20/01/2011 - 00:00

That strange thing, leadership

20/01/2011 - 00:00


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Good and bad leadership has been displayed on both sides of the country this month.

WHAT makes a great leader? Is it rising to a challenge at a time of adversity? Is it displaying astute judgment when under pressure? Or is it knowing how to engage with and inspire people around you?

A truly great leader would display all three traits, but that is a rare thing.

One person who has risen to a challenge is Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who has displayed impressive leadership credentials during that state’s flood crisis.

She has shown a natural empathy with the wider community, being in touch with their concerns and understanding their feelings.

Former prime ministers John Howard and Bob Hawke were blessed with the same ability, which helped enormously during their political careers.

In contrast to Ms Bligh, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has copped a lot of flak for the way she has spoken and behaved during the flood crisis.

Ms Gillard seems to be suffering the same problem that almost brought her undone during the federal election campaign. Her speech is monotone, peppered with clich├ęs and seems rehearsed, like she is delivering carefully scripted lines.

It leaves people wondering what she is really like and what she really thinks. Maybe she is just awkward and stilted; difficult attributes for a politician.

More likely the focus on her diction and accent has made her overly self-conscious. Whatever the underlying reason, it’s hard to be a leader when simple communications skills are found wanting.

Closer to home, the WA Labor Party has recently gone through a very uncomfortable period over its leadership, with its rising star Ben Wyatt displaying very poor judgment this month.

As political commentator Peter Kennedy discusses on the back page of this edition, ructions are still being felt inside the state’s Labor Party.

Many people are still asking the question: how could Mr Wyatt have so badly misjudged the numbers inside the Labor caucus before launching his ill-fated and short-lived challenge against Eric Ripper?

Did he never have the numbers? Or did he have support, before rebellious MPs were leaned on by the factional powerbrokers and pressured to swing behind the incumbent?

Whatever the explanation, Mr Wyatt and his supporters showed very poor understanding of their true level of support inside the party room.

It is generally felt that this was a bad stumble for Mr Wyatt, but by no means fatal to his leadership aspirations.

He is young, intelligent, speaks well, and has the ability to engage with audiences across the socio-economic spectrum, from the suburbs to the boardrooms of St Georges Terrace.

WA Business News has always advocated vigorous and healthy political debate, and that can only occur when both the government and the opposition are populated with talent.

We look forward to seeing Mr Wyatt and other Labor politicians rise to the challenge of keeping the government on its toes – just as we look forward to seeing ministers such as Troy Buswell and Christian Porter emerge to support Premier Colin Barnett.

Mr Barnett is a strong political leader because he is able to be himself in the role of premier. He is not twisting and squirming to please pollsters or party activists.

Many people, in politics and business, struggle as leaders because when they are under the spotlight; they start to put on an act, to perform, rather than be their natural selves.



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