Friday 25 June 2010

From hero to zero - lessons in leadership from observations of Australia's ex Prime Minister

Yesterday Julia Gillard became Australia's first female Prime Minister replacing Kevin Rudd who stood down.  Mr. Rudd was, up until very recently, one of Australia's most popular politicians.  We can learn much about leadership from his fall.

Mr Rudd and his then Deputy, Ms. Gillard, were elected in 2007 in a landslide.  They promised much and in my view delivered some.  Mr. Rudd's apology to the indigenous people and the 'stolen generation' were landmark days.  His world leadership on climate change was breathtaking albeit that the result was zero. We have seen massive changes to our health system and of recent months Mr. Rudd has championed a change to the taxation system which it seems most people agree has merit however to which the Mining industry revolted against because of how the proposed changes were put to them, and Mr. Rudd's so-called leadership began to unravel.  Mr' Rudd's government has also been attempting a revolution in the education sector and many other major changes.

Here are my lessons about leadership from observing Kevin Rudd:

Making big promises is easy to do however if anything goes wrong people begin to doubt our leadership.  Lesson: Better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Lecturing people never engages them.  Mr. Rudd has been lecturing Mining industry leaders and they resented it particularly as they thought he was talking about things he had very little expertise in.
Lessons: Don't speak in public about things you know little about; Don't lecture people.

If we stop listening to what the people at the grass roots level are saying we forfeit the right to lead.
Lessons:  All politics is local.  The person on the street is the best barometer.  Listen to what people are saying and act accordingly.  It appears everyone knew Mr. Rudd had lost the plot except him!

Telling people what we are going to do without genuine consultation with them before hand is a recipe for failure.  Lesson: Genuinely consult with stakeholders before making decisions.  Negotiation and collaboration always has more of a chance of success than telling.

Confidence can easily comes across as arroganceMy observations are that Mr. Rudd's early successes went to his head and ego got in the way.  In the end I believe Mr. Rudd to be a decent man who tried to bring about massive and needed changes however in the end he got in his own way.  Lessons: Don't believe your own publicity; maintain a common touch even when success reaches dizzy heights.

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PS I found Julia Gillard's first interviews as Prime Minister of Australia breathtaking for her honesty and plain speak.  If this continues she may be the first politician I know of to not be stained by spin and with her colleagues achieve something special for her country and maybe the world.

1 comment:

Steve Simpson said...

Hi Ian

Interesting comments you make...

I'd like to add a couple of things if I may...

The former PM pronounced climate change to be the 'greatest moral challenge of our time'. When things got tough, he backed down. Lesson: Don't pronounce that something is fundamentally important to you when it actually isn't...

The former PM initiated a response to the GFC which included free insulation in houses across the country. Its implementation was a total disaster with the loss of lives, house fires from poorly installed insulation, and the loss of millions of dollars from dodgy companies, requiring the further huge spending of taxpayer monies to re-inspect dodgy work. Lesson: If you are going to implement a big project, better prepare thoroughly...

I could go on, but won't!

Steve Simpson