No Triple A rating for Gillard
Outstanding leaders successfully integrate authenticity, authorship and authority, giving them a triple A rating for leadership. When we apply the paradigm of Triple A leadership to Julia Gillard we find that she falls short on all three counts.
Julia Gillard’s authority was weakened, rather than strengthened, by the manner in which she came to power. She was installed by “faceless men”, with little input from those with considerable investment in the Labor Party, in what appeared to be an overnight coup.
She is on record as being reluctant to step up to the top job, believing she was not quite ready.
She quickly called an election to secure a mandate from the Australian people—the main source of Prime Ministerial authority. Unfortunately the result was inconclusive, with a nation divided, and key independents installing the new Prime Minister on a very shaky pedestal.
Having seized authority from a publicly respected first term Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister failed to obtain clear authority from the public. And now it appears she is losing authority within her own party.
The second problem confronting the Prime Minister is her lack of a consistent narrative. What is the story of which she is the author? We know about the immigrant child coming to Australia for a better life, studying and working hard, and making the most of opportunities as they came her way.
This story of a ‘ten pound Pom’ rising to the pinnacle of political life as Australia’s first female Prime Minister should resonate deeply with the vast majority of Australians and provide inspiration to the generations who follow.
Unfortunately this story is not heard over the noise generated by divisive debates and interparty squabbling, which also gets written into Julia Gillard’s text—ie she appears to enjoy the fight more than the peace. Blaming Tony Abbott’s oppositional style fails to recognise the opportunity the Prime Minister has to rise above all this and project authority with gravitas and style.
Furthermore, the story line changes to suit the circumstance and/or unravels as it unfolds.
This creates unease in readers, who enjoy consistency and a sense of direction in the thread of a story. The ‘year of decision and delivery’ headline is delivering substantially different outcomes than what most people have expected.
“There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” added—convincingly—to her story. Dismissing such an explicit promise “because circumstances changed” without developing the story to help us understand further reinforced the sense of inconsistency and making things up on the run.
Unfortunately there is no shortage of similar examples, which is not a good look for the storyteller of the nation. So, she fails the authorship test.
Authenticity is probably her biggest challenge. The failure to weave her own story into her leadership narrative gave rise to the call for the “real Julia” to emerge. We are yet to see her.
I have been coaching leaders for more than 20 years.In conversations with leaders here and around the world I have researched what it takes to be a true leader. Authenticity is the key, and is the foundation to authorship and authority.
Authenticity means knowing who I am, what I stand for, and how I live that out consistently in every moment. This is the fruit of considerable and deep personal reflection, and requires an investment of time that is in short supply for Julia Gillard.
An authentic person tends to be driven by conviction rather than opinion or opponents. The difficulty for Julia Gillard is that inconsistency feeds a lack of clarity about her convictions, while her actions appear largely driven by polls or the desire to defeat the opposition.
Moments of authenticity make us very believable and trustworthy. This is why Julia Gillard can be very engaging and passionate when talking about education, as this deeply resonates with her story. Yet there are a host of areas where she has failed to find a cohesive story, and hence appears inauthentic.
While the Prime Minister has failed to build a Triple A rating for her leadership, she must move quickly to at least develop a Double A rating in order to have any chance of success.
It appears unlikely she will seek a mandate from the people to give a surer footing to her authority, and so must find the time and space to develop a deeper understanding of herself and her story, and then develop a strategy for how that will be projected in what she says and does.
Doing so will create focus on the bigger picture and longer term, give context for short term issues, and foster engagement with the Australian people.
If she can obtain authorship and authenticity—a Double A rating—she could lead a turnaround in her political fortunes and ultimately add true authority to her story.
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