coalition governments that have galvanized the Left, and indeed most of the moderate Right in the way which the Abbott government has.

From its inept and post-Colonial attitudes to foreign policy, its secretive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, to its utter determination to create a poorly educated underclass in order to create a ‘market driven’ economy, the Abbott government has been able to alienate Australians  in a manner unlike any government before it.

This has resulted in the majority of voters now ‘waiting for Lefty’ – a political party whose premises rest on social justice and the entrenched Australian notion of a ‘fair go for all’ coupled with intelligent approach to climate change.

In the past, this role has largely fallen to the Labor Party with the Greens as a second preference.

Over the last two decades however, the ALP has steadily become almost barely distinguishable from its conservative counterpart.

Much of this shift can be traced to its abandonment of a commitment to full employment and embracing ‘supply side’ economic theory over the Keynesian applications that had served as the central plank of its policies for nearly four decades.

The current situation enables the ALP to re-invent itself as a revitalized and credible alternative to the execrable policies of the Coalition’s Neo-liberalism agenda.

While there are many fronts that afford the Labor party an opportunity to do this, the primary concerns should be focused on rejecting ‘supply side’ economics in favour of post-Keynesian economics in order to stimulate the economy by a return to full employment coupled with a determination to fully fund the public education system.

Other initiatives should include a humane approach to asylum seekers under the UN guidelines, and perhaps the most important issue that faces us all – climate change – should take the highest priority.

Rarely is an opposition party afforded the opportunity which lies before them at the moment.

With a government in disarray and its leader’s credibility in tatters, the ALP’s best strategy is to carpe deim and take the fight to the enemy while at the same time clearly delineating themselves as a viable political alternative to Neo-liberalism and not simply as the modified version which has plagued them for the past two decades and resulted in a shift of voter preference to the Greens or minor parties.

A total rejection of Chicago School Theory and an embrace of post-Keynesian economics would the most positive step that the ALP could take to cement its reputation as a Party dedicated to progressive political change on the behalf of the community as a whole and not simply as a slightly different version of a tool to serve corporate greed

In the main, it can be argued that the bulk of Australian voters are counting the days until the demise of the Coalition as government, or at the very least, the demise of Tony Abbott as leader.

In the wake of the ‘Marches’ that are becoming more frequent and attracting larger sections of the community, the time grows ripe for the emergence of a new Left; one that is focused on social justice as its raison d’etre.

It’s crystal clear that most of the Australian electorate are now waiting for Lefty.

Let’s hope that we’re not keep waiting much longer.

What makes a good leader?

Image from webneel.com

Image from webneel.com

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for a team of people, it’s important to raise the bar even higher.

Your team is a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behaviour a key value, your team will follow suit.

We have to be able to trust that our leaders are telling us the truth.  We have to be sure that they are making decisions for ethical reasons rather than personal gain or the advancement of a few at the expense of the many.  We entrust them with our money in the hope they will invest it wisely for the betterment of the individual, the community, the nation, and the world.  Not only should they display the highest moral standard, they should expect it from us.

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.

Bob Marley

Wealth for wealth’s sake is a destructive and pointless exercise.  Wealth used wisely can improve all mankind and the world they occupy.

We have the resources to eradicate poverty, hunger, inequity, many diseases and other social problems facing the world.  But do we have the courage to actually do it?  Can we take on the big corporations who waste billions of dollars on advertising while paying their CEOs huge salaries?  Can we change the priorities of a society that spends billions on cosmetics and pet food and defence?

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

Nelson Mandela

Delegation is an important part of leadership.  Recognising your team’s individual skills and providing an environment for them to flourish improves innovation, productivity, satisfaction and achievement.  Rather than telling the team what they must do, put the right people in the right jobs and facilitate their success.

Leadership is not about photo shoots, television appearances, or talking to radio shock jocks.  It is about getting the best expert advice available. It is about accepting responsibility and stepping in to trouble shoot when required.

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

Colin Powell

Communication is a skill that any good leader must possess.  Not only to get their message across and convince people that it is the right path, but also to listen to problems and to advice.

Dismissing concerns, or failure to listen to experts, leads to your team giving up.  Innovation is stifled, creative problem-solving is lost, as the team become drones fulfilling edicts.  Concentrating decision making in an impenetrable small cadre ignores the contribution that could be made if all concerned parties had a voice in finding solutions.

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.

Mahatma Gandhi

Negotiation and compromise are necessary tools in leadership.  Autocracy and unilateral action is no longer acceptable in an interconnected global community where the decisions of one affect many others.

We must identify common goals and be prepared to take co-operative action to achieve them.

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.

Henry Ford

Far too much time is wasted by our leaders in blaming each other.  Politics has degenerated into gotcha moments, sneering sarcasm, ridiculing and belittling.

We look backwards to shift responsibility, or delight in pointing out current slip-ups.  We are not “Team Australia” with a vision for the future – we are groups of kids throwing rocks at each other

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Peter Drucker

Australia is “under new management” whose goals are to stop action on climate change, undermine environmental protection, forego revenue from the mining boom, cut government spending by reining in welfare, health and education, give tax cuts to businesses and amnesty to wealthy tax avoiders, lock up asylum seekers in inhumane conditions indefinitely, to cut superannuation for workers, and to stop us from all being connected to a fast NBN.

They said they would do it.  Does that make it right?

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

Leaders should be inspirational.  They should make us believe in ourselves, encourage us to try, and provide the opportunity for us all to be the best we can be.  They should offer hope for everyone because when hope is gone, so is life.

Every one of us can be a leader in this regard by treating the people around you with respect and decency, recognising the worth of all people and that, given the right circumstances, we all have a contribution to make.  Protect the vulnerable and help those who need it.

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

When our leaders have lost their way, when they have lost the courage and vision to do what is right for the future, when personal power has replaced public service, the people must show the way and lead them back using a moral compass and a light in the dark.

 

 

Scroll Up