The trust-authenticity tightrope

It’s lonely at the top, and getting lonelier. As Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, tries to fend off a challenge from the man she ousted, she has finally revealed why she took the unprecedented decision to knife her boss. “Government requires consistency, purpose, method, discipline, inclusion, consultation,” Ms Gillard told reporters ahead of a leadership ballot on Monday.  “It requires you to lead a big team and lead it well. Kevin Rudd as prime minister struggled to do that, and by the days of 2010 that struggle had resulted in paralysis in the government.” In other words, Kevin Rudd had failed to adapt his management style on election to top office. It’s an all-too common issue in the corporate world, according to research by leadership advisor and author, Meena Thuraisingham. As executives move into roles with higher profiles and bigger responsibilities, strengths can often become liabilities. “Our research … found that the majority of executives who derailed overused their strengths,” Thuraisingham writes in Derailed: What smart executives do the stay on track. “More particularly, they always called on those strengths regardless of the actual situation – and even when the solution called for the application of very different attributes or skills.” Interestingly, opinion polls tell a different story, with Kevin Rudd’s popularity with the punters remaining stubbornly high. He may be ego-driven and have relentlessly micromanaged his team, but voters like him. It’s Julia Gillard they continue to punish for a perceived lack of authenticity. “Meet ‘fighting Julia”: Is this the ‘real Julia’?” queried The Sydney Morning Herald this week. Adds leadership author, Carolyn Taylor: “The judges as to whether you are walking the talk will be other people.”

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