Kangaroo Boxing and Leadership Lessons
I’ve watched the recent power struggle between the Australian PM, and her ex-foreign minister, as a disinterested observer. More interestingly, it reminded me of some leadership lessons I have lived myself in past years when faced with similar challenges for power and influence. But most importantly, you may be able to take away some of these yourself.
A quick recap of the events: Kevin Rudd, head of the Australian Labour Party ( ALP)the Prime Minister of Australia was, in 2010, ousted in an internal party vote by Julia Gillard, who then became PM. As a face-saving gesture, and a nod to his extensive foreign policy experience, he accepted the foreign minister job. Last week, he resigned while on a trip to Washington, DC; claiming he could not continue without Ms Gillard’s support ( ostensibly referring to the various uncorrected remarks made by her Cabinet colleagues about him); setting up the ALP for a bitter re-match. In a secret ballot, and not unexpected, Ms Gillard won, and a by a handsome 71:31 majority. Rudd has now, being relegated to the backbenchers, sworn to support Ms Gillard in ALP’s quest to win the upcoming elections. It wasa bitter, kangaroo boxing match with only one clear winner – for now.
Here’s what we could learn from this:
1) In the struggle for a party or immediate constituency influence, work on the people who matter. In this instance, though Rudd had some support from the populace; he was overwhelmingly disliked by the people he had worked with in the Cabinet and government. His belated appeal to the Australian public was unseemly, and he might have better spent the 2010 – 2012 period trying to change his leadership style which was roundly castigated as being chaotic, egoistic, and far too tactical. He refused to do so by all accounts, and could thus only count on a handful of senior government officials and the ALP MPs to do so.
2) Work at being and being seen to be a unifying force for your group/team. Considering that the ALP is a minority party, and has a shaky grip on power, the Rudd-Gillard battles served only to divide the party and lower its potency as a coherent force in the eyes of the voting public. If anything at all, leaders should discuss their differences in private, and make decision which are for the betterment as a whole of their group/team. In this instance, Rudd found it unbearable to do so, and did not fully consider how damaging such a challenge might be.
3) Adopt a ‘Beyond Reproach’ stance. I have mentioned this once before, and also in my recent book How Leaders Lead – that in whatever we do, a powerful guiding touchstone is whether the action or decision is one that is “beyond reproach”. Shy away from this, try to cut corners, split hairs about right/wrong will only put us in a poorer light than we deserve. We are so much weaker and less respected when we have to keep qualifying and justifying what we have done.
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