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Reflecting on my leadership following my WCLP experience - Lloyd Nash (WCLP '11)

9 March 2012 By Lloyd Nash

Lloyd Nash
Lloyd Nash

“The architects of such wonders as St Peter’s Basilica and Blenheim Palace had at their heart an idea… that their creations would ennoble the human spirit and allow their awestruck viewers to transcend reality, to aspire to greatness.” Jeanne Lee, WCLP ‘11

The last week in politics has been rather electrifying for keen followers of the art.  A leadership spill for the office of Prime Minister would have to be a once in a generation event… I was just 11 years old when Keating defeated Hawke, and I wasn’t even imagined when Billy McMahon defeated John Gorton twenty years before that.  These events are thrilling for insiders because they spew into the public view all the machinations and leverage, strikes and counter strikes of political battle. 

We find ourselves commentating… “he said what…!? what kind of strategy is that…!? who has the numbers…!?” with the frisson of a teenager watching a playground bust-up from a safe distance.  The battle analogy is a popular one, and this week a factional “warlord” Mark Arbib unexpectedly resigned as a “gesture of goodwill”, tired of being seen with blood on his hands after first bringing down Beasley, Iemma, Rees and then Rudd.  Arbib was one of those responsible for importing the New South Wales disease to Canberra: of switching leaders every time they take a dip in the polls with the goal of recovering electoral support.  Of course, this isn’t isolated to the ALP, the Liberal Party churned through no fewer than three opposition leaders in the last Parliament!

These events had me reflecting on leadership following my Williamson experience, and wondering what happened?  How did we get ourselves into this predicament?  Any leader who is worthy of governing the country must be willing to sacrifice personal popularity and self-interest in favour of good long-term policy making in the National interest.  This isn’t easy and our politicians are always playing off these often-competing interests, but the best ones are courageous and visionary: having a sense of what the future requires, and the importance of their personal stewardship toward that future.  This is the business of leadership, and it requires a deep understanding on three levels: awareness of self, community and leadership itself.

The Williamson Community Leadership Program creates the time and space to develop that awareness.  It provides a facilitated dialogue between emerging and established leaders on the experience of leadership to promote our awareness of self, community and leadership.  This format moves us firmly outside our comfort zone, thrusts us into unfamiliar settings and forces us to re-examine our own values and assumptions.

Some of the highlights for me were meeting the most disadvantaged members of our community on their own turf.  Sitting down with aboriginal elders by the Murray on Yorta Yorta country and playing a soccer match with recently arrived refugees in Dandenong are two examples that challenged my own complacency and assumptions I had made about those groups.  Their stories of strength in adversity and hope for the future struck a deep chord with me, I learned from their resilience and found new motivation in my own life.

And that’s it.  Over and over again, experience after experience, I was thrown a challenge: to dream large, to take risks, to be better.  Just as John Armstrong told us sorry tales of the great cost in lives and treasure to build great monuments, our colleague Jeanne Lee reminds us that these great monuments do in art what great leaders do in life: strike at our hearts to imagine a better future, to aspire to greatness.  For me the Williamson experience was indeed transformational, as I am now armed with the knowledge to articulate my instincts and the confidence to follow my heart.  No simple taught program could achieve this.

Reflecting on these experiences, it laid bare what a miserable display we’ve had on our television sets over the last few weeks.  Here we have those people who claim to be our leaders, not arguing over competing visions of the future or the best way of securing our wellbeing and prosperity, but rather arguing over who is more likely to save the furniture at the next election!  Williamson has taught me an important lesson about leadership: that the central task of the leader is to leave the world a little better off.  And as a leader, that means knowing what you believe in, and being willing to stand up for it

Lloyd Nash (WCLP ’11) is Senior Registrar at Royal Melbourne Hospital, an Honorary Clinical Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Chair of Global Ideas.  Global Ideas is a new start-up not-for-profit that aims to recruit, educate and inspire young health professionals to take global health action and promote innovation in global health. You can check out their website (globalideasforum.org) or contact Lloyd at lloyd@globalideasforum.org or via Twitter.