It’s The Leadership Deficit, Stupid

Leadership: a process of social influence, which maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Australia has a deficit, but it’s not necessarily measured in dollars.It’s a deficit of inspiration. Who can we look up to? Where are our leaders? And why should we follow? A deep dissatisfaction with politicians is vexing voters. And you know what? It’s not our fault we’re “unpredictable”.

Since the start of the century we’ve been lied to, emotionally abused, and betrayed. No wonder we’ve developed battered society syndrome.

I’m not going to bore you to death with a list of offenders. Suffice to say, they are on both sides of the political fence. While Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard all told porky pies, they were possessed of a genuine passion for policy. Certainly this was a different time, prior to the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle, weekly polling, and fickle focus groups.

But surely the time has come to say, “enough!” This new way isn’t working. The electorate is disenfranchised.

This is why we’re* voting for the likes of Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer. (Which, frankly, to any right-minded person, is terrifying.) The answer lies in finding a true leader. Someone who is led by heart and head; is strong yet collegiate; and listens to the people.

Like Howard, they must be pragmatic. Former Minister Peter Reith once argued Tony Abbott has this quality, but that’s since been replaced by ignorant ideology.

They should run a proper cabinet process. As Former Minister Amanda Vanstone writes, “leaders who ride roughshod over their colleagues – like Rudd and Gillard with her ‘captain’s pick’ of Senator Nova Peris-Kneebone – pay a price in the end”. She admits some will find Abbott’s NPC speech, “galling and out of touch”.

Like Hawke, they need to show strength and sensitivity. Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is the government’s best performer (Exhibit 536: this interview on ABC TV’s 730), but he’ll never be leader because EVERYONE THINKS HE’S AN ASSHOLE. Or, as Michelle Grattan puts it, on The Conversation website, “Scott Morrison has delivered on his KPIs, although even some on his own side find what comes through as pitilessness difficult to stomach”.

He/she can’t be a lone wolf (see: Malcolm Turnbull). Sure, he might be the smartest person in the room, but government is a team sport: even if you don’t agree with most of your own side’s policies.

And they need to be careful, if they’re a woman. It ain’t right – but that’s the way it is. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is playing a clever game of chess giving access to friendly female journalists such as Latika Bourke and displaying flourishes of femininity (“I’ve lost an earring. Can someone help me find it?”). Sure, she’s strong. But is she soft enough? (Some would say “no”, considering she fought to stop dying asbestos workers receiving compensation.)

And as for likeability? The Q&A audience sounded like one big kindy class on this topic last night. “Are there any negatives at all from removing him [Tony Abbott] as PM and replacing him with someone who is well liked?” asked Q&A on its Facebook page.

Fact: A leader doesn’t have to be likeable, but they must be believable.

Most importantly, a good leader has to be true to themselves. Dare I say it? Authentic. Forget about real Julia, this is Tony Abbott’s biggest battle.

As Greg Craven, Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor and Abbott’s friend, writes, “The only way for Abbott to succeed as Prime Minister is to be Abbott”.

Perhaps it’s too late for this Prime Minister. But these are wise words for whoever succeeds him.

*Not me, I hasten to add…

What do you think makes as good leader?