Open, honest and effective: what makes Jacinda Ardern an authentic leader


Andrei Alexander Lux, Edith Cowan University

The qualities that have made Jacinda Ardern New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century were on display this week as she took an earthquake in her stride during a live television interview.

“We’re fine,” she declared cheerfully as the 5.9-magnitude quake shook New Zealand’s parliament house in Wellington for 15 seconds. “I’m not under any hanging lights.”

Her coolness under pressure, self-discipline and the decisiveness of her government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led some to call Ardern the most effective national leader in the world.

But the key ingredient to her popularity and effectiveness is her authenticity.

In the words of Helen Clark, New Zealand’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, Ardern is a natural and empathetic communicator who doesn’t preach at people, but instead signals that she’s “standing with them”:

“They may even think: ‘Well, I don’t quite understand why the government did that, but I know she’s got our back.’ There’s a high level of trust and confidence in her because of that empathy.”

These insights are confirmed by my own research into authentic leadership.

How we respond to authentic leaders

As a lecturer in business leadership, I’m particularly interested in the value of authenticity in the workplace. Part of my research (with colleagues Steven Grover and Stephen Teo) has involved surveying more than 800 workers across Australia to find out how the behaviour of their leaders shapes their feelings about work.

For better or worse, leaders often represent the entire organisation to their employees. How we feel about our boss transfers into how we see the company as a whole, just as political leaders represent the nation.

The results from that survey were decisive: employees were, on average, 40% more likely to want to come to work when they saw their line manager as an authentic leader; and those who came to work because they wanted to were 61% more engaged and 60% more satisfied with their jobs.

At a time when careers routinely span multiple organisations and the nature of work becomes more transient, these results demonstrate the value of positive personal connections in the workplace.

Our research also sheds light on four qualities we value in authentic leaders.

But first, let’s dispel a common misconception.

What authentic leadership isn’t

Authentic leadership doesn’t just mean “being true to yourself”. This notion has led some to describe the likes of Donald Trump as authentic.

But authentic leaders are not simply callous, self-serving individuals with no social filter. According to Claudia Peus and her co-authors of a seminal 2012 article on authentic leadership:

“Authentic leaders are guided by sound moral convictions and act in concordance with their deeply held values, even under pressure. They are keenly aware of their views, strengths, and weaknesses, and strive to understand how their leadership impacts others.”

1. Authentic leaders know themselves

Authentic leaders manifest the Ancient Greek maxim to “know thyself”. They know what truly matters to them, and their own strengths and weaknesses.

Our values are often hidden assumptions; revealing them requires an active and honest process of personal reflection.

Before we can lead others, we must first lead ourselves.




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2. They follow a moral compass

Authentic leaders have the courage to stand up and act on their values, rather than bending to social norms. Doing what you feel is right is rarely easy, especially when lives are on the line, but that’s when it matters the most.

An example comes from the last time businesses around the world were struggling this badly, the 2008 global financial crisis. When the board of US-based manufacturing company Barry-Wehmiller wanted to discuss layoffs, chief executive Bob Chapman refused.

Instead, Chapman asked everyone to take four weeks’ unpaid leave, saying: “It’s better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot.” The company has since gone from strength to strength under his “truly human leadership”.

3. They appreciate their own biases

Authentic leaders are aware of their own biases and strive to see things from multiple viewpoints. We cannot know all sides to an issue and must work to understand and respect others’ perspectives before forming opinions or making decisions.

Acting in the best interests of the collective requires a lucid and compassionate understanding of how our actions affect other people.




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4. They are open and honest

Authentic leaders cultivate open and honest relationships through active self-disclosure. Dropping one’s guard and letting people in isn’t always easy, especially in the workplace. Yet only when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in front of another person can they open up to us in return.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison appears to have learnt this lesson since the beginning of the year, when his response to Australia’s catastrophic bushfire season led to unfavourable comparisons with Ardern.




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After the Morrison government revealed a $A60 billion budgeting error over its COVID-19 JobKeeper package, he swallowed his pride and accepted fault, acknowledging that “responsibility for the problem ultimately rested with him.”

It’s a stark contrast to Trump’s refusal to admit any mistake in his handing of the US response.

Authenticity: the power to unite

Support for an authentic leadership approach isn’t unanimous. A notable critic, professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, has stated that: “Leaders don’t need to be true to themselves; in fact, being authentic is the opposite of what they should do.”

But our research reveals the power of authenticity to unite people behind a collective cause. Relationships built on mutual trust and shared values are the key.

Jacinda Ardern’s unprecedented popularity mirrors these results. When we see authentic leadership, we know instinctively that we prefer it.The Conversation

Andrei Alexander Lux, Lecturer in Leadership and Organisational Behaviour, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why good leaders need to hold the hose: how history might read Morrison’s coronavirus leadership



Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

What does political leadership look like in a pandemic?

Many of us probably carry images in our heads of what good leadership might be in a depression or a war. But before 2020 few of us would have had any conception of what political leadership might look like during a life-threatening public health crisis.

We took from last summer some fairly firm ideas of what leadership in a bushfire crisis should not look like. Political leaders should not leave for luxurious overseas holidays. They should not expect those who fear for their lives and property to find inspiration in the exploits of the Australian cricket team. They should not force themselves onto traumatised people when offering nothing except the chance to participate in a photo opportunity. They should not run party-political advertisements that seek to obscure their own monumental failures.




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Charles II: good in a crisis.
Royal Museums Greenwich

Above all, they should not announce that it’s not their job to hold the hose. As it happens, we already had a famous model of what a national leader might do in a fire.

In 1666, King Charles II of England was widely regarded as a worthless playboy with nothing much to his credit. In 1665, London lost tens of thousands of people in the Great Plague and there was little that he, or anyone else, had been able to do about it. When a fire broke out in Pudding Lane in the following year, few had any reason to expect Charles would distinguish himself. But his leadership in that fire is famous. It was brave, inspiring and, yes, although he did not hold the hose, he did pass the buckets.

Crises can make leaders but they can also break them – or, as happened over the summer with Morrison, nearly break them. In a recent book, labour historian Liam Byrne explores the early lives and careers of two Labor prime ministers, James Scullin and John Curtin. Each was a product of the Victorian labour movement. Each had regarded himself as a socialist. Each would face a massive national crisis on becoming prime minister that required them to put aside the beliefs of a lifetime.

Scullin faced the Great Depression of the 1930s. He emerged from a brief time in government at the beginning of 1932 damaged and bewildered. The crisis was the breaking and not the making of him. To be fair, it’s hard to imagine how, given the state of the Australian economy and the scale of the problem he faced, anyone could have done much better.

When Australian prime ministers are ranked, Scullin usually occupies a lowly place while Curtin often comes out on top. The success of Curtin’s wartime leadership wasn’t predictable. He was a anti-conscriptionist during the first world war who saw that war as a scheme devised by capitalists to divide and conquer the working class. He was moody, aloof and a worrier. But the crisis of the Pacific War was the making of Curtin as a leader, even if he would not live to see the peace.

We should not exaggerate the extent to which Australians fell in behind Curtin’s urgings. In the present crisis, I’ve occasionally been reminded, during some of Morrison’s occasionally hectoring and patronising performances, of the difficulties Curtin faced.

Morrison called panic-buying “un-Australian”, but it must be sufficiently Australian also to have occurred during the war, when people got wind of the approach of clothing rationing. Morrison’s infantilising “early mark” made some bristle in the same way, inevitably, as grown-ups came to resent petty government restrictions during the second world war. The minister in charge of rationing, John Dedman, was famously lampooned for having banned pink icing on wedding cakes and for killing Santa Claus with his restrictions on Christmas advertising. Even in war, adults expect to be treated as adults.

A poster from 1942.
Queensland Museum

Morrison could not afford another leadership failure when coronavirus hit. My own view of his leadership by the end of the last summer is that it was badly damaged but unlikely to be terminal. He had already shown himself as an adaptable politician and I expected he would also enjoy the help of a friendly right-wing media in repairing it.

Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir presents a hostile but mainly persuasive account of Morrison as a politician. Turnbull presents him as sneaky and duplicitous. But more importantly, in making sense of his recent leadership, Morrison is painted as a pragmatic political professional unattached to ideology and quite prepared to pick up and drop policies according to his perception of the needs – including his own – in any context.




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For Morrison, the science on climate change is negotiable, but the science on coronavirus is the last word. He is the kind of leader who is off to the footy one moment and everyone else should also get out and about, then that he’s not and everyone must stay home. He can dismiss the need for a wage subsidy one week and then announce a A$130 billion package the next. He can double the JobSeeker allowance after having for years staunchly opposed even a minor increase as an affront to self-reliance and an intolerable incentive to the unemployed to stay that way.

Morrison can do all of this with very few backward glances and then – if it suits his purposes and he can get away with it – reverse the lot when that suits him as well.

So there is Morrison’s adaptability. But there is also a helpful conservative media. Here, Morrison is not just a nimble leader with a well-developed survival instinct. He is positively Churchillian.

Greg Sheridan of The Australian was early out of the blocks near the end of March. “Scott Morrison could become Australia’s most important war-time leader,” he declared. “If he succeeds, he will join a pantheon which at the moment consists only of John Curtin, a leader who got us through, who worried us through, our last existential challenge.”

More recently, Sheridan’s colleague, Paul Kelly, has extended this to an attack on state premiers as “laggards”. He asked rhetorically whether they were “free riders on the Morrison government and the banks, who keep the economy alive at such dire cost”.

A prime minister who can rely on such free promotion has good reason to expect a bright political future. And Labor Party figures are entitled to ask if they could have expected such generosity in the context of draconian restrictions on personal freedom and massive spending aimed at propping up the economy and saving lives.

As we return to something like political business as usual, Morrison is likely to be subjected to efforts to make him and his government accountable that he has long shown he regards as onerous. How he deals with those, and with the immense challenges of rebuilding the economy in the context of debt, deficit, global depression and the danger of new outbreaks of disease, may well be a more testing challenge to his leadership than anything so far.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How the coronavirus pandemic is (finally) resulting in leadership for the greater good



Mick Tsikas/AAP

Samuel Wilson, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Swinburne University of Technology; Sylvia T. Gray, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Swinburne University of Technology

In the space of six weeks, the threat posed by COVID-19 and the sudden absence of partisanship from the political landscape have ushered in a focus on leadership for the greater good, the likes of which we haven’t seen for years.

Leadership for the greater good occurs when leaders create value for society in a manner that is transparent, accountable and ethical. Once conspicuous by its absence, it now seems to be everywhere, and gratifyingly so in the institutions where it counts most.




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Our survey process

As an extension of our Australian Leadership Index (ALI) – a long-running survey to gauge public perceptions of leadership for the greater good – we have asked Australians over the past five weeks to judge the performance of various institutions during the current pandemic.

Each institution receives a score based on the number of people who said the institution showed leadership to a “large extent” or “extremely large extent”, minus those who responded “some extent” or “not at all”.

Notably, by taking the pulse of Australians weekly, we can track how public opinion is changing. When these findings are compared to our wider survey results, which we have been collecting quarterly since September 2018, the results are striking.

The ascent of leadership for the greater good

Prior to the pandemic, the public had a dim view of the state of leadership in Australia. This has been consistent from September 2018 to March 2020.

However, in the week of March 13-19, in specific response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public sentiment entered positive territory (+1) for the first time in a year and a half. Even more striking, these perceptions have improved week-on-week to a score of +34 in the week of April 15-22.

What a difference a(nother) crisis makes

The improvement in public perceptions is most remarkable for the federal government, particularly in light of the recent bushfire crisis.

Throughout the bushfires, the public consistently judged the federal government’s leadership for the greater good as poor. From the beginning (-32) to the end (-25) of the crisis, its ALI score was negative – most people thought the government was failing to demonstrate effective leadership.




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Fast-forward to mid-March, however, and the federal government’s fortunes changed dramatically. In the week of March 13-19, the government’s ALI score (+24) surged into positive territory for the first time since we started running the surveys.

Public perceptions have improved every week since then, hitting a high score of +47 recorded in the past week.

The pattern of results for state governments is almost exactly the same, but interestingly, state governments have trailed the federal government in most of our weekly polls, with the exception of the week ending April 1.

Public health still at the top

A consistent finding of our surveys from the beginning has been the high esteem in which our respondents have held the public sector.

Notably, since we started measuring public perceptions, the public sector has always outscored government when it comes to demonstrating leadership for the greater good.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic, our respondents have viewed both the public sector and government in practically the same light.

The gains for the public sector are largely accounted for by public health institutions, which have been judged overwhelmingly as showing the greatest degree of leadership for the greater good of all institutions measured.

Public health institutions have also far outpaced private health institutions in our surveys during the pandemic.




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This pattern is replicated in other sectors. Public education and media institutions, for instances, have been viewed much more favourably than their private counterparts during the crisis.

The worst performers in terms of leadership for the greater good throughout the pandemic have been health insurance companies, religious institutions, trade unions and multinational corporations.

What does this mean for the state of leadership in Australia?

The ALI was founded on the principle that leaders should act beyond self-interest to benefit the greater good, and this leadership should come from institutions across all sectors.

Since its inception, the results have painted a dim picture of the state of leadership across Australia, with the exception of only a few institutions, such as charities and public health.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessarily brought the wider public interest to the fore, and institutions across all sectors have instigated measures to protect the greater good.

To be sure, crises crystallise a shared understanding of the common good and encourage people to pull together in a manner not typical of more ordinary times.

Nevertheless, by shining a light on leadership for the greater good and how it can be improved, this pandemic may yet have a silver lining for the future.The Conversation

Samuel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Lecturer of Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology; Sylvia T. Gray, Research Assistant and Casual Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Senior Lecturer in Management, Fellow of the APS College of Organisational Psychologists, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Three reasons why Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response has been a masterclass in crisis leadership



Jacinda Ardern/Facebook

Suze Wilson, Massey University

Imagine, if you can, what it’s like to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they die.

Your decisions affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in huge economic disruption, mass layoffs and business closures. Imagine you must act quickly, without having complete certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope.

Now imagine that turning your decisions into effective action depends on winning the support of millions of people.


Jacinda Ardern/Facebook

Yes, you do have enforcement capacity at your disposal. But success or failure hinges on getting most people to choose to follow your leadership – even though it demands sudden, unsettling, unprecedented changes to their daily lives.

This is the harsh reality political leaders around the world have faced in responding to COVID-19.

As someone who researches and teaches leadership – and has also worked in senior public sector roles under both National and Labour-led governments – I’d argue New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving most Western politicians a masterclass in crisis leadership.

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Three communication skills every leader needs

When it comes to assessing New Zealand’s public health response, we should all be listening to epidemiologists like Professor Michael Baker. On Friday, Baker said New Zealand had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” – and that New Zealand is “a huge standout as the only Western country that’s got an elimination goal” for COVID-19.

But how can we assess Ardern’s leadership in making such difficult decisions? A good place to start is with American professors Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield’s research into effective leadership communication.

The Mayfields’ research-based model highlights “direction-giving”, “meaning-making” and “empathy” as the three key things leaders must address to motivate followers to give their best.

Being a public motivator is essential for leaders – but it’s often done poorly. The Mayfields’ research shows direction-giving is typically over-used, while the other two elements are under-used.

Ardern’s response to COVID-19 uses all three approaches. In directing New Zealanders to “stay home to save lives”, she simultaneously offers meaning and purpose to what we are being asked to do.

In freely acknowledging the challenges we face in staying home – from disrupted family and work lives, to people unable to attend loved ones’ funerals – she shows empathy about what is being asked of us.

The March 23 press conference announcement of New Zealand’s lockdown is a clear example of Ardern’s skillful approach, comprising a carefully crafted speech, followed by extensive time for media questions.

In contrast, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pre-recorded his March 24 lockdown announcement, offering no chance for questions from the media, while framing the situation as an “instruction” from government, coupled with a strong emphasis on enforcement measures.

Where Ardern blended direction, care and meaning-making, Johnson largely sought “compliance”.




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Enabling people to cope with change

Ardern’s approach also strongly reflects what well-known Harvard leadership scholar Professor Ronald Heifetz has long argued is vital – but also rare and difficult to accomplish – when leading people through change.

Ardern has used daily televised briefings and regular Facebook live sessions to clearly frame the key questions and issues requiring attention.

Extracts from Jacinda Ardern’s evening Facebook Live from home on March 25, hours before New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown.

Also consistent with Heifetz’s teachings, she has regulated distress by developing a transparent framework for decision-making – the government’s alert level framework – allowing people to make sense of what is happening and why.

Importantly, that four-level alert framework was released and explained early, two days before a full lockdown was announced, in contrast with the prevarication and sometimes confusing messages from leaders in countries such as Australia and the UK.

Jacinda Ardern’s March 21 explanation of New Zealand’s four-level alert system.

Persuading many to act for the collective good

The work of another leadership scholar, the UK’s Professor Keith Grint, also sheds light on Ardern’s leadership approach during this crisis.

For Grint, leadership involves persuading the collective to take responsibility for collective problems. Much of the prime minister’s public commentary has been dedicated to exactly that – and it’s been overwhelmingly effective, at least so far, with a recent poll showing 80% support for the government’s response to COVID-19.

Grint also argues that when dealing with “wicked problems” – which are complex, contentious and cannot be easily resolved – leaders must ask difficult questions that disrupt established ways of thinking and acting.

It’s clear this has happened in New Zealand, as shown in the suite of initiatives the government has taken to respond to the pandemic, including its decision to move to a national lockdown relatively fast compared to many – though not all – countries.




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Of course, not everything has been perfect in New Zealand’s or Ardern’s COVID-19 response. Ongoing, independent scrutiny of the government’s response is essential.

But as my own research has argued, expecting perfection of leaders, especially in such difficult circumstances, is a fool’s errand.

It’s never possible. Nor should we allow the “perfect” to become the enemy of the “good” when speed and enormous complexity are such significant features of the decision-making context.

Whether you’re comparing Ardern’s performance against other Western leaders, or assessing her efforts using researchers’ measures of leadership excellence, as a New Zealander I think there is much to be grateful for in how she is leading us through this crisis.

Stay in touch with The Conversation’s coverage from New Zealand experts by signing up to our weekly newsletter – delivered to you each Wednesday.The Conversation

Suze Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Executive Development, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Which leaders and health experts will be on the right side of history on COVID-19 policy?


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

After the coronavirus nightmare has passed, harsh judgments will be made about which political leaders and health experts were on the right or wrong side in handling this crisis.

Politicians like to cast back to the global financial crisis and play the blame game. The stakes were very high then – this time they are multiplied.

And there are many with futures or reputations (or both) on the line.

This week we’ve seen a high-profile clash of opinions and expertise on display. Given the exponential rise in cases, the calls for everyone to be on the same page must be secondary to the imperative of getting the right strategy.

One school of thought says, put health first and go nuclear now, with a full lockdown. The other school favours a stepped approach, tightening the screws but trying to keep as much economic activity alive for as long as possible.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (Labor) and New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian (Liberal) are hardliners. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton spoke out forcefully this week. The two premiers have given notice their states are set to move to lockdown (where people would be confined to their homes). Jacinda Ardern has already taken New Zealand there.

With the divide crossing partisan lines, Andrews and Berejiklian are working closely together.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is the prime advocate of the gradual approach. Resisting a full lockdown, he argued strongly this week he didn’t want to throw people out of jobs where it was possible to avoid doing so, and he feared the consequences of the stresses the economic crisis would put on families.

For Morrison, it’s a balancing act, in the face of “a twin crisis, a crisis on a health front, which is also causing a crisis in the economy as well. And both of them can be equally as deadly, both in terms of the lives of Australians and their livelihood.”




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Labor has aligned with the position taken by Andrews and Berejiklian. From the start, the opposition has been urging faster action; this week Anthony Albanese sharpened his criticism.

He disputed “there is a tension between dealing with the health issues and dealing with the economic issues. That is a false distinction.

“The government has a responsibility to deal with this health emergency. That is the first priority. Then, it needs to deal with the economic consequences of the health emergency and the appropriate response. It needs to be done in that order.”

Those who argue Labor is just playing politics and should be sticking to the government line are off beam. This is a policy crisis too and policy arguments are legitimate and indeed necessary.

Among federal officials, the secretary of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, is reportedly a hardliner.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy (who has been appointed secretary of the Health Department) and his deputy, Paul Kelly, have been strong public defenders of the gradualist path.

Yet in the health world many in academia are advocates of an immediate lockdown.

The prime minister has found his hand being forced by the states (as in Sunday’s argy bargy on shutdowns) or bypassed (on schools).

Morrison has been a firm advocate of keeping the schools open, arguing it’s vital so health workers can continue in their jobs, and also because children shouldn’t lose a year of education.

This week Berejiklian advised parents to keep children home, while Andrews brought forward the school holidays. Western Australia is now encouraging remaining at home as new arrangements are prepared. Next week Queensland schools will be “student free” (apart from children of “frontline workers”). South Australia is likewise planning for the future.




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Academic experts are at the centre of the policy battle, and this carries its own politics.

Take a paper, commissioned by the federal government, reporting the advice of 22 experts from Group Of Eight universities. Dated Sunday, it put forward two views.

“One view, influenced by our position on the epidemic curve, the limitations of wide community testing and surveillance and the experience of other countries, argues for a comprehensive, simultaneous ban across Australia.

“The other, influenced by the fact that a large number of our cases are a direct/contacts of importation (which have now been stopped), influenced by the large variation in case density across Australia and the adverse consequences of closure and the sustainability and compliance to an early closure, argued for a more proportionate response”.

The first view was “a dominant position in this group”, the paper said. What it didn’t add was that this was the overwhelming view.

When asked about the paper at a Tuesday news conference, both Morrison and Murphy were noticeably uneasy. Morrison flicked the question to Murphy who said: “Any measures we place, we believe need to be for the long haul. The idea that you can put measures in place for four weeks and suddenly stop them and the virus will be gone is not credible. So we are very keen to put as restrictive measures in place without completely destroying life as we know it.”

Another paper circulating, including to senior business figures, argues “the case for a short, sharp lockdown in Australia”. It has been contributed to by Raina MacIntyre, who heads UNSW’s Biosecurity Program; Louisa Jorm, director of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW; Tim Churches, health data scientist at UNSW; and Richard Nunes-Vaz, from Torrens Resilience Institute at Flinders University.

“We are deeply concerned about the prospect of Australia losing control of the epidemic to a degree which would exceed health system capacity and result in far greater numbers of cases, more health and economic losses, and a longer time to societal recovery,” the paper says.

“A short, sharp lockdown of 4-8 weeks will improve control of the epidemic in Australia, reduce case numbers and bring us to a more manageable baseline from which phased lifting of restrictions and economic recovery can occur.

“If we fail to do this, we face continued epidemic growth, potential failure of the health system, and a far longer road to recovery.”

The lockdown would be used to ramp up a massive testing operation to identify and isolate cases, enabling the subsequent ease-off to be done more safely.

On Thursday the federal government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly suggested challenges to official advice made for public confusion and should be kept behind closed doors.

Not if the challengers turn out to be right.

Morrison received praise in the early days for his handling of the crisis. Now he and his closest health advisers are increasingly finding themselves the odd men out.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lack of confidence in US leadership adds to coronavirus panic


The Conversation/Google Earth, CC BY-ND

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to the bone this week, this represented the most decisive action taken so far to forestall recession caused by a global health crisis.

The US central bank’s dramatic intervention is an acknowledgement that a health pandemic risks the most severe downturn in the global economy since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09.

But the question should be asked: why it is being left to the Fed to do the heavy lifting in response to a global health emergency that risks morphing into an economic crisis?

What sort of leadership is the White House providing globally?

Why, indeed, has the US president not convened a meeting of G20 leaders, or officials, to coordinate a global response to the pandemic itself and to risks of a severe economic retrenchment?




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The short answer is that American leadership has been conflicted.

President Donald Trump’s initial response to the emergence of the COVID-19 contagion in China was to play down its likely effects.

At one point Trump referred to reports of an emerging pandemic as a “hoax” designed to harm his presidency.

His media allies attacked those who sought to raise the alarm.

Valuable time has been squandered in forging a global response to a global health emergency and now economic crisis-in-the-making.

Winston Churchill has had attributed to him what may be an apocryphal quote. This is that America always does the right thing once it has exhausted other possibilities.

In the age of Trump, it would take a leap of faith to assume American leadership will provide the sort of guidance the world has come to expect, even take for granted.

America may, as Churchill observed, step up, but precious time has been lost.

Various world leaders, including Australia’s Scott Morrison, have begun calling for an emergency G20 session to respond to the risks of a much more severe slowdown than had seemed likely as recently as late February.

At a G20 gathering in Riyadh, finance ministers and heads of central banks resolved to monitor risks to the global economy.

Surprisingly, these officials did not come forward with a plan beyond an agreement to take “further action” if global growth slowed more sharply than the International Monetary Fund anticipated.

In a presentation, the IMF predicted the pandemic would shave a modest 0.1% off global growth. Growth would pick up in the latter half of the year and into 2021.

Depending on the longevity of the COVID-19 crisis, that expectation now appears far-fetched and even laughable. China’s growth has been revised down sharply in the latest IMF assessments.

In view of what has transpired in the three weeks since the Riyadh meeting it is clear the IMF significantly understated the economic consequences of a mushrooming health emergency.

Riyadh participants, who included US Treasury Steven Mnuchin, would certainly not have anticipated the sort of dramatic action taken overnight by the Federal Reserve.

Nor would they have expected the speed with which coronavirus has spread across the globe.

The Fed reduced its benchmark interest rate to a range of 0-0.25%. This is effectively a zero rate of interest, trending towards negative interest rates. This is not a vote of confidence in the durability of the American economy, or in the resilience of the global system.

The central bank’s loosening of the spigots in the purchases of billions of dollars of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed debt – so-called quantitative easing – is designed to throw a lifeline to a sputtering economy.

The last thing America needs is another mortgage-backed securities meltdown. This is what brought on the GFC.

None of this reflects a great deal of confidence in the ability of the American and global economies to withstand the twin shocks of a health emergency and a global economy made vulnerable by an overdependence on Chinese growth.




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As a growth engine, China had been pumping up global growth, but the air is going out of those tyres. Irrespective of how long the COVID-19 crisis lasts, we will enter a new phase in which Chinese growth will be tempered.

In the meantime, the world finds itself at its most precarious moment since the GFC. The health emergency might be brought under control without lasting damage to the global economy. Global growth might be restored to an extent.

However, what remains in question is whether an American administration led by an avowed populist who has eschewed a global leadership role will become the champion of a much-needed multilateral response to a health and economic crisis.

When the GFC hit, America stepped up. Then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen guided an American response. The G20 played its part.

Lack of confidence in American leadership is not least of the contributing factors to a global sense of panic. The Federal Reserve has done its best. It might not be enough.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison, compassion and coronavirus: when crisis refines leadership


Sen Sendjaya, Swinburne University of Technology; Mulyadi Robin, Alphacrucis College, and Nathan Eva, Monash University

News that the Morrison government paid A$190,000 last year for advice on how to empathise with the Australian people was met with ridicule.

Yet it might be worth the money.

In late January, Morrison was continually criticised for appearing to lack compassion over the bushfires.

He himself said, “there are things I could have handed on the ground much better”.

There are signs he has taken that to heart during the coronavirus outbreak.




Read more:
Mr Morrison, I lost my home to bushfire. Your thoughts and prayers are not enough


He has acknowledged unknowns and people’s fear of the unknown, and used inclusive language along the lines of, “together we will get through this”.

It’s been more than getting the narrative right. We’ve seen capable and compassionate leadership, even “servant leadership”.

Problems, not projects, make leaders. Real leaders faced with real problems put their followers before themselves.

Servant leadership works

Research shows that “servant leaders” make good leaders.

Their stories explain the success of many of the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, including Zappos.com, Marriot International, and TDIndustries.

In a recently published state-of-the-art review of servant leadership, we argue that servant leadership makes sense empirically, financially and psychologically.

Our review of 285 studies on servant leadership in 39 countries finds the approach creates better leader-follower relationships, in turn boosting performance metrics including employee satisfaction and well being, commitment, and innovation.

It can help in the polls

It is probably why we react positively in the polls when our political leaders show compassion.

The latest Newspoll suggests his approach to the coronavirus has done him no harm.

Financially, servant leadership is a worthwhile investment because it is correlated with individual, team, and organisational performance better than other forms of leadership.

Psychologically, it helps individuals shift from a concern for themselves towards a concern for others, creating a culture of service.

Servant leadership is made up of six dimensions that can be applied on a daily basis:

It is a common misconception that in times of crisis we need leaders with a command-and-control and domineering approach, and those who demonstrate compassion will be seen as weak.

Compassion needs genuine strength

The truth is that being compassionate does not signal weakness, inferiority, or a lack of self-respect.

On the contrary, only those with a secure sense of self, strength of character, and psychological maturity are able to put aside themselves and instead serve others in times of crisis.

Being compassionate isn’t easy, as Morrison knows.

But it’s never too late to start.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Morrison looks to his messaging on coronavirus and climate


The Conversation


Sen Sendjaya, Professor of Leadership, Swinburne University of Technology; Mulyadi Robin, Senior Lecturer, Alphacrucis College, and Nathan Eva, Senior Lecturer, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nationals have long valued stable leadership and being strong Coalition partners – this shouldn’t change now



Lukas Coch/AAP

Geoff Cockfield, University of Southern Queensland

The National Party turned 100 on January 22, but celebrations were overshadowed by leadership turbulence, with Barnaby Joyce challenging Michael McCormack for the leadership.

The failed move to restore Joyce as leader of the party was driven, according to Joyce and some supporters, by the “need” to have a determined and independent voice within the Coalition. As Joyce put it,

we have to speak with our own voice, we have to drive agendas.

The Nationals are a distinct party, but working within the Coalition has provided them with considerable policy influence throughout history. And Coalitions have worked best in the past with adroit leadership and by resolving conflicts out of the public eye.

McCormack may grow into an adroit leader but he is at risk of being set aside because of ambition and impatience, as well as a hazy view of the history and place of the party.

Early electoral successes for the party

The Australian Country Party, the precursor to the modern National Party, was integral to establishment of non-Labor politics in Australia. It started in 1920 with representation from all states and immediate electoral impact.

The party’s share of lower house seats peaked at the 1937 federal election, and from then until the 1980s, it was routinely able to win about 10% of the vote and 15% of lower house seats.

The golden age for the Country Party was from 1949-83 – a time marked by solid parliamentary representation, the routine holding of key portfolios and strong influence on agricultural and rural policies.

The success of this period was not just about electoral performance. During the Coalition’s many years in government, the partner parties were also ideologically close on issues that mattered to the Country Party, which helped minimise open conflict.




Read more:
With a new prime minister nominated, the Nationals have a rare chance to assert themselves


These shared ideologies are no longer as strong as they once were, in part due to the increasing influence of market liberalism within the Liberal Party in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Furthermore, the Nationals are now an even smaller parliamentary party in 2020 than in 1980, holding only 10.6% of lower house seats.

Given tensions over policy, a need to maintain a rural identity and the rise of populist parties such as One Nation and The Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party, the Nationals are now facing a challenge: how to express their independence, while remaining good partners in the Coalition.

Why good leadership and stable Coalitions have mattered

Throughout the history of the Country and National parties, it’s been critical for their leaders to maintain a fine balancing act.

It didn’t start out this way. The Country Party’s first leader, William McWilliams, wanted pure independence for the party, as was expected by the various farm organisations that supported “country” candidates in the 1920s.

However, his successor, Earle Page, set the model for future federal Coalition arrangements.

Earle Page.
National Library of Australia

After the 1922 federal election, Country Party members fired some warning shots in their tactical voting on legislation and procedures. This led to the offer of a Coalition with the Nationalists, who even sacrificed a leader to allow this to happen. The Country Party secured key portfolios and Page formed a strong working relationship with the new Nationalists leader, Prime Minister Stanley Bruce.

This also ushered in a long period of relative stability in the leadership ranks of the Country Party. For 63 years, the party had only five leaders. And four of those served for more than 12 years each: Page (1921-39), Artie Fadden (1941-58), John McEwen (1958-71) and Doug Anthony (1971-84).

Each of these leaders had a strong working relationship with their Liberal counterparts in the Coalition. Fadden and McEwen both worked well with Robert Menzies, while Anthony had a close partnership with Malcolm Fraser.




Read more:
Australian politics explainer: Robert Menzies and the birth of the Liberal-National coalition


Coalition stability was challenged briefly in 1939 when Page made an intemperate personal attack on Menzies, then leader of the United Australia Party. Page declared in the House that Menzies was unfit to lead government because he had not served in the first world war.

Page refused to work with Menzies, jeopardising the Coalition and leading to Page’s resignation as party leader. The internal turmoil contributed to Labor’s 1941 election win.

National leaders standing firm with Coalition partners

Since 1983, no Nationals leader has made it to 10 years at the top, though until the attempted Joyce resurrection, there had been only one direct leadership challenge.

Anthony’s successor, Ian Sinclair (1984-89) was one of the Country/National Party strongmen of the Fraser-Anthony era and an ardent coalitionist.

Ian Sinclair with his portrait when it was unveiled in parliament in 2001.
Alan Porritt/AAP

However, he was politically wounded by the “Joh for Canberra” push, an attempt by Queensland National Party premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen to become prime minister. This resulted in a Coalition split and the loss of the 1988 federal election, leading Charles Blunt to challenge for and win the National leadership.




Read more:
Issues that swung elections: the dramatic and inglorious fall of Joh Bjelke-Petersen


Most of the other National leaders in recent times, from Tim Fischer to Warren Truss, were strong coalitionists and worked to keep policy and personal conflict behind closed doors.

Even when the Nats felt pressure from their supporters for adhering to Coalition policies, their leaders held firm to maintain stability in government. Fischer, for example, stood shoulder to shoulder with John Howard on gun laws, despite the blow-back he received in many rural areas.

Prior to the 2019 election, McCormack also supported Coalition preferencing of minor parties like One Nation over Labor on ballot papers and attacked the Greens and animal activists in true agrarian populist style.

The result was good for the Nats: he led the party to unexpectedly retain 16 lower house seats.

Joyce has warned the National Party could cease to exist if more MPs decide to leave.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Why Joyce’s return would be a mistake

Yet, for Joyce’s supporters, this is still insufficient. Joyce’s time in leadership (2016-18) was a step back from diplomatic coalitionism with a more publicly combative style and demands for shifts in Coalition policy in key areas such as water.

But based on recent history, it is hard to argue the government isn’t paying enough attention to rural policy, given Prime Minister Scott Morrison has frequently been on the Wombat Trail to provide assistance to victims of floods, fires and droughts.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Michael McCormack moves on from his near-death experience


Even so, there will be no return to the golden age of rural policy-making in Australia, and the Nationals could be content, though they won’t be, with a long history of punching above their weight.

Coalitions have worked well for the Nationals, in terms of electoral success and policy outcomes, relative to their representation in parliaments. The party should bear this in mind when selecting its leaders, since the fracturing of Coalitions hasn’t served it well in the past.The Conversation

Geoff Cockfield, Professor of Government and Economics, and Deputy Dean, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Michael McCormack’s battle to hold off a second shot from Joyce’s locker


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison dodged a bullet when the Nationals clung on to Michael McCormack. There was palpable relief when the news came through to the Liberals. “We still have a Coalition,” one MP was heard to say during the Liberal party meeting.

But it had been the Prime Minister who created the circumstances for Barnaby Joyce to get his gun out of the cupboard.

If Morrison hadn’t been in such a politically weak position, due to his summer missteps, he’d probably have brazened out the sports rorts affair.

Morrison didn’t force Bridget McKenzie from cabinet because she skewed the grants scheme – for which she deserved sacking.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Bridget McKenzie falls – but for the lesser of her political sins


He acted because the price of keeping her became too high. But then suddenly the cost of ditching her skyrocketed when Joyce seized the moment. Morrison found he had destabilised the deputy prime minister he desperately needs to keep in place.

How things will pan out now is the unanswerable question. Of course no one believes Joyce’s protestation that “I support the vote of the [party] room”. Joyce can’t bear not being the macho top dog and he and his ally Matt Canavan – self-exiled from cabinet and a huge loser from the day – will continue to create trouble for McCormack.

The Nationals don’t release their voting numbers. McCormack people claim he had a healthy margin; the Joyce camp says they were line ball. If McCormack’s backers are right the secrecy harms him, fuelling uncertainty and the opportunity for mischief.

The easy consensus is McCormack must “lift his game”. Might as well tell a jogger to become a sprinter. McCormack isn’t the worst of leaders but he’s never going to be more than average.

And having acquired the reputation of a poor performer, he can’t win. Thus he’s criticised for having a low profile when Morrison was in Hawaii. But could he have raised it when the prime minister’s office was trying to hide their boss’s holiday?

The rebel (for want of a better description) Nats attack McCormack for not standing up to the Liberals, in particular to Morrison. They seek a more distinctive Nationals branding.

Now this is a real issue. A well-functioning National party has to strike a balance within the Coalition between, if you like, growling and purring. Each Nationals leader must find a sweet spot. Assertive but supportive in the government’s inner sanctums. In the electorate, distinctive while also a team player.

But if McCormack follows the wishes of the Nationals to be more aggressive, this carries its potential dangers. On the flip side of that coin is “division”, a bad look for the government as a whole.

McCormack might be a pushover but Morrison has not been sensitive to their mutual interest in the Nationals’ profile. John Howard gave them a few wins, and recognition. Morrison tends to occupy whatever space is available. His very personal central role on drought issues, for example, has overshadowed the Nationals on their home ground.

If Morrison wants to prop up McCormack he needs to pump his tyres. As former Nationals senator John (“Wacka”) Williams told Sky, there was a message in Tuesday’s events for Morrison: “Don’t make the Nationals irrelevant”. The Nationals had to be treated with respect and get some pats on the back, Williams argued.

The Nationals’ schism triggered a reminder that Morrison is in a no win situation internally on climate change policy, as he faces an increasing need to nuance it.

In Tuesday’s Coalition parties meeting (coming immediately after the vote) a bevy of Nationals – Joyce, Canavan, George Christensen and David Gillespie – sent hardline messages on climate among talk of regional jobs and industry. Joyce said some people were trying to push their hobby horse issues out of the fire tragedies. To one Liberal source, these outpourings from the Nationals’ losing side were a bit weird and not very coherent.

They were met by a counter from some moderate Liberals. Earlier, in the separate Liberal party meeting, Queenslander Andrew Laming criticised those who went on policy “solo flights” on climate. The government’s policy was based on the science, which had been overwhelmingly accepted, Laming said – to contest the science undermined the policy.

McCormack’s next test is immediate – recrafting his frontbench. He has two cabinet vacancies, with Victorian Darren Chester expected to fill one.

What happens with the key resources portfolio vacated by Canavan will be crucial, given the coal issue and energy battles. Whether McCormack should have invited Canavan back is a moot point. Canavan (a loud voice for the coal industry) has a sharp policy mind; also, he might have been less trouble for McCormack if still on the frontbench than rampaging round the backbench.

Among the complexities of the reshuffle is that with the fall of McKenzie and Canavan the Nats have no Senate minister, but the remaining three senators (all women) are parliamentary newcomers. Still, one of these women will surely be in line for promotion, at the least to an assistant minister. McCormack sources believe all six women in the 21-member party voted for him; certainly most did.

The significance of the Nationals new deputy, David Littleproud, should not be overlooked in considering the future. Littleproud is competent, ambitious and articulate. He was frustrated at having his portfolio sliced back after the election.

His presence could assist McCormack. At 43, he has plenty of time and, in the National party tradition, an incentive to support his leader and inherit the mantle rather than trying to snatch it.

But if McCormack can’t survive until the election, the party would be better off turning to Littleproud than to Joyce, who would carry a maximum risk factor, not least for Morrison.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Adam Bandt will be a tougher leader, but the challenge will be in broadening the Greens’ appeal



AAP/Mick Tsikas

Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Mad Monday usually describes sports teams “on the tear” at the end of season, not embattled governments embarking on a new parliamentary year.

But Monday, February 3, had that devil-may-care feeling when the two second-tier parties of the Australian parliament, the Nationals on the right and the Greens on the left, dropped depth charges into their respective electoral bases by putting their leaderships up for grabs.

For the junior Coalition partner, this occurred via an unsuccessful raid by Barnaby Joyce on the leadership of Michael McCormack.

That marked a woeful start to the parliamentary year for a Coalition already being hammered through its own policy indolence and the scandalous manipulation of public funds.




Read more:
The ‘sports rorts’ affair shows the need for a proper federal ICAC – with teeth


Things went more smoothly for the Greens, where “mad” Monday brought the unheralded resignation of the party’s well-liked leader, Richard Di Natale. The Victorian senator was swiftly replaced in an uncontested ballot by the party’s sole lower house federal MP, Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne.

But the interest factor in the power transfer will not necessarily end there. Bandt’s selection raises important questions for the cross-bench party, ideologically, presentationally and functionally. And it may also prove to be a blessing for Labor, which has long bled green on its left flank, particularly in the inner cities.

Like his predecessors Bob Brown and Christine Milne, the outgoing Di Natale confidently predicted the Greens party was on the cusp of a significant expansion as voters opted for the only party not compromised by the fossil fuel industry, particularly coal.

Yet the imminent Green revolution never seems to come, suggesting there may be a natural ceiling on the party’s share of the non-conservative vote, almost all of which flows back to Labor as preferences anyway.

A large measure of the Greens’ electoral optimism derives from the view that, in trying to appeal to both inner-city progressives and blue-collar regional workers, Labor offers weak policies and confusing messages. The each-way bet on the Adani Carmichael coal mine at the 2019 election is most frequently cited.

But it is also possible there is effectively a cap on the Greens party expansion. This is because of its role as a party of progressive conscience rather than one that must appeal to a broad range of voters and offer policies that can be funded if elected.

As one Labor insider noted: “The Greens don’t need to talk to anyone outside the inner cities, and mostly they don’t try to.”

As a moderate type of Greens senator, Di Natale may have already maximised the party’s appeal among people who might otherwise find their natural home within Labor.

How Bandt performs remains to be seen, but he is widely regarded as more aggressive – purer in his orientation to, and reflection of, the party’s base, yet correspondingly “scarier” for mainstream voters.

“He’s a jump to the left, that’s for sure,” said the Labor functionary, who claimed Bandt is less disciplined and measured in his communication style than was Di Natale.

“He forgets who he is talking to – his base is not the same as the electorate and where Di Natale was ‘reassuring’, Bandt can be just plain scary,” the observer said.

When the young WA Greens senator Jordan Steele-John accused the major parties of being virtual arsonists during the bushfire crisis last November, Bandt leapt to his defence amid the furore. Bandt told ABC’s Insiders program:

I think he’s the youngest member of parliament, he’s part of a generation that is terrified and aghast with what they’re seeing with the climate crisis.

Scott Morrison has been put on notice, and his government has been put on notice for many years now, that if we keep digging up coal at the rate of knots that we’re doing at the moment, it is going to contribute to making global warming worse, and that is going to make bushfires like this more likely and more intense when they happen.

If Bandt’s angularity is to be tempered by the responsibilities of leadership, it was not evident in his first press conference, where he railed against climate inaction and inequality. He said:

I refuse to adapt to kids wearing gas masks.

Summer is going from being a time to relax to a time to fear for your life and health.
People are angry and anxious because the government clearly doesn’t have the climate emergency under control and has no plan to get it under control. But people are also angry and anxious because the basics of life are no longer guaranteed … even if you do everything they ask, people are no longer guaranteed a good life.

Finally, Bandt’s leadership has a structural peculiarity built in.

Like the short-lived Palmer United Party after the 2013 election, Bandt leads the Greens from the lower house while every one of his other party members is in the Senate.




Read more:
Remembrance of rorts past: why the McKenzie scandal might not count for a hill of beans


There were many reasons why that structure was disastrous for Clive Palmer, not least that his party had no clear idea of what it stood for, and Palmer himself was both mercurial and absent.

But having the members – on whose loyalty one’s leadership relies – located together in one chamber and the leader in another seems risky, especially in these times when mad Monday is a 365-day possibility.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.