Opinion: Egos at the top lead to bad decisions for all

I do a lot of work with organisations, leaders and teams to create structures for optimal performance.

Others will comment on the politics of the current Liberal leadership crisis, but there are some important issues and lessons on effective leadership for all Australians from this debacle.

Running Australia is in some ways the same as running Australia’s largest business or team.  

Effective leadership involves setting out a vision, goals and values and harnessing passion and skills to create high performing teams that achieve desired outcomes.

When talking about leadership here I am referring to the leadership team of the nation, not just the Prime Minister.

One of the common mistakes organisations make when developing or reforming leadership and business structures is designing around existing people rather than outcomes.

Just days ago: Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday, before the Liberal Party was flipped on its head. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Just days ago: Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday, before the Liberal Party was flipped on its head. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

When you focus on process and people, rather than outcomes, you perpetuate the status quo.

This is one reason why we haven’t seen more flexible work arrangements and greater gender diversity among our political leaders.

If you are focused on existing people you start to get decisions such as, “Tom could do this or Wendy could do that,” but they may not be the best person for that role.

You get a scenario where you are left with the last person standing rather than the best person for the job.

A good leader can’t do everything. Their role is to develop and support a team.

Party factions mean there is not one team in the Liberal Party at the moment.

Difference of opinion is healthy in effective teams but it should be evaluated against vision and outcomes.

I heard former Liberal Party Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone comment in the media this week that there were differences of opinion in the Howard Government’s team.

Despite the existence of factions, that team came to a consensus on a way forward.       

To be effective, leaders require emotional intelligence, not just intellect or charisma. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to perceive, understand, express, and manage emotions. Practically it results in an ability to be self-aware, to self-regulate and to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

A lack of emotional intelligence is part of the reason why Australian political leaders are being widely and generally criticised for being “out of touch”.

We need to invest in the development of emotional intelligence and reward it in our current and future leaders in government and the business sector. Some find it easier to grasp that others, but it can be taught.

There is general consensus that what is happening in Canberra now, and in the revolving door of Australian political leaders we have seen over the past number of years, is about ego, revenge and ideology.

When we lead from ego or our intention is not right we make the wrong decision.

Some commentators have pointed out that the challengers to the former Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, may have won the battle to oust him but their tactics may mean they end up losing the war (the election).

Those challengers have not necessarily got the leader they wanted either.

There is general consensus that what is happening in Canberra now, and in the revolving door of Australian political leaders we have seen over the past number of years, is about ego, revenge and ideology.

Our politicians aren’t paid that well compared to their counterparts in the private sector. You hear all politicians talk about their desire to make a difference to their community and the nation.

This saga should be a reality check to all politicians about whether their actions show a true intention to serve their country and the people in their electorates.

Enough about the pollies.

We can all take to social media or stand at the water cooler or barbeque and criticise the state of Australia’s Federal Parliament, perhaps rightly.

But Australian citizens need to ask themselves if they are part of the problem or part of the solution.

I was in the United States earlier this month. Almost every local I met wanted to talk politics and social issues. They wanted my opinion on Trump, to discuss their opinion and, here’s the important bit, what they thought they should do to effect change.

I admit to being under-involved in politics and national affairs. What about you?

The other important lesson for all of us here applies to our personal lives and our working lives. You get out what you put in.

Shivani Gupta is the CEO of Passionate People Institute and a speaker and mentor on passion and leadership. www.askshivani.com

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