Political leadership and collaboration: Election Special 2013


We are only couple of days (more or less) away from exercising our civic duty and democratic right by going to ballot to choose a leader. Politics is not what ROADMENDER is about, however it is a rare opportunity perhaps to theme a post with a major event.

Rather than focusing on politics (not that there is anything wrong with that), this post is about inviting discussion on the role of political leadership and collaboration. Not much has been written, spoken or drawn (think of all the political cartoons) about the way the political landscape influences and shapes our attitudes and capacity to be ‘homos collaboratus’. The unspoken rule of keeping business and politics nominally separate confuses the discourse even more. It is not possible to keep politics out of anything. We can just keep on pretending and hope nobody wakes us up.

The importance of political discourse and political leadership has not been explored to any meaningful way in relation to the way business, or enterprise in any shape or form, develops its collaboration practice. Observing the political debate leading up to election day, the closest our candidates came to referencing collaboration was a vague mention of “working together”, which has less meaning than a fish in speedos. That is not by accident. In fact, it is a very interesting insight into what I believe is a deep lack of dedication by political leaders to explore the unrealised potential that collaboration, as a strategy, could bring to our productivity and economic sustainability.

I recently read a comment (in an Australian in-flight magazine, so a bit ironic to see collaboration placed in entertainment) where collaboration was perceived as being opposed to competition. Now, there’s a thought that Victorian era industrialists would see as a free plug. Wherever I look, and admittedly more so in the US and UK, I notice that very competitive, successful and sustainable enterprises in fact pay a premium for collaborative strategies. Some focus heavily on internal collaboration, knowing full well that enterprises are micro markets which require co-operation beyond legally enforced norms. Others are much more mindful of how their business brand and competitiveness is influenced by the collaboration practice. So it should not come as a surprise when we read how, for example, Samsung and Apple engage in heavy legal battles on one hand and collaborate and trade with each other on the other.

Collaboration is about business. Which brings me back to politics. I wonder how long before we see collaboration as part of a Minister’s portfolio. Innovation, for example, was not always an element of ministerial duties, and similarly there were other areas that in previous generations political leaders and governments thought irrelevant. Times change. Emergent discourse of collaboration as a discipline is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’. We, in turn, may need to start thinking about how our nation can build its collaborative strategy in order to enable innovation and prosperous future.

Finally I would ask ROADMENDER readers to take an anonymous poll and answer this question; who do you think would make better collaboration partner: Rudd or Abbott?

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