Leaders come in many shades. Political leaders are among the most diverse – after all, there are no formal qualifications! They have the ability to affect the lives of millions, yet are exposed to constant scrutiny and criticism. So how do they think about leadership?
Anna Bligh - a woman who isn’t afraid of forging ahead and making waves
I recently interviewed Anna Bligh, the first female Premier of Queensland for my upcoming 2018 documentary Make Me A Leader. Elected to Parliament in 1995, she became Queensland’s first female Education Minister in 2001.
Compared to other leaders, senior Politicians face a unique set of challenges. In the messiness of democracy, time is always tight. Things need to get done when conditions are often not ideal. Waiting can be fatal. The challenge is getting things done while still retaining a sense of purpose and ethical responsibility.
“Leadership, to me, is the interplay between vision and courage.”
Leaders know what it’s like to face complex problems. Most do not do so with real-time and very public pressure. One of the several disasters facing Anna Bligh during her 5 year Premiership was when the coal tanker Shen Neng ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. She had to quickly process often-incomplete information, consider expert inputs & make decisions that could directly impact the future of the iconic reef.
Ms. Bligh said that she often felt divided about appearing tough, but also compassionate in times of emergency. She tried to appear stoic and professional to the media, but also allowed her emotions at such tragedy to show. She was conscious that such a reaction was what people needed at that time.
While the consequences of most of our decisions as leaders are unlikely to be so dramatic as saving the Great Barrier Reer, they are still important. Outstanding corporate leaders must have a deep understanding of their business, but also an equally deep knowledge and understanding of their people.
Failure is always an option, and that’s OK
In one of the most poignant moments of the interview, Ms. Bligh remarked that sometimes, failure happens. As leaders, we won’t always succeed. Sometimes we will fail, but we can choose to see those moments as opportunities to learn.
Failure is a great teacher. We should never be afraid to ‘get back on the leadership horse’ when we get things wrong. Great leaders do not quit because of a failure. They adapt and become better.