Why did I start the Australian Leadership Project?

| February 20, 2017
Victor Perton with Barack Obama during G20 Summit

One often comes across cynicism and uncertainty in conversations about Australia’s leadership qualities. Victor Perton is passionate to share the stories of great Australian leadership.

“Celebrating, understanding and improving Australian leadership.”

That’s the mission of the Australian Leadership Project. Why have I thrown myself into this project, and why are people so willing to share their wisdom and insights with us?

In the midst of so much negative talk and media, I believe there are reasons for Australians to celebrate our leaders, and I want to share the stories of good and great Australian leadership.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet many Australian leaders from government, business and the not-for-profit sector. I have spent many thousands of hours listening to the day-to-day challenges of leadership and the needs of people.

The idea of a blog and website devoted to the positive elements of Australian leadership came to me after the completion of the Australian G20 presidency where I served with engagement responsibilities. During my conversations and work during the G20 presidency, it was evident that the other members regarded the Australian presidency as excellent and a highpoint in G20 summits.

This built on my experience as Commissioner to the Americas. Across the Americas there is a very positive stereotype of Australia and its leaders. I recall my first meeting with then Utah Governor Jon Huntsman who immediately waxed lyrical about Australian leadership in water policy. Similar conversations peppered my meetings in North America and Latin America from former President Bill Clinton to the Secretary General of the Brazil Olympics to local Governors and Mayors.

However, when I talked with Australians, there was an odd angst about our leadership. The other day, I had a conversation with someone who was curious about a beach-side roundtable on Australian leadership that I was leading.

She rolled her eyes at the concept of Australian leadership, and that’s typical of modern Australian conversation: There is often bleakness, cynicism and uncertainty about our leadership qualities. This may be our conversational style and humour or an impact of the continuing tall-poppy syndrome. However, I am concerned there is a lack of appreciation for what we’ve got and what we’ve achieved.

When you look at the success of Australia, you have to marvel at how its style of leadership has succeeded. It was a convict colony in the 1800s and has grown to be one of the most advanced economies – a population of 24 million with the world’s 12th largest economy. It’s a regional leader.

Looking at the global indexes like the OECD Better Life Index and the UNDP Development Index, it’s evident that no people on earth have lived as well as the Australians of today. Even on the narrower question of wealth, Credit Suisse ranks Australians in the top 3 for average personal wealth. Something must have gone right in the leadership decisions of millions of Australians over the centuries.

In the Australian Leadership blog you will see well-informed opinions, wisdom and insights into Australian leadership. I hope you find it useful and feel that you too would like to contribute your insights.

I would like you to think about three questions:

  1. What are the unique qualities of leadership in Australia and by Australians?
  2. What are the qualities that Australians seek from their leaders?
  3. What are the finest examples of Australian leadership you have experienced or delivered?

Interested in answering these questions or supporting the Australian Leadership Project? Use the linked survey on Australian leadership!