Leadership: provoking others to stand tall

IT might be geographical isolation. It could be our nation’s unique culture. Call it the tall poppy syndrome. Whatever the case, Australians seemingly enjoy bringing a leader down.

And maybe more definitively than many other countries, the people Australians idolise are not doctors or scientists, teachers or politicians but sportspeople and business leaders.

The way leaders are perceived or judged is a reflection on our society and values. Examples abound, particularly in political leadership.

Opinion polls shortly after 2007 pointed to Labor government leader Kevin Rudd as one of Australia’s most popular prime ministers.

Less than three years later Rudd, while still enjoying significant public support, had so few followers in his parliamentary party that he lost his job. The lesson Rudd had to learn in the most difficult of fashions was that popularity is not the same as support.

State Labor leader Daniel Andrews spoke to the faithful, as well as the media, in Ballarat this week about his vision for Victoria. Andrews faces a mountainous task to take power given electoral history and his rather understated public persona despite the knife edge on which the parliamentary numbers sit.

Yet his plain-speaking delivery, and his passion, clearly inspired the true believers in the room. Should he lose the next election, would that make him a bad leader?

Former Prime Minister John Howard implemented policies which were incredibly unpopular, yet he had an unnerving belief in his values and beliefs that resonated within and outside his party. Undoubtedly, he was a great leader, whatever your political views.

Michael Clarke, stereotyped as a pretty boy snag with a postcard girlfriend, had a Test cricket average in the 40s and was seen to be the last-man standing choice as Australian captain two years ago as the Aussie dominance of world cricket waned. Views of Clarke’s leadership capabilities, certainly not internally but definitively in the public view, bordered on derision.

Fast forward to this week and Clarke’s record as Australian captain stacks up against some of the greats. His batting average, following four double centuries during this calendar year, has ballooned.

It’s been actions, not words, that have solidified Clarke’s leadership.

This column has filled plenty of column centimetres in recent months opining about the difficulties local councils have found in attracting candidates for elections and the major issue of community organisations failing because of a lack of volunteers.

High levels of scrutiny, less time and changing life priorities are mixing to confine the leadership circle.

Fortunately, state and federal governments have recognised the very significant leadership drain and have invested in programs which are bringing new ideas and attitudes to the community.

Ballarat has been a major beneficiary through the Committee for Ballarat-run Leadership Ballarat and Western Region program which has operated since 2005 and is now being replicated across the state.

This writer was fortunate enough to be part of this year’s group and can vouch for its impact.

One cannot feel anything but inspired by the possibilities that life holds when those around you have a drive and commitment that build bridges and provokes others to stand tall. That’s what the investment in building the leaders of the future will bring to our political systems, our business and sporting fields and to the organisations that are the heartbeat of the community. It’s these leaders that will bring the colour amid the black and white.

Take a punt on non-violence

THIS Sunday marks two important events for the city. Plenty will be trying to pick a winner at the Ballarat Cup (keen on lucky number eight Turnitup!) but it’s another event that local residents should take a punt on.

On White Ribbon Day, men are being urged to help put a stop to violence against women by swearing an oath this Sunday.

Once hidden, the totality of violence against women has hit home in recent years in the Ballarat region as the true impact had been uncovered. It’s time our community took a stand.

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