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What makes a good leader?

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.


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  1. Dissenter

    Kaye, You have certainly EXPOSED our leaders ABBOTT and Shorten for what they both are.( sadly for shorten). Very very clever.
    I am certain that out there in the political sphere or wider Australia there is a great leader. We just have not met him/her yet in parliament.
    Chris Bowen is cutting through and demonstrating courage, resilience and tough resolve and quite a degree of talent but in Opposition the rest seem on MUTE. Unfortunately for me Bowen is mean,
    LNP present a worrying incapacity, moribundity and lack of anything and everything needed to lead and demonstrate integrity.
    THe LITMUS test for me has been Manus Island and the course of ACTION taken by both sides in the FACE of appalling atrocity,violence, intimidation and primitivism.
    No MORAL COURAGE has been demonstrated by either side!

  2. Kaye Lee

    They do not have the courage to say “We tried that, it didn’t work”. They don’t have the humility to listen to the refugee council, the human rights commission, amnesty international, the UNHCR – in other words, all the bodies who know the problem and could help them find a solution. The hubris beggars belief. The Coalition are trying to convince us that their policy is working. if this is called successful I would hate to think what has to happen for them to call it a failure.

  3. John Lord

    In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks far below getting things done for the common good’

  4. Anomander

    None of those attributes is evidenced in the current political arena, which bodes ill for the future of our nation.

    Most concerning is that the man held up as our current leader – Abbott is almost the antithesis of those values.

  5. Kerri

    You left out one exemplary quote Kaye.
    “No one, however smart, however well educated, however experienced
    Is the suppository of all wisdom”
    Tony Abbott Rhodes Scholar

  6. Stephen Tardrew

    Leadership without love and compassion is dry, empty and moribund.

    Love your fellow beings and you will not deliberately harm them.

    Talk of love is cheap.

    Acting with love demands supreme intelligence, integrity and humility.

  7. Dissenter

    Stephen : I applaud your contribution!

  8. Stephen Tardrew

    Bitta Fun Fellas:

    Liar, Liar pants on fire Brear Rabbit returns to his hole in the ground.

    Whats goin on up there Game Stick man.

    Gettin hot Brear Rabbit bloody sun won’t mind its own business.

    Better dig a bit deeper then.

    Too right this burying your head in the sand shit works a treat.

    Too right.

    Turn up the coal burner will ya so it will cool down a bit mate.

    Gotta hand it to ya Brear Rabbit you go all the moves.

  9. Stephen Tardrew

    Thanks Dissenter back to ya.

  10. Dissenter

    True leadership requires moral courage in the face of adversity.

  11. Matters Not

    In any ‘group’, broadly defined, there is a need for ‘leadership’ but there is no need for an ongoing designated ‘leader’. Indeed, a designated leader can often be a barrier to good ‘leadership’, which can come from any member(s) of the group under discussion.

    The need for a continuing designated leader is an historical hangover. ‘Leadership’ flourishes when it’s shared around.

    All men are intellectuals, but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals”

    Antonio Gramsci

  12. lawrencewinder

    I liked St Augustine’s approach to trying to define god… by analysing what he was not. Perhaps a good place to start with on “Rabbott-the-Hun” and his front bench rabble.

  13. abbienoiraude

    “Integrity” like “Statesmanship” or “Gentleman* ” ( *I use the term to mean – being a person of honour,dignity and self respect with deep consideration of others) seem to be lost concepts.

    When raising our children we hear talk of being successful, being pretty/handsome, being good at sport, being clever, being in front, being at the top, not missing out, competition, getting your share, aiming for your dreams etc.
    I don’t hear parents talking about raising caring, social, thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic and generous people.
    I remember when encouraging my children to do charity at least twice a year my (wealthy) brother saying that I was making a terrible mistake. “You don’t teach your kids to do something for nothing! That’s just stupid”.

    Integrity means being a person of your word and when you find you are wrong being able to admit it and apologise and put things to right as best as you can.

    Articles like this one of Kaye’s is an important reminder that gaining the right to govern our Nation should not be an end in itself, but a huge responsibility in ‘leadership’ that encompasses the duty of care and acceptance that the ‘buck stops with you’ way of governing. Only second to that is the ability and responsibility to the people to communicate to them the truth and the vision of the future. If you cannot communicate successful, clearly and with positive passion, then you are automatically on the road to failing leadership.

    In all aspects this Government fails.
    RIP ‘integrity, statesmanship, gentlemanliness’.

  14. Rod Bakes

    The suppository of wisdom ,an enenema must surely follow !!

  15. billy moir

    how old fashioned:your ideas are! At last, we have a PM, unencumbered by policy or cabinet decisions. A PM able to make instant decisions on the advice of his conscience, bolstered by the support of his trusted advisers(like Bob Santamaria) and blessed with the strength of character to stick with his word, regardless of consequences, unrepentant, even when shown that his original information was wrong(SPC-sharman stone).
    A PM, courtesy of Labor’s economic management, with unlimited money to bestow on his favourites. With a largesse, bordering on the profligate, the rabbott has, in less than six months, skillfully allocated over $10 billion and borrowed an unknown number of billions more. All from an economy he described as disastrous. Wow, that is of magic wand proportions!!!
    A PM free from planning, able to change arrangements on a whim and have his minions pay $200,000 for 30 minutes kowtowing (actually this cynic thinks it was because giles didn’t want to wait 3 hours even in Singapore’s luxurious lounge).
    Still tax breaks for Darwin will help us pay for electricity and he has got the rabbott to shift the Alice into the north.
    A PM with a conscience free of any sense of fairness and able to put $48 million into policing Darwin’s detention centres and nothing for the people of Shepparton.

  16. Laird Gagebrook

    I must say that was one damn fine piece of writing. One of the best things I’ve read in quite some time. There have been thousands and thousands of words devoted to Abbott’s many and spectacular failures but this article really seems to go right to the heart of things. Abbott – leadership – failure. What more needs to be said?

    Thanks very much.

  17. Fed up

    I suspect, when one looks at the meaning of life, it is not the ends that count, but the means we take to get there.

    Todays government seems to believe all that counts is winning. How one attains that win does not matter. That the means do not count.

    It matters not, to them, whether one cheats, lies or bullies their way to that win.

    Winning is not enough for this mob. They have to destroy their opponents, those who think differently as well.

    Where does this lead. I think history shows us the answer to that. It leads to a dictatorship. Yes, we all lose our freedoms. As we do not count in their world.

    This mob is somewhat different from those of the past.

    They actually seem to believe that their opponents cannot and will not fight back, They believe we have to roll over, accept all they dish out, and have our stomachs trickled.

    They appear not to see any other outcome, than the ones they see.

    I have no ideas what drives their political ideology. O have no ideas where their economic beliefs come from.

  18. Royce Arriso

    However inured we are to pollies telling porkies, it is certain that Abbott takes us into new and desperate territory, the Barefaced Whopper as policy. Abbott lies so regularly, so blatantly, that it has prompted a feature which I would hazard is novel in Oz politics. Those rushing to correct the record are actually from the offender’s own ‘side’! Evidently Abbott’s porkies so embarrass part of his own electoral base–the management class (SPC, Alcoa)–that they, rather than the Opposition step forward to publicly contradict him. Does an apology or correction then follow from the PM’s office? Does it buggery. It seems unlikely that ethics ever rears its head in Abbott’s world view. He is, after all, engaged with the forces of evil, ‘Lying for Jesus’ as the U.S. Tea Party nutters call it. So the blatant lie is no more than another weapon in his armoury. Can it get any worse? Think I’ll put on ‘The lark ascending’…….

  19. Kaye Lee

    Unfortunately it will get worse. Our policy on climate change is “so unintellectual as to be unacceptable; I mean it is just amazing.”

    The only body strong enough to protect us from corporate greed is government through legislation. Unfortunately this government is run by corporations to promote greed and facilitate it by removing regulations.

    In other words we are f’ed unless we can get rid of these corporate whores and vote in a government who remembers what the role of government is.

  20. Stephen Tardrew

    Ain’t that the truth Kaye

  21. Rossleigh Brisbane

    Tolstoy – in “War and Peace” suggested that leaders were the people that started walking to a certain place without following the crowd. When the crowd start walking behind them they’re a leader. Until then they’re just a crazy little man with crazy little ideas. He cites Napoleon as the example.

  22. Fed up

    Does popularity really count. Surely it is respect and trust that count the most.

    I am sure we have all met people in our life, that we do not really like, but respect their ability to carry out the tasks they have taken on.

    I believe that popularity is a dangerous way to judge the ability of anyone.

  23. passum2013

    The problem with climate change it is real and it is here now . It started with the industrial revolution and billions of tons of locked up carbon in coal and fossil fuels have been let go back into the atmosphere. This pollution took Billions of years to form and in a little over 200 years will have ended life as we now know it. Caused by man kinds need for power and industries.

    When will the deniers wake up . Never, they will die like the rest of us because of their inaction.

    Abbotts mates have a lot to answer for from their inability to understand the difference between Volcanic pollution when the Earth was forming and the one from the Industrial revolution. The latter is the unlocking of stabilised carbons in Coal and Oils.
    Those that believe carbon is safe to breath is bunkum it as carbon dioxide in its concentrated for don’t support Human or animal life as a lot of people think it does as trees breath in Co2 and out Oxygen but what they don’t realise when their is no sun at night time trees put back out Co2 .Not the Oxygen component. Co2 don’t support combustion so it wont support Air breathing Animals .
    Limestone basically calcium carbonate is a form of locked up carbon from the action of Acid rain carbonic acid on Lime containing organisms example, Coral . Turning it into Stalactites and mites when in cavities in the ground take this example Timor caves. Jenolan Wee Jasper etc.
    Tony Abbots Tree planters would need to cover the whole of Australia with Trees and Find water to grow them with.
    Surprise he still persists in cutting down old growth forests in Tasmania. As well as the New south Wales Government.
    So Tony Abbott,s Green army is useless . Without being able to care for that many trees and pay his workers to.

  24. Fed up

    Why was not the GG in Darwin today. Is Abbott, now doing a Howard, pushing the GG out of the way, and taking over the GG role.

    What was today about. I thought the last of the troops came home weeks ago?

  25. Fed up

    The problem is not only that Abbott lies, but he has a different version for every audience he addresses. It is impossible to nail down what he does believe in, if anything.

    He himself said one could not believe him, unless it was written down. He added, in blood.

    He did describe himself as a weather vane.

    What is amazing, he is never worried, when caught out lying.

  26. Stephen Tardrew

    Accept it he is a compulsive liar and we are in trouble.

  27. Fed up

    Trouble is, I do not believe he understands what lying is. He seems to see no wrong in saying, what he sees as necessary to get out of a tough spot.

    If he has a conscience, nothing worries it.

  28. Hotspringer

    Thank you for the fine article. I am not really into “leaders”, but deplore the present “anti-leader”.

  29. Mouton

    one of the better takes on leadership
    i hvve yet to read

  30. John.R

    If aliens landed on earth and asked to be taken to our leader,what would you do?
    I would agree with one proviso.
    When you leave you must take them with you…..!

    Essentially though why do we have this URGE within society to have a LEADER. When we do this we are effectively giving away our power of self determination.

    The whole structure of our world is based on this
    When was the last time a population of a country decided to invade another.It is only the leaders and their propaganda machines that convince people to follow them
    Are we so infantile that we cannot work things out amongst ourselves
    We are no more connected to each other then at any time in our history.This flow and access to information scares the Bejezzuss out of those ” leaders ? ”
    They should be dancing to our tune,not us to theirs`
    The Concept of a leader is what is drawing us backwards

  31. Gregory T

    The much maligned Machiavelli, made a lot of sense and it especially comes close to home in regards to our faux leaders.

    The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.
    Niccolò Machiavelli

  32. Matters Not

    John.R said:

    why do we have this URGE within society to have a LEADER

    Well, while I understand that ‘leadership’ is both desirable and necessary, I, like you, have grave reservations re the need for a ‘leader’, in any ongoing sense. It’s anti-democratic. But I doubt that such ‘urges’ are anything but ‘power’ at work within a society.

    As for:

    The whole structure of our world is based on this

    Depends what ‘world’ you are talking about. Certainly, we live in a ‘common sense’ world that sees the necessity for a ‘leader’ but it’s not a ‘sense’ that I share. Like you.

    When was the last time a population of a country decided to invade another

    Yep. Think back re ‘Australia’ engaging in wars. Was it ever put to the vote?

    Or maybe it’s too important for a vote? If so then doesn’t democracy, in the form of the ‘will of the people’ simply become hollow rhetoric?

  33. Wayne T

    Beautifully written Kaye, thank you!!

  34. dwejevans

    Just what is your point Kaye? Australia has phony rabbit!

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