OPINION | Should Australians be holding our politicians to a higher standard?

CORPORATE ECHOES: Zoë Wundenberg asks if it's fair or reasonable to expect more from our politicians. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

CORPORATE ECHOES: Zoë Wundenberg asks if it's fair or reasonable to expect more from our politicians. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

Performance reviews are often a period of anxiety: no-one likes to feel weighed, measured and judged by others – whether it’s one-on-one with your manager, or through 360-degree feedback from your peers.

The key is to take on a growth mindset and see the feedback as an opportunity to identify areas for personal development.

However, in some roles, there isn’t the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your performance.

While I am sure many of you are tired of hearing about Australian politics, last week’s leadership crisis got me thinking about the nature of the role of politician.

In an age of social media and Hollywood idolatry, as a society we seem ravenous for every glossy morsel of scandal, gobbling it up with greedy delight as we weigh, measure and judge those in the public eye.

In business, we often experience internal office politics and personality clashes, workplace bullying and competitive one-upmanship. So, are we really surprised to learn that our political parties are no different?

Given that we have not had a PM serve out a full term since John Howard, it seems that our political parties are echoing corporate skullduggery more than ever.

As I contemplated this comparison, I wondered, should we be holding our politicians to a higher standard?

Our politicians are our nation’s leaders, the voice of the people and our representatives on the global stage. There is an expectation of transparency, honesty and moral fortitude that we expect from our nation’s leaders. But is this expectation unreasonable or even impossible to live up to?

Are we really surprised to learn that our political parties are no different? Given that we have not had a PM serve out a full term since John Howard, it seems that our political parties are echoing corporate skullduggery more than ever.

After all, if we are electing these people to represent us, surely we have the right to expect their legitimacy as our leaders to be subject to scrutiny – they are meant to represent the best of us, are they not?

On the other hand, perhaps people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: politicians are people too. They are doing a job, just like we are, but the conditions of their role involve life under a microscope with every mistake, every poor decision and every opinion held up for public examination. Could you live with this pressure?

There are inevitably going to be personality clashes, not just within the political party but also between our leaders and the people they represent. It is impossible for everyone to like a person and this is never clearer than during an election or leadership spill.

Social media becomes rife with 360-degree feedback regarding the politicians involved as we debate Peter Dutton’s career as a police officer and the actions he took in this role. We remember Malcolm Turnbull did us no favours with the inadequate NBN roll-out and that Scott Morrison was against marriage equality and launched an attack on welfare recipients within his first week in the role of Social Services Minister. The inevitable tall poppy syndrome rears its head as we berate Turnbull for being independently wealthy, while judging Morrison for being an evangelical Christian and, well, has anyone ever seen Dutton smile?

It goes with the territory, many will argue. If you put your hand up to fulfill a role that brings public notice and media attention, then you live with the consequences of Kardashian-esque criticism and scrutiny.

Maybe this is true – although this in itself speaks volumes about us as culture. However, it is disappointing to see the in-party power tussle as we witness the cabinet white-anting the foundations of their own political party, ultimately resulting in a new PM and Labor leader Bill Shorten making an historic turnaround from being the least popular opposition leader in 20 years to moving ahead of new PM Morrison (at least at the time of writing) in the polls.

Perhaps if our politics are to echo typical office squabbles, they should have brought in a typical corporate solution and considered mediation by an independent arbitrator, rather than undermining the leadership of the entire party. It seems performance reviews and 360-degree feedback can be a hard pill to swallow, regardless of your job title. Oh Australia, a leader, a leader, my kingdom for a leader.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer, counsellor and coach at impressability.com.au