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Development of Leadership Competencies in Australia

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Overview of the Challenge
“Leaders must necessarily be motivated to harness and strengthen cooperation. Ideally leaders have the capacity to benefit from feedback and continuous learning. Leadership in medium and longer-term situations should necessarily be developmental and responsible. Given the functional nature of leadership, it is often understood as a means to achieve outcomes and progress towards outcomes; however leadership can also involve management and development of issues that lie beyond the boundaries of common concerns and knowledge. Leaders in the public sector (or elsewhere) face a vital challenge to be relevant and to satisfy public interest considerations. They also need to be competent and robust. Leadership, to be effective, needs focus and needs to give priority to any situation needing attention” Kendal (2003: 51).

Identification of Leadership Competencies

In Australia, and elsewhere throughout history, there has been a marked focus on studying the leadership competencies of great men and women, in order to help identify future leaders. For example, study of political, military and religious leaders has been a constant source of the behaviours and skills that leaders must exemplify to be effective. However it was not until the late 1980s and the 1990s that the management and personal-development sections of bookshops began to evidence the quest to prescribe the factors which could make, at the organisation and community level in Australia, the ordinary worker great leaders. These changes in perspective have raised some questions for Australian society. By the late 1990s, there were many (often conflicting) theories of every aspect of leadership and leading. The underlying reason for this is that leadership is so complex, and so open to many variations in organisations and the community, that it cannot be explained by one set of prevailing theories and practices. Despite the deficits in understanding and developing policy to support leadership skills both at the organisation level and community-wide, there arose a need to convince many executives in organisations-and those with responsibility in the wider community-that good leadership makes an essential contribution to effective management while poor leadership brings about frustration of objectives and other poor results Working Futures (2005). Holden (2006: 1) is of a similar view:
“It is no exaggeration to use the word crisis in relation to leadership. We seem to be getting something radically wrong on a massive scale, so let us try to think through what it might be”.
 

What Leaders Must Do
At the organisational level (and often elsewhere), there has been a shift away from a relatively steady state, predict-and-provide organisational model. Leaders are now expected to stimulate, and be creative, in a fast-paced and unpredictable world. Organisations-and the Australian community-need leaders who are capable of coping in these circumstances. Outsourcing of previous internal functions has meant reliance on outsourced labour and services. This has been the result of dramatic changes to the public sector, and to the internationalisation of the Australian economy, which has had such dramatic impacts on the ways Australian companies do business. The consequence is that leadership must now operate across networks to be effective.

This can mean that a leader has to get things done even though not the controlling authority. It can also mean that, due to these pressures, talented and well-qualified staff or community members can be a challenge for effective leadership because they will not simply be told what to do. Motivating others, given the origins of this challenge, is thus a key competency of a leader particularly in a sophisticated organisation. Furthermore, leaders now increasingly faced with challenges where they are expected to bring about effective leadership even though their store of knowledge rapidly becomes inadequate and dated by events. We need to get better at leadership if Australia is to thrive in a dramatically changed world where creativity and innovation are the drivers of prosperity Holden (2006).
 

Leadership Competencies in the 21st Century
Given these requirements, leaders today need a new set of competencies such as:
• “Be driven by external circumstances and contexts rather than following the internal logic of their own organisations
• Be able to harness and manage creative people who simply cannot be ordered about
• Be constantly open to new learning. Be adaptable, flexible and willing to change
• Be able to create trust between people in an organisation, and to destroy cultures of blame, because blame is the enemy of innovation and improvement
• Be confident enough to distribute leadership out of their own hands and across a wider group of people
• Be able to work across networks as well as within organisations” Holden (2006: 4).
The development of such competencies has led to discussion Australia-wide on the meaning of leadership. For example, in there has been a tendency to view leadership through a management lens as many public sector managers (for example) tend to over-emphasise management at the expense of leadership. Agreeing most Australian jurisdictions have developed competency frameworks for their senior executives. Their approaches vary but these frameworks share an implicit assumption that leadership and management is much the same thing. The support for this view can be found in Enterprising Nation, Report of the Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills, now better known as the Karpin Report. Drawing on the findings of specially commissioned research, Craig and Yetton (1995) the Task Force took the view that, rather than trying to distinguish between leadership and management, the more pertinent questions centre around the broad areas of competence that managers require Industry Task Force (1995: 135).
In their research report Craig and Yetton noted (1995: 1185) that there had been numerous leadership studies which had failed to discern any traits that could be reliably used to set leaders apart from others to form the basis of leadership selection and development. They concluded that it was pointless to try and find or develop specifically Australian leaders, leaving open enterprise, sectoral or community solutions to picking out successful leaders. Craig and Yetton (1995: 1213) believed that action was therefore justified to identify and develop management competencies as there were established theories and methods, which demonstrated such factors to have significant influence as to whether performance was excellent or poor. The emphasis on management competencies identification, and support through policy, concerned several of the reforms suggested by the Task Force for the up-skilling and training of Australian mangers. For example such considerations led to the adoption of what became known as the Frontline Management Initiative Rozario and Hampson (2005).

 

A Community Leadership Initiative is Required
The Karpin Task Force in its final report looked beyond the commissioned research findings of Craig and Yetton, and concluded that it would be of value to enhance the status of leadership in the community by providing training and visibility both to outstanding leaders and potential leaders. It considered that in looking at how Australia can place more emphasis on the importance of leadership in the wider community and our enterprises, Australia should look to the development of leadership programs similar to those in the United States, which are seen in that country as a most effective means of further developing leadership skills which can assist the development of communities and provide leadership to many public and private organisations Industry Task Force (1995: 203). The Task Force believed that the establishment of Australian-based programs in each Australian capital city could achieve recognition of the importance of leadership skills in Australia. The Task Force believed that each state capital city leadership program could be based on the already developed Williamson Foundation program (based in Melbourne). It also suggested development of a national program for each of the participants in the city leadership program Industry Task Force (1995: 205).
 

 

One aim of the leadership program suggested by the Task Force was to identify the competencies needed (for developing and supporting through appropriate policy and resourcing) after assessing the results after implementation of the program. The competencies for an effective leader were not identified in the Karpin report and knowledge in this area needs further investigation and research. Importantly, questions such as the differences in competency which may be required for leaders at the organisational level (irrespective of the sector in which they operate), and those of the wider community leaders remains an open question and was not investigated by the Task Force.
 

Survey data in 2002 obtained by the Williamson Foundation has investigated the qualities expected of a leader in Australia. The Foundation found that Australians were unsure about what constitutes leadership but were practical about the issue. The Survey indicated that, as a whole Australians, (wherever they live, or their age, employment or social outlook), value the same attributes in leaders. The characteristics identified as important are:
• Honourable
• Trustworthy
• Honest and truthful
• Respectful to people they lead
• Achieving results and finding solutions
• Responsible and compassionate
The qualities often associated with good leaders-charisma, popularity and power were not considered important. Significantly (suggesting a high degree of open mindedness), Australians in the survey did not think that is vitally important for a good leader to have no personal failings Leadership Victoria and Quantum Research/Australia Scan (2002: 17).

Developments since 1995
Since 1995 community-based leadership development programs have been initiated along similar line and objectives to the Williamson model in cities and towns around Australia-including individually focussed nationally based programs such as that for women-but the further development for example of a comprehensive national program remains to be promoted by appropriate action. After consideration of the findings of the Williamson Foundation in 2002, it seems very clear that almost all Australians share strong agreement on the qualities of good leaders, especially honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, respectfulness to others, accepting responsibility, and a focus on achievements and results. These may be less exciting to many than power and charisma but they do seem be building blocks for a civilised society and the many organisations and sectors that compose it. These community expectations should be supported by appropriate Government and private sector action to provide for the well being of the community, and to be the basis for careful selection of leaders in any operating context. The influential Karpin Task Force did not resolve this issue.
 

There is also a need for further policy development to evaluate the provision of leadership programs (and especially identify any deficit in approach) in the community (or those that are enterprise based) and to evaluate feedback, on the criteria devised to select successful leaders, which was an important suggestion of the Karpin Task Force.

 

References
Craig, J and Yetton, P 1995 ‘Leadership Theory, Trends and Training: Summary Review of Leadership Research’ in Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills 1995, AGPS, Canberra April.
Holden, J 2006 ‘The Culture of Leadership’ [on line] http://www.ozco.gov.au/news_and_hot_topics/speeches/the_culture_of_leadership/ [accessed 11 March 2007].
Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills 1995, AGPS, Canberra April.
Kendal, S 2003, ‘Leadership Competencies’, Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, 106 February, pp 49 – 52.
Leadership Victoria and Quantum Market Research/Australia Scan 2002, Leadership in Australia June 2002, [on line] http;//www.leadershipvictoria.org/resources_surveys.htm [accessed 12 March 2007].

Rozario, A and Hampson, I 2005, ‘Management Development as Public Policy: The Case of Australia’s Frontline Management Initiative (FMI) 1995 – 2002, Paper prepared for presentation of the 28th Labour Process Conference 2005’ [on line] http://www.hrm.strath.ac.uk/ILPC/2005/conf-papers/Rozario-Hampson.pdf. [accessed 12 March 2007].
Working Futures 2005, ‘The Knowledge Exchange’ [on line] http://www.marcbowles.com/sample_courses/frontline_v5/fma1b.htm [accessed 12 March 2007].
 

Overview of the Challenge
“Leaders must necessarily be motivated to harness and strengthen cooperation. Ideally leaders have the capacity to benefit from feedback and continuous learning. Leadership in medium and longer-term situations should necessarily be developmental and responsible. Given the functional nature of leadership, it is often understood as a means to achieve outcomes and progress towards outcomes; however leadership can also involve management and development of issues that lie beyond the boundaries of common concerns and knowledge. Leaders in the public sector (or elsewhere) face a vital challenge to be relevant and to satisfy public interest considerations. They also need to be competent and robust. Leadership, to be effective, needs focus and needs to give priority to any situation needing attention” Kendal (2003: 51).
Identification of Leadership Competencies
In Australia, and elsewhere throughout history, there has been a marked focus on studying the leadership competencies of great men and women, in order to help identify future leaders. For example, study of political, military and religious leaders has been a constant source of the behaviours and skills that leaders must exemplify to be effective. However it was not until the late 1980s and the 1990s that the management and personal-development sections of bookshops began to evidence the quest to prescribe the factors which could make, at the organisation and community level in Australia, the ordinary worker great leaders. These changes in perspective have raised some questions for Australian society. By the late 1990s, there were many (often conflicting) theories of every aspect of leadership and leading. The underlying reason for this is that leadership is so complex, and so open to many variations in organisations and the community, that it cannot be explained by one set of prevailing theories and practices. Despite the deficits in understanding and developing policy to support leadership skills both at the organisation level and community-wide, there arose a need to convince many executives in organisations-and those with responsibility in the wider community-that good leadership makes an essential contribution to effective management while poor leadership brings about frustration of objectives and other poor results Working Futures (2005). Holden (2006: 1) is of a similar view:
“It is no exaggeration to use the word crisis in relation to leadership. We seem to be getting something radically wrong on a massive scale, so let us try to think through what it might be”.
What Leaders Must Do
At the organisational level (and often elsewhere), there has been a shift away from a relatively steady state, predict-and-provide organisational model. Leaders are now expected to stimulate, and be creative, in a fast-paced and unpredictable world. Organisations-and the Australian community-need leaders who are capable of coping in these circumstances. Outsourcing of previous internal functions has meant reliance on outsourced labour and services. This has been the result of dramatic changes to the public sector, and to the internationalisation of the Australian economy, which has had such dramatic impacts on the ways Australian companies do business. The consequence is that leadership must now operate across networks to be effective. This can mean that a leader has to get things done even though not the controlling authority. It can also mean that, due to these pressures, talented and well-qualified staff or community members can be a challenge for effective leadership because they will not simply be told what to do. Motivating others, given the origins of this challenge, is thus a key competency of a leader particularly in a sophisticated organisation. Furthermore, leaders now increasingly faced with challenges where they are expected to bring about effective leadership even though their store of knowledge rapidly becomes inadequate and dated by events. We need to get better at leadership if Australia is to thrive in a dramatically changed world where creativity and innovation are the drivers of prosperity Holden (2006).
Leadership Competencies in the 21st Century
Given these requirements, leaders today need a new set of competencies such as:
• “Be driven by external circumstances and contexts rather than following the internal logic of their own organisations
• Be able to harness and manage creative people who simply cannot be ordered about
• Be constantly open to new learning. Be adaptable, flexible and willing to change
• Be able to create trust between people in an organisation, and to destroy cultures of blame, because blame is the enemy of innovation and improvement
• Be confident enough to distribute leadership out of their own hands and across a wider group of people
• Be able to work across networks as well as within organisations” Holden (2006: 4).
The development of such competencies has led to discussion Australia-wide on the meaning of leadership. For example, in there has been a tendency to view leadership through a management lens as many public sector managers (for example) tend to over-emphasise management at the expense of leadership. Agreeing most Australian jurisdictions have developed competency frameworks for their senior executives. Their approaches vary but these frameworks share an implicit assumption that leadership and management is much the same thing. The support for this view can be found in Enterprising Nation, Report of the Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills, now better known as the Karpin Report. Drawing on the findings of specially commissioned research, Craig and Yetton (1995) the Task Force took the view that, rather than trying to distinguish between leadership and management, the more pertinent questions centre around the broad areas of competence that managers require Industry Task Force (1995: 135).
In their research report Craig and Yetton noted (1995: 1185) that there had been numerous leadership studies which had failed to discern any traits that could be reliably used to set leaders apart from others to form the basis of leadership selection and development. They concluded that it was pointless to try and find or develop specifically Australian leaders, leaving open enterprise, sectoral or community solutions to picking out successful leaders. Craig and Yetton (1995: 1213) believed that action was therefore justified to identify and develop management competencies as there were established theories and methods, which demonstrated such factors to have significant influence as to whether performance was excellent or poor. The emphasis on management competencies identification, and support through policy, concerned several of the reforms suggested by the Task Force for the up-skilling and training of Australian mangers. For example such considerations led to the adoption of what became known as the Frontline Management Initiative Rozario and Hampson (2005).

A Community Leadership Initiative is Required
The Karpin Task Force in its final report looked beyond the commissioned research findings of Craig and Yetton, and concluded that it would be of value to enhance the status of leadership in the community by providing training and visibility both to outstanding leaders and potential leaders. It considered that in looking at how Australia can place more emphasis on the importance of leadership in the wider community and our enterprises, Australia should look to the development of leadership programs similar to those in the United States, which are seen in that country as a most effective means of further developing leadership skills which can assist the development of communities and provide leadership to many public and private organisations Industry Task Force (1995: 203). The Task Force believed that the establishment of Australian-based programs in each Australian capital city could achieve recognition of the importance of leadership skills in Australia. The Task Force believed that each state capital city leadership program could be based on the already developed Williamson Foundation program (based in Melbourne). It also suggested development of a national program for each of the participants in the city leadership program Industry Task Force (1995: 205).
One aim of the leadership program suggested by the Task Force was to identify the competencies needed (for developing and supporting through appropriate policy and resourcing) after assessing the results after implementation of the program. The competencies for an effective leader were not identified in the Karpin report and knowledge in this area needs further investigation and research. Importantly, questions such as the differences in competency which may be required for leaders at the organisational level (irrespective of the sector in which they operate), and those of the wider community leaders remains an open question and was not investigated by the Task Force.
Survey data in 2002 obtained by the Williamson Foundation has investigated the qualities expected of a leader in Australia. The Foundation found that Australians were unsure about what constitutes leadership but were practical about the issue. The Survey indicated that, as a whole Australians, (wherever they live, or their age, employment or social outlook), value the same attributes in leaders. The characteristics identified as important are:
• Honourable
• Trustworthy
• Honest and truthful
• Respectful to people they lead
• Achieving results and finding solutions
• Responsible and compassionate
The qualities often associated with good leaders-charisma, popularity and power were not considered important. Significantly (suggesting a high degree of open mindedness), Australians in the survey did not think that is vitally important for a good leader to have no personal failings Leadership Victoria and Quantum Research/Australia Scan (2002: 17).

Developments since 1995
Since 1995 community-based leadership development programs have been initiated along similar line and objectives to the Williamson model in cities and towns around Australia-including individually focussed nationally based programs such as that for women-but the further development for example of a comprehensive national program remains to be promoted by appropriate action. After consideration of the findings of the Williamson Foundation in 2002, it seems very clear that almost all Australians share strong agreement on the qualities of good leaders, especially honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, respectfulness to others, accepting responsibility, and a focus on achievements and results. These may be less exciting to many than power and charisma but they do seem be building blocks for a civilised society and the many organisations and sectors that compose it. These community expectations should be supported by appropriate Government and private sector action to provide for the well being of the community, and to be the basis for careful selection of leaders in any operating context. The influential Karpin Task Force did not resolve this issue.
There is also a need for further policy development to evaluate the provision of leadership programs (and especially identify any deficit in approach) in the community (or those that are enterprise based) and to evaluate feedback, on the criteria devised to select successful leaders, which was an important suggestion of the Karpin Task Force.

References
Craig, J and Yetton, P 1995 ‘Leadership Theory, Trends and Training: Summary Review of Leadership Research’ in Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills 1995, AGPS, Canberra April.
Holden, J 2006 ‘The Culture of Leadership’ [on line] http://www.ozco.gov.au/news_and_hot_topics/speeches/the_culture_of_leadership/ [accessed 11 March 2007].
Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills 1995, AGPS, Canberra April.
Kendal, S 2003, ‘Leadership Competencies’, Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, 106 February, pp 49 – 52.
Leadership Victoria and Quantum Market Research/Australia Scan 2002, Leadership in Australia June 2002, [on line] http;//www.leadershipvictoria.org/resources_surveys.htm [accessed 12 March 2007].

Rozario, A and Hampson, I 2005, ‘Management Development as Public Policy: The Case of Australia’s Frontline Management Initiative (FMI) 1995 – 2002, Paper prepared for presentation of the 28th Labour Process Conference 2005’ [on line] http://www.hrm.strath.ac.uk/ILPC/2005/conf-papers/Rozario-Hampson.pdf. [accessed 12 March 2007].
Working Futures 2005, ‘The Knowledge Exchange’ [on line] http://www.marcbowles.com/sample_courses/frontline_v5/fma1b.htm [accessed 12 March 2007].
 

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