Leadership

Leadership and flip-flop politics – why the Greeks can and we can’t (get away with it).

By August 21, 2015 No Comments

leadershipCompare the Greek leadership to Australia’s. The Greek Prime Minister, who has just called a snap election, seems to demonstrate how to flip-flop on policy even if it hurts, and get away with it – in this case from a policy of non-austerity to continued hardship. You’ve got to admire the Greek’s capacity for pain – youth unemployment is over 50%, with no end in sight.

How does he get away with it? Here’s one difference. Leadership has to be values-driven, honest and visionary, and most of the people have to be prepared to follow it. The Greek PM has a popularity rating, even now, of over 60%. He couldn’t switch direction and get away with it if he wasn’t in tune with his people.

“Now it will be (for) the people to decide,” Mr. Tsipras said. “I feel the deep moral, political obligation to submit to your judgment.” It’s sounds like hyperbole, but visionary statements often are, and in this case the Greeks appear to trust him.

Leaders everywhere can learn so much from watching politicians, and with globalisation and social media the power of strong or weak leadership is now so visible. It’s going to be really interesting to watch, to see how long the charismatic Greek leader can keep the people with him. Pessimists abound.

The big Greek switch came after the early July referendum when the public supported the PM and voted “no” to austerity – but later, confronted with hard reality, he changed and went “yes” to more hardship in exchange for bail-out funds. The majority Greek response appears to be “I don’t like it, but he seems to know what he’s doing, so I’ll give him a shot.” We’ll soon see with the vote, but chances are it will follow his popularity polling.

Abbott/Hockey attempted austerity with their first budget and failed, with much less hardship but also importantly, much less vision and explanation, as well as insensitivity about what their electors would tolerate; in Greece there doesn’t seem to be a fat cigar or media stunt in sight, just good solid community engagement.

Back home, the Abbott government seems determined to take us where we don’t want to go at almost every turn (most recently with the Bronwyn Bishop saga and gay marriage), – without values-driven and visionary leadership, which has translated to their continued poor performance in the popularity polls.

I like this backgrounder in the NYT: http://goo.gl/BfvICz

Peter Wilkinson

Author Peter Wilkinson

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