To have effective control is to exercise an authoritative or dominating influence whilst having the ability to restrain that control.
Some of our present and recent politicians exercise it in odd ways.
Kevin Rudd was a control freak. Mark Latham was out of control. Tony Abbott has lost control. Julia Gillard is in control.
Let’s briefly consider each one individually.
To the Canberra bureaucrats it was no surprise that Kevin Rudd was whitewashed in the last leadership challenge against Julia Gillard. I use the word ‘last’ reservedly, as I’m sure the mainstream media will convince us that another challenge is only moments away. And another after that, and so on ad nauseum.
Those who work within the corridors of government will attest that Kevin Rudd is a control freak, to the point where working relationships become untenable. Critics had been quick to predict the demise of the Labor Government in discarding Rudd, given his electoral popularity. He was seen as the saviour of the current administration. That the party voted overwhelmingly to support Julia Gillard, despite the media prediction that to do so would result in doom, speaks volumes of their opinion of their former leader.
He is held in such contempt within Canberra’s bureaucratic community that no one wants to work with him because he is widely regarded as not only a control freak but a man possessing an obsessive superiority complex.
Not the qualities of a good leader.
In portraying himself as a victim and quick to blame the world for his woes, Mark Latham provides a stark contrast to Kevin Rudd. Booted from the leadership of Labor he went down in a screaming heap, punching and scratching as he went. In the years since, he has exercised no restraint in condemning the party he once led and who could forget his performance as a reporter in the 2010 election campaign where to observers he displayed all the characteristics of a sore loser and Labor ‘deserved’ to lose because of what the party did to him. His behaviour is not unlike the reaction of a spoiled child who missed out on his favourite lollies. Yet history has shown that if he had a bag of lollies he would never share them. The Prime Minister summed him up when she recently said:
You can’t preach compassion if you don’t show it to those nearest to you.
You can’t argue for fairness if you treat people unfairly.
You can’t stand for honesty, if you aren’t honest with yourself and your own.
A good leader is gracious in defeat. Mark Latham was not, and neither was Tony Abbott.
While his gaze is forever fixed on blaming Labor for denying him the keys to The Lodge, he is unable to notice that sitting directly behind him is the most incompetent, undisciplined, irresponsible rabble ever to occupy the benches of the Opposition. And why are they like that? The answer is simple: They do not have a leader who can provide direction or vision. It’s a two-edged sword.
Unable to lure the Government to the early election they have fought so hard for, the Opposition now comes across like a mob of dazed and confused rabbits caught in the headlights of a speeding media convoy. All of a sudden they have nowhere to run. Their incessant gibberish is desperate.
And that’s how they come across. A pack of rabbits running off in all directions with no leader to follow. Every decision contradicted. Lost for ideas.
They need a leader. They need a leader in control. Instead they get Tony Abbott.
He has not one attribute that could hope to inspire them. In order to lead and set direction a leader needs to inspire confidence in others and draw out the best efforts of his or her team to complete their tasks well. A leader who conveys confidence towards their objectives inspires the best effort from team members. Tony Abbott fails. He has lost control.
Consider the first line and a half from Kipling’s timeless poem If:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs . . .
That doesn’t sound like Tony Abbott, does it? Not only has he lost control of his team but he is devoid of any self-control. His media and parliamentary performances attest to that.
He is the opposite of Julia Gillard; a person in total control.
The starkest difference between the two is that Julia Gillard is a person who has a vision, with the drive and commitment to achieve that vision. And also unlike Mr Abbott she possesses the skills to make it happen. You might argue that Kevin Rudd also had that vision and drive, and you will not get an argument from me, but he lacked the ability to lead by example and develop a cohesive team. Successful leaders empower others by managing their control.
Another aspect of Julia Gillard’s control is that she knows her team; what they are doing; what they are saying; and what makes them tick. She knows their strengths and their weaknesses. The former she nurtures, the latter she develops.
On the parliamentary floor they do not makes fools of themselves. They have a sense of self discipline. That is to her credit.
Across the floor sits a disorganised leader who isn’t leading, he’s simply chasing his tail. Disorganisation breeds nothing but more disorganisation. If you’re frazzled and chaotic, so too will your team will be. When you’re organised and in control you’ll be much more productive and so will everyone else in the team.
Even her thoughts are controlled. A person in control has the ability to listen and communicate effectively. She has a vision and can articulate it at all levels. Do Rudd, Latham or Abbott have that ability?
Being in control also manufactures a mental toughness. Nobody can lead without being criticised or without facing discouragement. In this sense, Julia Gillard is a great leader.
She is in control. She has control.