What a week it has been in politics! What a last couple of months!
We’re seeing first-term governments turfed out on their ears in Victoria as well as Queensland, and Tony Abbott nearly lost his leadership position in a party room shakedown.
This is unprecedented in Australian politics, where, for almost a hundred years, we enjoyed stability. Even John Howard through his most hated times was not torn down by the party, even when, prior to his loss in 2007, he was facing what was going to be looking like electoral disaster – which it turned out to be.
Why is this happening?
There’s No Such Thing as a Mandate
Well, first of all is the concept of mandate. Parties that come to power believe that they have a mandate to implement their policies. Well, the reality is – and most voters would agree – the Australian public votes out a government, they do not vote in an opposition. So to say that a party has a mandate – well, the only part mandate they have is to not be the previous government.
Where is the Leadership Message
That leads us into the second point, which is the message. The message needs to be sold.
Just because you’re the Prime Minister, just because you’re the Premier, or just because you’re the division head doesn’t mean people will blindly follow what it is you’re saying. The message must be sold, and it must be sold over and over and over again. This is what leadership is.
If we look at McDonald’s – they spend close to a hundred million dollars a year in Australia alone advertising their product. Yet we know them. Politicians need to continually sell their message so people, their public, can get on board with it.
The Right to Question Our Leaders
The third area is accepting the right to be questioned. Politicians are interviewed by the journalists, the journalist asks a question on Topic A, and the politician gives answer for Question B. They don’t answer the question. And what happens is we hear the answer, we don’t believe what’s being said, we see the politician as dodging, and they are lowered in our expectations, and our respect for the politician is reduced. We then stop listening, and then we vote them out.
What are the implications of this for the workplace?
Well, the first is – this is big if you’re in the world of change management, it’s big if you’re in the world of pushing your staff to achieve some more – the first is mandate.
Just because you are the boss, just because you have the directive from the CEO interstate or overseas or wherever, doesn’t mean that people will automatically follow you just because you have the title. You need to get people on board.
The second is the message. You need to continually sell a message. What is in the change, what is the benefit, what is the outcome, what is the long-term consequence, good or bad, of actions being taken or not being taken? It needs to be explained over and over and over again.
The third is accepting that the people have the right to question your message.
You have decided to take certain actions; well, I am going to have to implement those actions, I have the right to question what it is you’re saying, what it is you’re doing. We don’t live in a dictatorship, and hopefully, businesses aren’t run as one. When people have the right to challenge, right to question, they feel stronger and more bound to your message if they have been able to challenge it.
A week is a long time in politics. We’ve seen some amazing changes happen, and we can take lessons from these and apply it to our work, and become stronger and better leaders as a result.