Monday, 04 February 2013 03:04

Leadership Quote 1: James Baldwin

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Leadership Quote 1

2013 looks like it is going to be a very interesting year in regards to leadership and leadership development, no more so than in Australian politics. With the national election now set for September 14, people will have a full 8 months to assess what both political parties plan to bring for the next 4 years.

It is fair to say that the political environment for the last 18 months in Australia hasn’t provided a great deal to be proud of; name calling, abusive language and poor behaviour in parliament haven’t exactly provided the ‘lead by example’ approach that most people expect from their politicians.

In the last 6 months we have had the opportunity to watch the US political process come to its conclusion with the re-election of Barack Obama for a second term. Irrespective of your political persuasion, few would question Obama’s gift of language and oration. Perhaps our politicians can take heed of some of the words from President Obama’s inauguration speech:

‘We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect’

While such a long election process has been widely criticised, perhaps it is a chance for both parties (and leaders) to show what they aspire to be for the good of our nation?

In the next 8 months both parties have been provided with an opportunity – an opportunity to be positive, not negative. An opportunity to provide reasoned debate, not name-calling. An opportunity to show people why we should vote for them, not be embarrassed by their behaviour. An opportunity to set an example and guide the country, rather than follow opinion polls.

Here’s hoping that both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott take the opportunity to show us their leadership vision for the future, and not get bogged down in petty ‘he said / she said’ politics. I am not sure it is possible, but I live in hope that we will see a true leader emerge.

Monday, 10 December 2012 19:32

Can leadership truly be taught?

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I was posed an age old question on LinkedIn recently through one of the leadership groups I am part of:

Can leadership truly be taught? Is it an innate skill that we are born withor can it be learned?

I have been asked this question hundreds of times, and my answer has changed almost each time I have been asked (with my thoughts often dominated by the more recent group of leadership participants). Now, I am not much of a gardener (more brown thumb than green!), but the metaphor of a growing tree seems to fit my current thoughts on leadership more than any other, having worked with adolescent and adult leaders for the past 4 years.


If you take a young tree when it is sapling, and encourage it to grow the way that you know is best for the tree, pruning it at the right time and giving it the right level of care, it can grow to be anything you want it to be - within the limitations of its own potential. You try and do the same thing to an older tree, and your efforts will be more hit and miss. The tree may have established itself in poor soil, grown in the wrong direction or had little attention. In some cases some TLC and a careful prune will get it in the right direction, but other times the tree will not take to the dramatic change in its environment, and will respond poorly to the change.


The same applies with leadership development.

I have seen young leadership potential turn into amazing leadership skill through care, nurture and honest constructive criticism. You can apply the same model to someone later in life, but they have to be willing to learn. Holding on to old processes, values, relationships or behaviours that are not in accordance with good leadership will make it seem like leadership cannot be taught, but it is more likely a lack of acceptance of the requirement to change.
Therefore I truly believe that leadership can be taught to everyone if you start early enough and have the right environment and skill at your disposal.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinions on whether you beleive leadership can be taught (or on the appropriateness of the tree metaphor).

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