Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Leadership needs rethink

Australians need to think differently about power and leadership, Author and Social Leadership, Director, Geoff Aigner told a CEDA audience in Adelaide.

Australians need to think differently about power and leadership, Author and Social Leadership Australia, Director, Geoff Aigner told a CEDA audience in Adelaide.

Speaking at the Adelaide book launch of The Australian Leadership Paradox; What it takes to lead in the lucky country, Co-author Mr Aigner said there are many paradoxes in Australian leadership which need to be openly discussed in order to change our view of power.

Mr Aigner said the book discusses four paradoxes in Australian leadership:

  • Being dependent on those in power for protection and support, while holding an anti-authority mentality;
  • Thinking that we should all be equal yet becoming more hierarchical;
  • Australia's mateship and relational culture seemingly unable to co-exist with ambition and competition which are needed to drive innovation and change; and
  • Living in prosperity yet considering ourselves battlers.

He said in order to change how we view power in Australia we need to be clear on the purpose of leadership and power,  better understand our roles and own our power.

Mr Aigner said leadership in business is wrongly perceived as trying to get everyone on the same side of the fence.

The work of leadership is about acknowledging that we may never change another's point of view, but if we want to do business together we have to find a way to make it work for everyone, he said.

Part of the problem is that we're all trained to be good advocates but we're not trained to hear the other side, he said.

The forum heard that the traditional authority structures are being challenged and that innovation often occurs outside of this structure.

Innovation often comes from outside the mainstream, where we have the freedom to be creative, said Premiers Council for Women, Co-Chair, Emeritus Professor Anne Edwards AO.

"Many of the most successful counter creative alternative ways of achieving the things we want to achieve are best, and are more successful, when they are on the fringes," she said.

These alternatives are achieved when we are not under the critical review of the central blocks of power and control, she said.

Former Integrated Design SA Commissioner, Tim Horton said: "Change is increasingly more possible without the traditional leaders in place."

Social media is challenging the traditional authority because it reduces the particular barriers for entry around engagement and organisation, he said.

RAA, Managing Director, Ian Stone said the RAA has introduced a new leadership framework which eliminates layers of authority.

The RAA has aligned accountability and authority so if you're accountable for something, you have the power and authority to deliver on that, he said.

Central to this is giving staff the context of their role to ensure they are capable and willing to use the power and authority handed to them, he said.

"It's very hard to give staff an understanding of what their role is if they don't understand the context in which they're doing it," he said.

"If they understand the context they're better able to use that power."

In addition, talent management is an important to ensure you get the right people with the capability to handle power into the right positions, Mr Stone said.