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Leadership

April 29th, 2014

I’ve never been a fan of the idea of leadership[1][2]. This hagiographic portrait of Campbell Newman by Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams illustrates the problem. He describes Newman’s approach to policy execution as following the army’s ” “Task, Group, Individual” paradigm” and is fulsome (in all senses of the word) in his praise, concluding

Whether you support or oppose Newman’s policy choices, the evidence is the Premier is not engaging in random reactionary politics but, rather, adhering to a considered leadership plan. In the end, that’s all anyone can ask.

Well, no.

* We would reasonably ask that Newman should adhere to his election commitments which promised public servants their jobs would be safe.
* We could reasonably ask that basic rights like freedom of association should be preserved
* We could reasonably ask that our government should not spend millions of dollars of our money pushing claims about asset sales that no economist (not even strong advocates of privatisation) accepts.

If “leadership” meant persuading the public of the merits of particular policies, there would be a lot to be said for it. But, invariably, “leadership” means ramming through policies that voters don’t want, and hoping they will forget by the next election. In these circumstances, I’d prefer random reaction to a considered plan to do the opposite of what you promised.

fn1. One of its sadder outings was Labor’s doomed 1996 election campaign, which for some reason added a full stop to the word for its slogan. The sight of a “Leadership.” banner sagging to the floor on election night said it all.
fn2. I’ve long had the idea of writing a book on “followership”, on the general model of The Good Soldier Schweik. The key idea would be that a good follower makes sure that the leader is between them and whoever is shooting at them.

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  1. Megan
    April 29th, 2014 at 20:03 | #1

    Linking to News Ltd again?

    That tends to give them, even implicitly, the appearance of endorsement – if not actual $$ via ‘eye-balls’ & ‘clicks’.

    They laugh like a drain when the get people (especially critics) to send traffic their way via links.

    Has any News Ltd outlet ever linked to this site (other than in the hope of sending flying monkeys over here to poo everywhere)?

  2. Doug
    April 29th, 2014 at 20:40 | #2

    If you want to do some reading on the art of subverting leaders and strategies of followership you might enjoy the works of James C Scott – The Art of Not Being Governed, Weapons of the Weak, Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

  3. John Quiggin
    April 29th, 2014 at 20:42 | #3

    @Megan

    Brisbane is a small town, and (despite Brisbane Times), basically a one paper town. I actually get favorable cites from some friendly journos at the Courier-Mail. So, I tend to overlook the fact that its Murdoch from time to time.

  4. April 29th, 2014 at 21:04 | #4

    @John Quiggin

    Brisbane has about 25 newspapers. 22 ‘Quest’ titles, the ‘Courier-Mail’, ‘Sunday Mail’ & ‘The Australian’.

    There is a very good reason that Brisbanites can read so many newspapers (all owned by Murdoch). It is because Murdoch needs to have that many to use his monopoly muscle to ensure there can be no competition (‘Brisbane Times’ started out so promisingly but is a total dud. It now has more ‘Murdoch’ ex-hacks on staff than Fairfax originals).

    I actually get favorable cites from some friendly journos at the Courier-Mail.

    Classic Murdoch ‘Good Journo/Bad Journo’ ploy. I’m genuinely surprised that so many people still fall for it.

    I saw it with ‘Save The Shingle Inn’, ‘Save The Regent’, ‘Save Yungabah’ and most recently on the Gold Coast (where we also have a wide choice of 5 Murdoch papers) with their late infiltration of ‘Save Our Spit’.

    They send out some worm to make nice with the target. Target goes all gooey with their new friend. New friend manages to get some “good” stuff into print (they are always ‘fighting’ with their anti-target bosses, but putting up the good fight on behalf of the target).

    Bingo! Murdoch once again owns the debate via framing, target starts making excuses for the “good” journos trying their best & the Murdoch propaganda machine rolls on.

    I’ve studied it. That’s how it works. Every time.

  5. April 29th, 2014 at 21:31 | #5

    Doug :
    If you want to do some reading on the art of subverting leaders and strategies of followership you might enjoy the works of James C Scott – The Art of Not Being Governed, Weapons of the Weak, Domination and the Arts of Resistance.

    The book looks interesting. Unfortunately there are not too many highlands to retreat to in Australia. People who live in rugged highlands tend to be able to resist takeovers much better than others: the highlands of Scotland, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Switzerland… (many more examples but I would have to look at maps and check). This is partly due to the difficulty in farming those areas except through swidden farming or herding, so the big money and the agricultural hierarchies don’t get a grip there. You probably know of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities on the artificiality of modern nation states. I must push my own work, here: Demography, Territory, Law: The Rules of Animal and Human populations, http://candobetter.net/?q=node/3155 which talks about how locally clan-based communities function better than artificially built and defined communites. A major point being that in big populations with distant leaders it is very hard to get democracy.

  6. April 29th, 2014 at 21:38 | #6

    @Megan
    Megan,

    I totally agree with you. I see people waste their lives trying to ‘convince’ the Murdoch and Fairfax corporate investment groups and various worthless politicians of their point of view, when objective examination shows that those ‘authorities’ do not consider anyone outside their ‘class’ as human, although they will concede them as customers to some extent.

  7. Max
    April 29th, 2014 at 22:10 | #7

    1. I’d previously thought Dr Williams was reliable. Is his estimate for the next Qld election that the LNP will lose 20-30 seats but still keep govt, reliable?

    2. The Curious Snail is allowing people to read it without registering, which is a change from a few months ago. I wonder whether thats related to its video channel (“Dirty Digger TV”?), where it seems to be copying the ABC’s advantage of having a TV show (“The Drum”) that ties in with an online publication of the same name.

  8. David Allen
    April 29th, 2014 at 22:12 | #8

    Megan :
    Linking to News Ltd again?
    That tends to give them, even implicitly, the appearance of endorsement – if not actual $$ via ‘eye-balls’ & ‘clicks’.
    They laugh like a drain when the get people (especially critics) to send traffic their way via links.
    Has any News Ltd outlet ever linked to this site (other than in the hope of sending flying monkeys over here to poo everywhere)?

    Best comment this week! lol

  9. Frankis
    April 29th, 2014 at 22:41 | #9

    @John Quiggin
    Followed. Also LOL, very good!

  10. April 29th, 2014 at 23:08 | #10

    @Max

    Assuming you clicked through to the ‘Spurious-Tale’ from JQ’s site in order to discover that – QED.

  11. Midrash
    April 30th, 2014 at 01:37 | #11

    Do you think the myth and reality of Jeffrey Kennett’s government which, after Greiner departed, was by far the most dynamic and effective state government in Australia, still holds some politicians in its spell – especially perhaps Newman. (Kennett didn’t finish his degree at ANU, though clearly he could have, but he valued his time as a juniorvArmy officer highly).

  12. paul walter
    April 30th, 2014 at 05:31 | #12

    Ther is something in there, can’t quite pick- should comment once its worked its way through the works.

    Is it to do with the mangling of public or broadsheet media and the elimination of Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences from higher education, for example?

    We don’t know why we need to something (eg machine gun a preschool class).. we need only the skills to do a job until we are obsoleted and reprocessed as garden fertiliser, say?

    To me it seems to relate to a sense of something dystopic and Brave New Worldish, a land from which there is no return.

    Are we getting back to the Socratics and an exogenously induced Unconsidered Life?

    If so, it seems we need to have a think and a chat about what we are actually here for; what the purpose, meaning and value of life is, we Montags.

    Even if we are a bit rusty and unarmed when it comes to thinking about these deeper things.
    I do know one thing though, I am glad there are people like Campbell about to do my thinking for me though, I wouldnt have a clue as to how to do this myself and besides, it is a pain..

  13. rog
    April 30th, 2014 at 06:43 | #13

    There is an appeal generated by the image of a muscular alpha male, a warrior supposedly battling against all odds – like Putin.

  14. Socrates
    April 30th, 2014 at 08:13 | #14

    The modern definition/parody of leadership is simply gaining control of a large institution. The bigger the institution, the greater your power and pay. Even university VCs have worked this out.

    I think the word should be replaced by “rulership” as our slide back to feudalism continues.

  15. Ikonoclast
    April 30th, 2014 at 08:43 | #15

    Newman is a symptom of the disease. What is the disease? Then, how do we treat it?

  16. john
    April 30th, 2014 at 09:03 | #16

    ‘In the end, that’s all anyone can ask.’

    Well, no. We can also reasonably ask that their policies be sensible ones.

    There’s a personality type that loves strong leaders, regardless of how erratic they are. It’s the same type that bangs on about ‘letting the government govern’ after a hung election.

    I suspect it’s wrapped up with the authoritarian personality – not only bossy looking down, which is what you might first think of, but also subservient looking up. The personality that likes the security of having a clear position in an authoritarian organisation. Dogmatism=strength, compromise= weakness.

  17. Paul Norton
    April 30th, 2014 at 09:09 | #17

    Megan @4, would you also agree that the market, and market strategy, for the Murdoch tabloids in one-paper cities like Brisbane and the Gold Coast would be different than in Sydney or Melbourne where the Fairfax broadsheets have captured the (relatively) educated and (relatively) liberal readership in those cities?

  18. Newtownian
    April 30th, 2014 at 09:48 | #18

    You might extend this complaint to the concept of management concepts especially ‘Scientific Management’ or Taylorism which universities seem to currently love.

    Notionally the latter was defunct a while back but my reading of Wiki and some of his seminal articles suggests this precisely how modern management has evolved.

    Amusingly you can find modern articles reproducing Taylors thesis verbatim saying ‘Right On’ and exactly the same text being also reproduced by trotskyites (http address has a cute little Karl Marx thumbnail) saying in effect “see we told you so”.

    Now we all need management which automatically implies leaders who have done military training or an MBA in lieu of the old bronze age theocratic city state elite education – indeed I call myself one from time to time – but too often the form management takes as illustrated by Newman is authoritarian and intolerant of dissent, uses science as a buzz work to claim its rational (and therefore inevitable Neo), but in reality is nothing more than the old chainmail fist in the Velvet glove. It also encourages practitioners to believe they scientific masters of the universe.

    In the old days we called this crap cryptofascist. Regretably we can no long apply the old reduction ad Hitler even when its true. So today Campbell’s nonsense is just best practice as self evident a truth as Terra Nullius once was.

    And so we get the weasel words like rationalization, user pays etc., the hypocrisy, lies and the quiet ironic insults like references to ‘Suits’.

    Sadly as yet the left has no answer which I guess is not surprising with their past promotion of themselves as an elite as still happens in effect with political parties like Labor and the Greens.

    So sad. I wish there was an alternative.

  19. O6
    April 30th, 2014 at 10:53 | #19

    A friend of mine was negotiating a merger between his London legal partnership and a German legal partnership. My friend was doing the negotiation on behalf of his partnership but all the German senior partners came along and voiced their views. My friend finally said, ‘I can’t negotiate with fifteen of you. You need to appoint a leader.’ One of the Germans said, ‘We had a leader once. He took us to Moscow.’
    The merger did not take place.

  20. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    April 30th, 2014 at 11:17 | #20

    Your book looks interesting Sheila. Just downloaded the Amazon sample.

  21. Ernestine Gross
    April 30th, 2014 at 14:24 | #21

    I am also not fond of the word ‘leadership’. Promoters of the word ‘leadership’ in some management literature I’ve come across (could not avoid) during the period 1994 to 2004 write in a way that ‘communicates’ the ‘message’ the word itself has a positive connotation and therefore anybody who can attach the word ‘leadership’ to its name must be a good ‘guy’ (generic rather than gender). But history is dotted with examples of horrific consequences of leadership and, on a micro level, ‘leadership figures’ seem to be skilled in hiding behind underlings.

    It would be most uplifting, in some sense, to get a book where the followers manage to get the leader between themselves and the attacker. The End of Fallmen comes to mind as a possible title.

  22. April 30th, 2014 at 20:28 | #22

    @Paul Norton

    I’m not sure I understand the question, but I’ll have a go:

    I would agree that the market “strategy” Murdoch adopts is different in non-Murdoch-monopoly cities like Sydney & Melbourne.

    However, I would reject the idea that somehow “we” (Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Cairns etc…) are a “different” market just because Murdoch has achieved monopoly status.

    That’s part of the reason I’m so exercised by the Murdoch monopoly. He ends up controlling the “debate” on every issue – commercial radio & TV and, of course, ‘their’ ABC parrots and rehashes whatever they are presented with by Murdoch every day.

    It isn’t just tedious, it is toxic to a functioning democracy.

    PS: The Gold Coast City Council is going to decide this Friday whether to support the cruise ship terminal the Mayor wants for his developer mates on 100ha of public land at the ‘Spit’. To help them, they have allowed the proposed developer, ASF, to run a “community consultation”.

    The problem is that ASF paid Murdoch’s ‘Newspoll’ to run the consultation in secret without any transparency. One can guess what they will “find” as a result of their work.

  23. Sheila Newman
    May 1st, 2014 at 00:37 | #23

    @Nevil Kingston-Brown
    Oh, thanks Nevil! Hope you get to the really new theory part, chapters 3 and 4.

  24. Sheila Newman
    May 1st, 2014 at 00:44 | #24

    @Megan
    Re non-Murdoch monopoly cities, I live in Melbourne, where Fairfax exists, but there is barely any difference. And both Murdoch and Fairfax run those two huge property dot coms: domain.com.au and realestate.com.au which market Australian property and citizenship to the world. These groups should be obliged to declare their financial interests on the back page. I have become so cynical that, when I read a report about a drug or a food being bad for you, I suspect that the newspaper group is aiming to buy low. And, when something is promoted as a good consumable, I assume they are about to sell. Without knowing what Murdoch and Fairfax own and invest in day to day and over time, of course, I cannot verify my suspicions. However, why become media barons unless you are going to sell real news – which is only a sideline for Fairfax and Murdoch – or covertly market your investments – which has to be the main game. I assume that they have a lot invested in weapons and geosearch, given their rants on behalf of the US/NATO in the Caspian.

  25. Megan
    May 2nd, 2014 at 19:56 | #25

    PPS:

    The problem is that ASF paid Murdoch’s ‘Newspoll’ to run the consultation in secret without any transparency. One can guess what they will “find” as a result of their work.

    The completely bogus Murdoch Newspoll (paid for by the developer and conducted without oversight or transparency) “found” that more than 50% of Gold Coasters want the development to go ahead.

    The Gold Coast City Council today voted to support the Cruise Terminal at the Spit. What a surprise!

  26. Gab
    May 3rd, 2014 at 09:55 | #26

    test2

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