For those of you in Australia, what a weekend with the federal election! Some of you may be very disappointed and others of you may be elated. Putting aside policies and politics, what I am absolutely thrilled about is the removal of the “bulldozer” approach to leadership.
Our former Prime Minister acknowledged that he has been a bulldozer and he was willing to change. But in the same sentence, he said that he had to be like that, to be “strong” through the pandemic and uncertainty. It just highlighted how stuck we are in the belief that strong leadership = dominance and that uncertain times require this style.
Some time ago I wrote an article Strong leadership ≠ dominance and I do believe that we really need to redefine what strong leadership is about. As New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said, “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” I believe that it takes more strength as well as cognitive and emotional intelligence to listen, be open to others’ perspectives, empathise and remain humble.
The other belief that I feel is outdated is that uncertainty requires fast decision-making without consultation and collaboration. There may be times of critical emergency where some fast decisions may need to be made, so I’m not advocating that it is never required. A bulldozer is useful, but only for certain situations. However, there are uncertain situations that require more consultation and collaboration to be inclusive of diverse perspectives and navigate complexity as well as have empathy to be able to bring people along. I wonder how different we would have managed situations if our political leaders had listened more with greater humility and empathy?
I’m looking forward to seeing whether our new Prime Minister and his team can lead differently. With a large cohort of independents who are not part of his party, his and his team’s listening and collaboration skills are going to be absolutely critical. They will no doubt disagree on issues, so as I recall one panelist on the election broadcast said, “We need to learn to disagree better.”
When Mahatma Ghandi articulated his principles of political nonviolence, he stressed that “the end is inherent in the means”. According to Gandhi, how we do something is as important as what we’re trying to do, because ultimately whatever we do will be determined by how we do it.
As I’ve mentioned before, we need more #quietlypowerful leadership now, more than ever. What do you think?