Kevin Rudd: Leadership Lessons
It’s odd for me to post something even remotely political, as I would be the first to admit that my knowledge of political stuff is rather shallow and reliant on the reporters in the media. It’s also odd because in spite of the title of this post, I’m actually going to write about what not to do in light of the shallow understanding I have of ex-PM Rudd’s leadership style.
However after reading David Marr’s essay from 2010 this morning, a few lessons about leadership popped into my head in view of Mr. Rudd’s track record while he was PM. So what follows are reflections that apply to me as a pastor and a leader since I know how prone I am to make each one of his mistakes:
- Stick to the big picture and learn to delegate. Time and again we hear of Rudd’s obsession with the minutiae. He was a details man who couldn’t let his ministers and those whom he worked with just get on with the job they were given. Good leadership knows that balance between attention for details and letting others just run with the ball. Good leadership also knows to distinguish the wood from the trees and is able to rally people with the big picture in mind.
- Don’t just woo the crowd, empower your team. It seems that Rudd was (and is) great with the people but not so great with his own party. A Christian leader with any sort of exposure can spend all of his time increasing his public visibility whilst neglecting the training and gathering and empowering of his own leadership team. The more publicly popular a ministry, the more it can hide the ‘rot’ that lies in its own structure. We must not settle for that sort of duplicitous shallowness that can come with popularity.
- Don’t be a jerk in the way you treat people, especially those who serve under you. So many great leaders (such as the late Steve Jobs) were quite frankly colossal jerks when it came to how they treated people. So again, while the public image is great, the private person behind closed doors can be a foul-mouthed jerk who people don’t like to be with. And while pastors and Christian leaders should, in theory, be great people to serve with and be around, the truth of the matter is that we’re tempted to be jerks as well. How tragic for us to forget simple humility and what it means to regard others as better than ourselves.
- Don’t forget to rest. Mr. Rudd is known for his extraordinary ability to operate with very little sleep. However, a lack of sleep can push a person to be a bigger jerk (see point 3 above and Marr’s essay) simply because they are too tired to function. Pastors and leaders need rest. When we aren’t well-rested, our godliness dips and temptation to sin in many ways rises.
- Don’t be a lonely leader. Yes leadership can be lonely, especially the higher one goes. This certainly was the case for Mr. Rudd. However, his lonely style of leadership ended up isolating him from those who were best positioned to help him. Pastors and Christian leaders can do this as well. Yet unlike Mr. Rudd, we have little excuse for this to happen since we spend so much time teaching others about the importance of Christian community and accountability. Christian leaders need to find mentors, regardless of how high they are in leadership.