I have an interest in politics, not in the actual political games being played out, but the functions of government. So this week in Australian federal politics has been an interesting one where certain ideas and ideals have come to ahead. I thought I would put forward my perspective on things, one that is probably far removed for the pundits – but perhaps simplifies the dilemma we face.
The Labor leadership challenge comes down to one central theme – good boss vs bad boss.
Now let’s erect a framework for that statement. The boss runs the business and they provide it with vision, leadership, management and a face to the customer. These are all vital for a business to run at optimal efficency and productivity. However, it is hardly ever the case that a boss has all these things in balance. Businesses are in different places and require different priorities and efforts.
When we look at the federal government, it’s primary business is running the country – or at least creating an environment for the country to run itself.
So when we look back on those qualities of the boss – vision, leadership, management and a public face – in the contexts of government we can probably say that we could weight those a little different than say a pharmacy or electronics shop. For a prime minister the key priorities are for leadership and management because these allow the government to perform its primary function. Vision and the public face are important to getting elected – but not in the actual day-to-day running of the business.
If we look at Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd we can see obvious signs that their skills are weighted in different areas. Julia Gillard is the consummate leader and manager. The fact that she negotiated a workable parliament and the sheer amount of legistlation she has been able to push through it is proof enough. Kevin Rudd however sits at the other end as someone with a clear and sharp vision and an imensely popular public face. It was this vision for change that lead him to victory against Howard and continued popularity in the polls.
What puts both these leaders on their current course is their lack in the other key areas. Julia cannot claim the same insight and vision – probably because you cannot govern in such an environment with a hung parliament where compromises had to be made. And perhaps because of these compromises she is extremely unpopular. Kevin’s failings as a leader and manager led to his demise in the first place. He lacks the skill to manage a government and his personality lends him little to being a good leader.
The leadership of all the political parties is an internal matter, and Australians just have to get that through their heads. The parties have the ability to elect their own boss, which can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing when they elect Kevin and are steered to an electoral victory, a nightmare when it comes time to actually govern. A blessing when you need a leader like Julia to step up and actualise key policies and reforms, a curse when you see the poll numbers.
From my experience it is better to work for a boss like Julia than a boss like Kevin, so if I had to choose it would be Julia every time. But when it comes to getting the public onside and focused, Kevin is uncannily good, his demolition of Tony Abbott this week was the first attack that landed a punch in 18 months.
The Labor party has a difficult decision to make – between being an effective government or winning the next election. The division within the Labor party is clear – and most of the decisions being made are based on the simple premise – good boss vs bad boss.
As a party they need a leadership that works. At the moment they are faced with an either/or choice. If Kevin and Julia could work together they would be unstoppable – get Julia to concerntrate on running the place and Kevin launching the attack against the opposition. But unfortunately I think we’ve missed that opportunity because the problems with bosses is that they come with an ego – big or small an ego none the less, and one that is extremely fragile. In this case we have two damaged egos. Working together is never going to work – unless someone can step up and provide leadership for them both!
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