17 JULY 2021

As we continue to experience the impact of the pandemic, the topic of U3APP’s Saturday seminar could not have been more topical, Beyond the hero-leader: effective leadership in troubled times.

In periods of crisis people call for a hero-leader. However, what are the risks? Worldwide crises have promoted a focus on leaders. Donald Trump emerged as one kind of leader arguably, a strong leader but often providing inflexible, overly simplistic responses to complex problems.

We were fortunate that Professor James Walter Emeritus Professor (Politics) Monash University and U3APP member who has spent decades studying political leadership styles showed us why we must dispel the myth of the strong leader in order to identify the characteristics of effective leadership in the contemporary context.

Professor Walter discussed the characteristics of strong leaders and compared them with those of effective leaders.   He did this by examining the leadership styles of three recent Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, John Howard and Julia Gillard and the current Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.  He highlighted the specific skills and failings of each. What was common to all was a clear set of objectives, good working relationships with colleagues and public servants, the capacity to listen to and incorporate the views of others, even if it meant changing the initial message.  On the latter Julia Gillard was an exception. Professor Walter indicated that even without a parliamentary majority the government under her leadership passed more legislation than any of the subsequent Parliaments. However, for a variety of reasons she was not able to achieve rapport with the public.

The seminar was well facilitated by Dr Maurita Harney Honorary Senior Fellow, Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne and U3APP tutor.  As Maurita pointed out the enthusiasm of the audience was reflected in the number of questions. As she concluded, much food for thought!

To watch the recording of the seminar, click HERE.

Pam Caven, CoM, Working Group

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