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Prime Minister: Read my book

Prime Minister: Read my book

By Suzi Skinner

My executive coaching career has spanned every industry over the past 15 years except politics. This means that professional insight into the internal machinations of party politics is not something I have been professionally privy to. You could say I am a novice regarding political processes. However, I am not a novice when it comes to leadership.

From a leadership perspective, the recent Australian election left me both astonished and disappointed.

My astonishment comes from the lack of authenticity conveyed by the majority party leaders. With all the turmoil in our world right now, people are looking for leaders with genuineness and substance. They are looking for the person behind the title. They are looking for someone to trust in and to take them on a journey with them. In times of such confusion, the leader who is willing to share their own life experiences and explain how these have shaped their world views and more relevantly, their political views, becomes a welcome respite.

My astonishment also comes from the fact that authentic leadership has been a focus of hundreds of leadership research studies over the past 20+ years. Authentic leadership has been linked with better outcomes across business, educational and social domains. It has been research-proven to result in enhanced productivity, teamwork, morale and wellbeing - both for the leaders themselves and those they are leading. Yet this huge cultural, social and professional shift towards candidness, realness and truth in leadership seems to have missed our politicians.

My disappointment comes not from the outcome of the election but from the missed opportunity. I am particularly focusing on our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull because his pre-Prime Minister messages seemed to ring true.

Malcolm was one of our few politicians acknowledging the inherent wisdom in the Australian electorate and forewarning his colleagues to treat the Australian public with respect.

This message was welcomed and it was fresh. It also felt authentic (to me at least!)

And yet somehow in the transition to Prime Minister this authenticity got replaced by time worn slogans and repetitive campaigning. All the characteristics Malcolm Turnbull had warned against he was now role-modelling. As a result I found myself squirming in my seat and wanting to shout at the television.

I found myself wanting time with him to ask “Where did you go? Why are you not speaking up for what you personally believe in? What happened to the integrity and respect that you were standing up for?” Most importantly I wanted to ask him, “What is getting in your way to showing up as an authentic leader?”

And then it dawned on me that the questions I wanted to ask our Prime Minister were no different from the questions I ask of senior executives.

Whether you are running the country or running an organisation, you are often dealing with hidden, sometimes unconscious practices, processes and norms. These powerful practices can be saboteurs (or ‘derailers’ as I call them) that prevent leaders from staying true to their authentic leader identity.

Mindsets about how campaigns should be run based on previous experience (rather than current insight) may be one of the derailers Malcolm was up against. Incessant (and meaningless) attention to pre-election polling may have been another. ‘The way we have always done it’ perhaps another.

However recognition of these invisible barriers to authenticity does not mean that these leaders are off the hook – far from it. Instead it reinforces that if we are really going to create a climate of authentic leadership, and realise the benefits of this, we have to help people in these positions acknowledge their own uniqueness as a leader. And we need to help them to do everything in their power to hold onto their own leader identity, despite forces around them potentially derailing their intentions.

In my research and subsequent book titled “Build Your Leader Identity: A Practical Guide to Leading Authentically from Any Position”, this was my purpose.

The book was written to provide people with self-reflective exercises, insightful questioning techniques and better insight into their own leader identity. It was written so individuals, no matter their position or title, could be equipped with the perspective that their uniqueness and authenticity as a person and a leader is what will set them up for success. In whatever area they choose.

Malcolm Turnbull now has a mandate for a new term as Prime Minister. I just hope that somewhere along the way he picks up my book and does the hard, reflective work to hold onto the beliefs, experiences, characteristics and values that got him there in the first place. This level of self-awareness is the necessary anchor amongst so much turbulence.

Suzi's book on Amazon:
Build Your Leader Identity: A practical guide to leading authentically from any position

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