Six Attributes of “Leadership”

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This is likely a longer piece than usual, but I think important as we all consider the place of leadership mid-way through the term of appointment of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

I have been asked many times over the years I have served as a CEO, to define leadership.  There are of course quotes such as “It is an art, rather than a science”.  Or “You can tell if you are a leader when there is someone following behind you”.  What seems to be true is that you are not born to be a leader, and leadership is not achieved from a one day development training session.  However, we can grow as leaders every day – and indeed we must.  And leadership is about people, whilst management is about tasks and things.

But even those small truisms above do not do justice to this thing called leadership.  Most of us can likely recall our own examples of where we have experienced poor, or ineffective leadership.  We may even now be wincing as we read, recognising our own lack of skills in a leadership role at some time in the past.  We can also likely recall and acknowledge some fine experience of leadership that was such a joy to be party to.

Good leadership is a thing of beauty to experience.  Much like a diamond.  A diamond has so many qualities and when cut well, is a thing of beauty to behold.  It is hardly surprising that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.  As the following picture shows, even a so called six sided diamond has much more to offer than the “simple” six sided cuts.

So it is with leadership.

I provide below just six sides, or attributes, of leadership that I believe if practiced (well) every day will not only assist us to be better performing leaders but will drive better performance in our organisations.  I am certain we can all accept that leadership is more complex than these six, but these are a sound foundation.  The attributes are provided in alphabetical order only for convenience:

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The Truth Is Out There!

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Over the past several years I have written often on how much funding I believe the aged care sector has been short-changed by a range of political and bureaucratic decisions over.  Aged care funding is not adequate to meet the health care needs of Australia’s frail elderly, vulnerable, care recipients.  My comments apply across residential aged care funding and home/community care package funding alike.  You can review some of my previous articles in the footnotes below. [1] [2]

Patricia Sparrow, Chief Executive of the not-profit aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), commentating recently on home care packages, lamented the lack of preparedness and capability of our aged care system, saying “Until we see adequate long-term planning for the structural and funding issues, Australia won’t be able to fully address the needs of older Australians”.[3]  Sean Rooney, Chief Executive of Leading Aged Services Australia, similarly recently commented that the “aged care system needs adequate funding to be sustainable and meet the needs of seniors” and called for an additional $3 billion to “improve the viability of the sector”.[4]

Just this week I was briefed about the outcomes of a very recent Faster Horses Inside Aged Care Report (2019) of perceptions around aged care in Australia. I recommend this review to all readers of this blog. Reviewing response from over 1,500 people from a cross section of metropolitan centres, the response to two specific questions piqued my interest.

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