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What ignites the right time for courageous authenticity to succeed?

copy-of-stephanie-pope-2019Stephanie Pope

Director | Te Wana Quality Standards and Accreditation Programme

After the Australian elections last weekend, this blog has become very different to the one that I had started to write.

I had been writing about the challenges for the community and social sector organisations we work with trying to stretch human and other resources in order to meet their many compliance burdens, and how this activity is actually compromising their quality improvement process.

However as Te Wana is a trans Tasman program/me with accredited services in Australia and Aotearoa/NZ and I am currently working in Australia during the election time, I can’t help but observe the campaign progression and the outcome.

This is not meant to be a political commentary more a reflection on values, leadership and how many elements or just plain good or bad ‘luck’ plays a part in events and what lessons are there for us as a sector.

Just as NZ is presenting its wellbeing budget, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has gained international recognition and positive acknowledgement for leadership in compassion, kindness and authenticity, Australia is mourning the loss of a legendary Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

There are some significant similarities in these two leaders including the mentioned compassion and authenticity. There is also that each was a replacement for the existing opposition party leader very close to the election time and was almost immediately welcomed by many as a very popular alternative to the traditional politician of the day.

Each spoke in heartfelt ways without the use of prepared notes, in personal and optimistic words connecting with many previously disenfranchised voters. A feeling of possibilities and positive futures had great appeal. Even traditionally opposed party members were wooed.

This wave of popularity continued into their terms of government and consolidated in tragic and testing times. For Jacinda Ardern, the Christchurch massacre, for Bob Hawke, the Tiananmen Square massacre. Both leaders acted instinctively and authentically showing the world their personal grief and pain in unscripted ways. This is strength without bullying, strength without aggression and is the strength of communities.

In a general poll asking Australians who was their preferred Prime Minister, 70% chose Jacinda Ardern, then three other women (not all in the same party) and only after them the two actual candidates, both male.

Despite this choice and model of leadership being refreshed by publicity on the passing of Bob Hawke mere days before the Australian election, Australians did not vote for altruism or a climate protection concept in sufficient numbers to form government.

A large vote for coal mining and unlikely tax cuts carried the day for a government that has been polled as the least preferred government for the past six years!

How did this happen is the dominating question in every post mortem media and social posting of the past days?

A parallel presents itself – a replacement leader close to the election, presented as an ‘everyday bloke’ spoke without notes generally and was somehow perceived as not connected to the very government he served in as a treasurer of significant cuts to all but big business.

So lessons learned? Is having leadership authenticity a coincidence of timing not selection?

Does a voting population like novelty but not change? Self interest over equity and fairness for all? A more likeable face and charismatic style to policy substance?

Although it is Australia not NZ are there warnings on the impact this community has for the charitable and community services and sector?

At least in the short term, Australian social media is filled with sadness, loss, division and tit for tat comments. Commentary is frequently directed towards and from coal mining advocates and climate protection advocates, not surprising but definitely alarming.

“Well not giving any more donations for flood and drought relief now”. “Hope the mines fail and you have to live on welfare”.

“Go cry in your lattes tree huggers”.  You lost we (mining) won – suck it up snowflakes”.

“I want to move to New Zealand” is common.

Slowly there are positive messages seeping through to not let disappointment foster division and apathy and to find resilience. Seems to me that is the enduring NGO message of all times.

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

Click here for our websitehttp://comvoices.org.nz/