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Will his communication skills hold him up or tear him down? We learn a lot about communications by watching politicians. Scott Morrison was initially hailed as a great communicator but failed through his term, as with PM. John Howard – a great communicator, but losing connections with voters at the end.

Every leader rallies followers differently. As communication professionals, however, we look for patterns – the markers for success or failure – to help us as advisers. Here are the five big ones:

  1. Disunity: Argument in a leadership team is poison, particularly during a crisis or rapid change, leading to time-wasting and compromised board-room or executive decisions. Speaking to insiders I understand the PM may show us a trick or two at maintaining cohesion – a great communication skill – either by finding a middle ground on divisive issues, or shackling opponents (restricting staff to cross benchers). He failed, however, to pull his team into line over the Kimberley Kitching incident.
  2. Personality: That indefinable quality in a leader that you can’t describe but can identify when you see it. Every leader struggles with this and changing a personality trait is hard. Stubbornness and abrasiveness became Morrison’s fail points. Once the honeymoon is over, will we want to get behind this bloke and his vision? The new PM’s attributes or handicaps will include his attention to detail (already seen wanting in the first week of the election campaign over critical fiscal and employment stats), his values and behaviours (under pressure will he default to his hard-left roots?), his capacity for risk, his tolerance for other viewpoints and inclusiveness, and even that other indefinable, his likeability.
  3. Messaging:  Will he have the communication skills to keep the community travelling on his journey? Many CEO’s now stay to achieve a goal and leave before they’ve outstayed their welcome. Albanese will be judged by both words and actions. Shortness with pesky journalists has revealed a liability. The Indigenous Voice to Parliament will, I suspect, be a major stress test on the PM’s ability to unite the community, particularly once the debate gets into the detail.
  4. Nimbleness: Can he quickly adapt to circumstances? Probably. In a world of rapid change this is more a fail point for ‘stuck-in-the-mud’ business leaders than politicians, who are used to the art of staying ahead of the daily narrative across traditional and social media.
  5. Mistakes: A leader can build a reputation over a career and trash it with one incident. The new PM will be remembered for his mistakes, and how he manages them, more than for his successes. It’s fair to say that the ham-fisted way ScoMo reneged on the French subs deal to set up AUKUS was a communication disaster – the “liar” accusation overshadowed the momentous initiative.

Author Peter Wilkinson

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