Gillard and Joyce testing their leadership mettle

by External07 Dec 2011

Climate change policy led to the demise of John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull – but not Julia Gillard, yet, as the carbon tax legislation was approved.

The past few weeks have seen our leaders testing their mettle. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was also in the firing line before he took that decision to ‘ground’ the flying kangaroo.

Gillard and Joyce have both stepped into a contest knowing well that they will take a beating.

Their leadership of quite different organisations has placed them both in difficult circumstances, but did they meet the challenge?

Julia Gillard has pushed through initiatives that have incurred the wrath of the Opposition, unions, businesses large and small, and a significant portion of the population. Alan Joyce grounded the Qantas fleet, and was met with a barrage of vitriol from unions, staff, politicians, media and paying customers around the world.

But why?

Most people’s true leadership hour comes in a crisis. That’s when they demonstrate fortitude of mind, strategic thinking and resilience. Their challenge – and our dilemma – is, why wait for a crisis for that to emerge? Whilst strong, directive and often inspirational leadership is required in a crisis situation, we shouldn’t have to wait for one to arrive to see that level of leadership.

Leaders, both political and corporate, now operate in a dynamic, changing world, juggling difficult matters simultaneously. There’s much less downtime, they’re more accessible, the media are much more intrusive and have an incessant appetite for 24-hour news cycles.

There is constant scrutiny.

Yet leaders are still human beings, and have to carry themselves through their difficult environments in which a potential flaw or weakness is magnified. That is a challenge, and generates stress.

So why do they get up in the morning? Why in fact do they do what they do?

Where is the glamour, or glory, in Julia Gillard’s daily grind? You have to ask yourself, why is she doing it? Harassment and constant criticism, with a majority of the population and many in her own party against her, must erode her motivation to continue.

It can’t be the Prime Minister’s salary. There must be something else – a strong belief in why she does it. That “why” is much broader than monetary gain – it encompasses the national objective, a public service ethic and a desire to make a difference.

Research has repeatedly shown that financial gain as a motivator is generally short-lived. Love of the job, the ability to contribute and a clear sense of purpose have a longer term motivational efficacy. They contribute to qualities such as resilience and mental strength to weathering the storms facing them.

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