The search for healthier political leadership

The search for healthier political leadership

Two months ago I wrote about how the lack of emotional health in our current political leadership – in particular in parliament itself – was keeping me awake at night. As if to emphasise that below-the-line behaviours aren’t restricted to the chambers, in the period since then we have seen yet another sitting prime minister replaced and continuing accusations of bullying and intimidation of sitting members, especially females.

As Ralph Ashton, executive director of the Australian Futures Project, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Fairfax newspapers, “Australia is behaving like a spoiled brat”. He lists a string of examples in which (in our language) below-the-line behaviours have prevailed to the detriment of our society as a whole.

I received a number of thoughtful responses to that last blog post, in which I asked what could be done to ‘change the game’.

Andi Sebastian rightly pointed out that there are already a number of politicians who are principled and who articulate their beliefs with clarity. She cites Fiona Patten (in the Victorian upper house) and Cathy McGowan (in the House of Representatives) as two examples. Interestingly, both are crossbenchers rather than members of the larger parties.

Andi makes the point that ‘a committed, loving and tested network (friends, family, dogs, etc.)’ and ‘a rigorous routine including yoga or meditation, exercise, good food and sleep’ is essential for any politician to be able to keep themselves emotionally healthy. This, unfortunately, seems far from the current reality, as journalist Katharine Murphy described in a long piece entitled ‘The Political Life is no Life at All’ in the journal Meanjinlast year.

Our colleague and friend Dianne Collins, who created and facilitates the amazing QuantumThink®program along with her partner Alan, sees low levels of emotional health in politics as a global problem. ‘The current status of politics is centered around staying in power, and the money that supports it. From a QuantumThink perspective, that is a cultural least-action pathway – the way the energy goes simply by automatic habit, based on limited thinking of an “either/or” mindset.’

Dianne wonders what would happen if a genuinely awakened leader spoke and stood up for ‘what’s best and right for the whole of his/her nation’. She suggests we are in a time of restructuring of our institutions, ourselves and our thinking. ‘I think “the party’s over” – the idea of political parties may no longer be an effective structure for great leadership and governance.

Geoff Smith, who leads a school for disadvantaged youth in north Queensland, sees a shortage of integrity amongst people in positions of power, and not just in politics. ‘… there appears a certain expectation within society that to succeed in one area it has to be at the expense of others.’ However Geoff emphasises that we can’t accept that this must be the case, reminding us of the well-known quote:

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.

In Geoff’s case he is continuing to upskill himself and ‘working to create networks of like-minded people’ as forms of action that he hopes will contribute, over time, to a change of mindset. Dianne and Alan Collins continue to change the way we all see the world. Ralph Ashton and the Australian Futures Project continue on their mission of ‘fixing short-termism in Australia’. Global Leadership Foundation continues on our mission of raising emotional health levels across the globe.

And many other individuals and organisations all over the world continue to pursue related goals.

Perhaps the most important thing of all, despite the evidence immediately in front of us, is not to lose hope that our political leadership can be better.



By | 2018-10-01T11:45:59+00:00 October 2nd, 2018|Blog|3 Comments

About the Author:

Gayle is internationally recognised for her capability, enthusiasm and experience in the world of leadership and organisation transformation. She currently works with boards and senior leaders all over the world in a range of areas, including: transformational leadership and change in individuals and organisations, strategic planning and development, emotional health and leadership resilience, leading through facilitating, strengthening collaboration, and board and executive mentoring and coaching.


  1. Noela Prasad October 2, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for this thoughtful blog, and proactive suggestions for making politicians lives, and by extension the lives of the people they are meant to represent better.. It comes at a time when the impending November State Elections has been keeping me awake at night. I’ve had the right to vote in Australia for the past 3 years, but have witnessed nothing but turmoil and upheaval in Australian politics since my arrival here in 2011.
    I came here from the world’s largest democracy, a country of diverse language, cultures, tradition and ethnic groups, where free and fair elections have been a way of life since 1947 despite strong factions being in the fray, and dirty politics being the norm. Yet it was a difficult decision to give up my electoral right in India and take up citizenship in Australia, a decision I made only because I’m an optimist and still live in the hope that the land of the ‘fair go’ will live up to its reputation despite the present political situation. Many abstain from voting as there is no penalty, but this increases chances of votes being misused.
    Since I turned 18 and first voted, I took recourse to Section 49 (O) at least 4-5 times. Under Section 49 (O) of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, a voter could enter his electoral serial number in Form 17A and cast a negative vote. The presiding officer would then put a remark in the form and get it signed by the voter. This was done to prevent fraud or misuse of votes. This provision was, however, deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as it did not protect the identity of the voter – much to my disappointment, but by then I had already moved to Australia. The first time I declared to the presiding officer that it was my intention to exercise Section 49(O), I remember it was almost a ‘walk of shame’ I made with all eyes on me as I walked to cast essentially a vote of no confidence in any of the candidates, but a vote of confidence in Democracy. Recently, Section 49 (O) has been replaced by the option to select ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers. Perhaps Australia might follow this lead – it empowers people to hold politicians accountable for the way they conduct themselves, and politicians are empowered to demonstrate they are worthy representatives while holding Office.

    • Tony Arciaga October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this Noela. It is a very different approach to holding politicians to account and definitely one worth considering.

  2. Geoff Smith October 3, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Very good article Gayle, thank you. What I appreciated reading was that there seems to be a growing groundswell of support from people that things can be done better and are prepared to speak up and start voicing their concerns in a larger forum. Hopefully this groundswell will continue to build leading to positive change. Thanks again

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