So you want to be a leader –


Part 1: Leadership concerns the most visible form of leadership, exercised by those who are front and centre in public life – the archetypal leaders. They cannot pass the buck, for the buck stops with them. Essays in this part are written by those who are or have been leaders in this sense, and those who have closely observed them. The essays consider the deepest question about leadership: what leaders should be.


Dr Nick Jans OAM is a principal of Sigma Consultancy. A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, he is currently serving with the rank of brigadier. Nick is on the editorial board of the journal Armed Forces & Society and holds visiting fellowships at the Australian Defence College’s Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics and the School of Business, UNSW@ADFA, Canberra. He is the lead author of The chiefs—a study of strategic leadership (2013).

Leadership in a time of crisis – lessons from Black Saturday

Good leadership often seems like magic; the most inspiring leader–follower relationships involve an almost indefinable spark between the leader and the led. But while it may be almost indefinable—like great art or falling in love—we know it when we feel it and we can be moved by it without knowing exactly why.

Nick Jans’ essay concerns leadership in a time of disaster. Following the Black Saturday firestorm of 7 February 2009, the Marysville Triangle district of Victoria faced a bleak future. In the following weeks and months Nick worked alongside three outstanding individuals who exemplified that ‘magic spark’. These three people inspired a group of ordinary citizens to work to rebuild a stunned, fractured and dispersed community—a goal they achieved with remarkable success.


Professor Geoff Gallop AC is a former Labor premier of Western Australia. After studying economics at the University of Western Australia, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University. His doctorate was awarded in 1983. From 1986 to 2006 he was a member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. He was a minister in the Lawrence Labor government in Western Australia from 1990 to 1993 and the leader of the opposition from 1996 to 2001. He was the premier of Western Australia from 2001 to 2006.

Professor Gallop is currently director of the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney, initiating public sector executive education programs, some of which have been delivered in Africa and South-East Asia. He also chairs the Australia Awards Board for the Commonwealth Government. He has published three books—Pigs’ meat: selected writings of Thomas Spence (1982), A state of reform: essays for a better future (1998), and Politics, society, self: occasional writings (2012).

In 2008 Professor Gallop was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Leadership – its all about you

At its core, leadership is personal—it’s all about you! It’s true, of course, that leaders need technical, managerial and political capacities and skills—they are necessary for leadership, but not sufficient. Leadership in an accountable society needs not only personality and presence but also self-awareness, integrity and empathy. Egos, emotions and morality are involved and cannot be ignored.



Andrew Hughes is the principal of Andrew Hughes Training. With degrees in economics and law, and a masters degree in international law, Andrew has had varied exposure to the corporate legal world before turning to his current role. Known as Australia’s most inspirational mindset coach for professionals, Andrew is an international speaker, corporate trainer, and executive coach. His courses in human potential and transformational leadership have been enthusiastically received. He is passionate about developing talent, increasing employee engagement and creating leaders.

Broaden your perspective and find your path

Leadership is a concept generally associated with and spoken about in the context of a business, a cause, an organisation, a field or an idea, but this limits what leading is really about. Leadership transcends these contexts and concepts—a great leader is not defined by what he does, neither by where she does it, but by what she embodies, nurtures in others, and authentically lives.

Great leaders acknowledge the primacy of life over any career, cause or organisation—the latter serves, and is an expression of, the former and not vice versa. Guided by their calling, great leaders observe the drama of life with perspective, and respond with wisdom rather than cleverness. They approach the experience of life as an opportunity to express potential and live authentically, just as Steve Jobs did in his short but emphatic life.

This approach to leadership, as embodied by great global figures such as Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi, is the way of being that the world needs now. It’s a model of behaviour that is in stark contrast with the self-interested and destructive approach that commonly pervades public life.



Cassandra Wilkinson is a social entrepreneur, political commentator and newspaper columnist. She was formerly a senior political adviser. Her book Don’t panic: nearly everything is better than you think discusses how doom-sayers from both the left and the right seek to make us panic in pursuit of their agendas and argues that the world is a nicer, safer, cleaner place than we think.

Cassandra is the co-founder and president of Australia’s only dedicated Australian music radio station, FBi Radio 94.5FM. She is also a director of contemporary music peak body Music NSW and a director of the Human Capital Project, a personal equity finance provider for Cambodian university students.

Being the leaders we want to see in the world

Cassandra argues that our community is full of great leaders—but not always in the places we expect to find them. These people show us that real leadership doesn’t wait for permission and it doesn’t need an audience. By grasping the opportunity to take on leadership roles that are small and local we can grow into the leaders we’ve been waiting to follow.




Nadja Alexander is professor of conflict resolution and law at Hong Kong Shue Yan University and visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Professor Alexander is active as a conflict intervener, speaker, coach and trainer in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and Australia. She has been engaged as a government policy adviser on dispute resolution in more than 10 countries and facilitated public conversations about how we engage with conflict in more than 30 countries.

Professor Alexander is co-developer of the REAL Conflict Coaching model[1] upon which parts of this essay are drawn. She edits the Kluwer Mediation Blog and the book series Global Trends in Dispute Resolution. Her books have appeared in the English, German, French, Russian and Chinese languages, with one, International comparative mediation, winning the international CPR Institute award for outstanding dispute resolution book.

[1] See ‘REAL’ is an acronym for ‘reflection, engagement, artistry, learning’.


Letting in the light – finding your tragic hero

This essay is about you, your brain and the stories you know. In this essay Nadja Alexander explores the melodramatic nature of the tales we tell when we are stuck in difficult conversations and tense situations. Whether in public or private life, when we find ourselves in conflict we tend to use particular storytelling patterns called melodramatic narratives. Here we explore the potentially destructive nature of these conflict storytelling patterns and consider the extent to which they are wired into the default mechanisms of our DNA. Drawing upon ideas from the practice of storytelling, narrative structures and conflict coaching theory, Nadja shows how we can mindfully engage our emotional intelligences, to find our own inner hero—the tragic hero. In doing so, we can shift the way we think about conflict from the blame pattern of melodrama to the problem-solving yet realistic structure of tragedy. Yes, life wasn’t meant to be easy, but it doesn’t have to be a melodrama.

Nadja Alexander explains how we can use the narrative of tragedy in the conflicts of public and private life to engage even the most challenging of adversaries.



Daryl Dixon is Executive Chairman, Dixon Advisory and Superannuation Services. He is an investment expert and a well-known writer and consultant on investment and superannuation matters. He previously worked for the Australian Department of the Treasury and Department of Finance and for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Daryl has extensive experience in public finance, taxation and retirement income theory and policy as an academic at the ANU and the University of Calgary, Canada, and at the IMF, the federal Treasury, the Department of Finance and the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat within the social security portfolio.

Tales of public policy formation

Daryl Dixon’s essay contains a number of anecdotes and reflections from his long and distinguished career. He expresses the hope that those aspiring to public leadership will have the courage of their convictions, study some positive examples of courageous and rational decisions in the area of public policy, and—while taking account of the practicalities and necessities that hedge such decisions—still prefer the well-researched and longer view of public policy. He counsels that you give yourself every opportunity to learn—not just how to make decisions, but how to determine what decisions to make. Inevitably, because of the global financial crisis, governments will be forced to live within their means. This will require hard but by no means traumatic decisions because of the still considerable scope to avoid overlap and duplication and achieve efficiencies. If our new leaders are prepared to step up to the plate and understand the fundamental public policy issues that need to be addressed, it will be possible to achieve progress.


Ray Groom AO was a member of the federal and Tasmanian parliaments for a total period of almost 24 years. He served as a federal government minister in the Fraser government. He is a former premier of Tasmania and held senior Tasmanian portfolios including serving as attorney-general, treasurer and minister for state development.

Ray Groom is also a lawyer, and following his retirement from parliament he was appointed deputy president of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He was also the sole assessor of claims under the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 (Tas) and was the sole independent assessor of claims by individuals who had suffered abuse when in state care in Tasmania.

In his youth, Ray Groom was a nationally ranked athlete and also played AFL football for the Melbourne Football Club. He won the club’s best & fairest in 1968. He represented both Tasmania and Victoria in Australian rules football and has been inducted into the Tasmanian football hall of fame.

Painting politics in a positive light

Ray Groom addresses what he knows from experience to be some of the serious concerns of young people contemplating a career in politics. In most societies and eras, politicians have routinely been criticised as venal and incompetent. Ray explains the reason for, and value of, criticism of politicians. At the same time, he argues that politicians should be seen in a more positive light; that if one actually gets to know a politician, generally one finds they are likeable and approachable. It is politicians who make the really big decisions affecting our society, and Australia’s high standing in the world is testament to the wisdom of past decisions.

Ray Groom appeals to talented, young Australians to consider a career in politics—ideally starting at 35 or 40—and offers some valuable hints for political aspirants.


Greg Rudd was an independent Senate candidate for Queensland in the 2013 federal election. He was previously an investment consultant based in Beijing and Canberra. He founded and led a political lobbying consultancy in Australia for over a decade. Greg was a former chief of staff in the Hawke and Keating Governments, general manager of the Queensland Ballet and the TN Theatre Company[1], a teacher and university lecturer, a writer of fiction and non-fiction—and always a thinker.

[1] Originally the Twelfth Night Theatre Company; the theatre itself retains the name ‘Twelfth Night Theatre’.

Escaping the trap of our own creation

Greg’s essay outlines how to improve our parliamentary democracy through commonsense structural reform that puts Australia’s interests first rather than the interests of political parties or career politics. Greg argues that we need to create a structure owned by the parliament, rather than political parties, to protect and quarantine vital medium- to long-term economic policy currently being polluted by shallow and artificially antagonistic 24/7 political and media short-termism.

Greg argues Australia is a lucky country but it won’t stay lucky unless we work at it.