Thursday, January 05, 2017

Defining and celebrating effective Australian leadership

Victor Perton, former Victorian Parliamentarian, Government Advisor, Advocate, Board Member and one of my mentors founded AustralianLeadership.com in 2016 with the mission to "celebrate, understand and improve Australian leadership."

He interviewed me on the topic of Australian Leadership in late 2016 and recently posted the interview, which I've replicated below.

For other great interviews, visit his AustralianLeadership.com site where he's collected a variety of interesting perspectives on leadership in Australia.

Victor PertonCraig, what do you see as the unique qualities of Australian leadership?

Craig Thomler: One of the most appealing and positive qualities about Australian leaders is their approachability. Australia has much less of a sense of hierarchy than Europe or Asia, and this egalitarian attitude displays itself through a readiness for leaders here to engage with, and listen to, people at all levels of their organisation and to be open to engaging with a wide range of people from outside their organisations.

This leads to an increased willingness to entertain new ideas, as well as an improved understanding of the needs of different groups and results in decisions that are more inclusive and attuned to customer and staff needs.

Another unique quality is how laid-back Australian Leaders commonly are. This allows them to more effectively manage difficult situations without significant apparent strain, simply taking challenges in their stride. This quality isn't universally positive, on occasions, it can lead to a lack of attention to detail, or giving up a level of control over events, which can lead to additional downside risk in certain situations.

Finally, in my experience, Australian Leaders are commonly more collaborative than many other leaders around the world. This exhibits itself more commonly between organisations and in the decision-making processes of leadership teams. Often the ultimate leader in a leadership team is seen as 'first among equals' rather than as a level above others in the group, reflective of Australia's egalitarian outlook.

Victor PertonCraig, what are the qualities that Australians seek from their leaders?

Craig Thomler: I believe that Australians value approachability and 'down-to-earth' practicalities in their leaders. We don't commonly place leaders on pedestals or exalt them. We accept that they are humans, with flaws, and, to a degree, accept those flaws as part of the characteristics that makes them good leaders.

Leaders who see themselves as 'above' others, due to expertise, experience or position, or who portray themselves as flawless, tend to be less credible to Australians and less believable as leaders.

Australians also value honesty and a sense of fairness in their leaders. Leaders who do not exhibit these traits consistently rapidly lose their shine and then their effectiveness.


Victor PertonCraig, what is the finest story of Australian leadership you have experienced or observed?

Craig Thomler: Probably the finest act of leadership I have observed in Australia in the last five years was by Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, whose position on sexism and violence against women, per his video statement in June 2013 (see below) demonstrated clear and effective values-based leadership on a topic that other Australians in leadership positions - both public and private sector - had been unable to grapple with.

His statement, which reverberated around the globe, drew a clear line in the sand on appropriate behaviour not only in the Australian Army but across the Australian community.

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