Following the deadly climate event unleashed upon Auckland and current mayor, Wayne Brown’s much criticised leadership ‘performance’ I have been thinking about leadership, leaders, and the people who are incredibly good at leading and those who, well, aren’t. In doing so I trawled through my memory of people I have known, read about, or pondered from afar, who have exemplified inspirational leadership and the qualities they exemplified.
I also thought about myself and the firm self-awareness that I am not a leader, despite hoping that I may be when I was younger. Personally I think that’s a thought or a dream we all have at some point in our lives. Everyone loves the notion of inspiring and guiding a crew, a team, a collection of human beings on a mission or an endeavour. Truth is, there’s only a small percentage of us that can lead and that have what could be termed as, ‘the right stuff’.
Leading by example
Many decades ago I played rugby, whilst at university, in a decent team in a solid competition. I can’t recall when our captain was chosen for the role, probably after a few practices and perhaps on his reputation as a schoolboy rugby player. He was a formidable, versatile, and incredibly talented player but we had a team of those. What put him above the rest of us was the manner in which he played and the way that brought us together and made our team an unbeatable sum of its constituent parts. He was always in the thick of the action, he always put his body on the line, he tackled anything that moved, and he never stopped.
More importantly, he was humble, selfless, and never once criticised any of the rest of the team. He made no excuses, he never apportioned blame elsewhere and he knew how to motivate through his own play, and the occasional pat on the back to commiserate or to praise. It’s a long time since that team played but I occasionally think of him, of our team and how we outperformed so many teams that should have beaten us. Having someone at the helm who never gave up, quietly gave us permission to do the same thing.
Buses are for travelling on, not throwing people under
Mayor Wayne Brown doesn’t like ‘the media’ and had given very few interviews since he was elected late last year. That’s an issue. The mayor of any city or town is a public official with a duty to communicate to their constituents. For better or worse, our fourth estate exists to facilitate this. Wayne Brown thinks the media are ‘drongos’, although he has since apologised for that. I sometimes agree with him but I’m not the mayor of Auckland. The luxury of being a nobody is my opinions don’t count.
Without putting the boot in too much on a man who thus far has shown a distinct lack of every trait required to lead, the one thing that qualifies every failed leader is the need to blame and take little self responsibility. Few want to follow those people, they are difficult to trust, they inspire disaffection, not loyalty. In my experience fantastic leaders never criticise others; they deal with issues, quietly and efficiently and encourage. If blame is required they take it on their own shoulders. They signal that they are in charge and any failure in the team or organisation is on them.
Wayne Brown may be a tremendous person but he is not a leader. Nor am I. the difference is that I know that and have for a very long time, Wayne Brown doesn’t and his position not only requires it, it depends on it.