Modern Leadership – where are we going, and who is taking us there?

It is irrefutable that the  business community faces unique and difficult challenges, as globalisation and technological advancement continue to surge forward.  The neo-liberal economic Well of everlasting growth and prosperity, dug by Thatcher and Reagan in the 80s, while perhaps not having run completely dry, is certainly showing itself to be not quite as ‘everlasting’ as they had hoped.  Environmental sustainability is making an essential, and long overdue, impact on the way we conceive of and develop our economic interests.   The future is dark if we don’t shape our business practices in a way that accords with these challenges.  Whether in a small business or multi-national, the obvious staring point is making sure we have good leaders.

Inspirational leaders need time, and trust.  A business leader needs a sense of security in their decisions before they can do work that inspires others.  And this is best achieved through remuneration packages that reward long term vision rather than short term goals.   Further, an element of risk taking needs to be encouraged, without the leader necessarily bearing the consequences of failure personally.  Failure is often, although not always, as stepping stone in the journey to success.

An essential element of this is that leaders should be provided with enough time to achieve goals.   Too often, organisations underestimate the length of time it takes for a particular vision to disseminate through an organization from the top, and then begin to get the desired results.  Head Coach of NRL club Newcastle Rick Stone, having recently lost his job at the club for the second time,  was this time given less than one whole season before being axed.   The new coach has been told to make the finals next year, and win a premiership within 3… or else.  For an organisation that are not only failing on the scoreboard, but would appear to be suffering a fundamental cultural crises, these are brave words.    Saying that you want something really badly, doesn’t increase the chances of that thing actually happening.  Whereas focus on broader, longer term growth objectives are surely better, even if a little more difficult to articulate.

Rick Stone, sacked last week. His second stint as coach at Newcastle lasted less than 20 games.


Finally, an organisation’s personnel need to be structured in a way in which the balance between authority and responsibility is finely tuned.  Leaders need to respect that their reports are often leaders too, and need to invest enough faith in them to let them flourish and inspire their own teams.   A good leader needs enough empathy to understand exactly what everyone in their team are going through, but enough belief in themselves and their goals to not be distracted by those team members that are not on the same page.

But above all, a truly inspiring leader will make their reports feel safe to be their subordinate, and safe to be a leader themselves.  Simon Sinek has a great perspective on this here.


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Helen Carter

Helen has practised exclusively in employment and industrial law for over ten years and founded PCC Lawyers in 2010, having previously a partner of a leading Australian specialist workplace relations firm. She is an accredited specialist in Employment Law by the Law Society of New South Wales. Helen is a working mother who is committed to equal opportunities at work. She is a passionate sports fan, particularly in relation to NRL. Both of these are strong themes of this blog. Contact her here.


  1. Your article is fantastic and makes many valid points. However, specifically in relation to Rick Stone, my opinion is that the organisation was wise to remove him.

    I agree that leaders require time to flourish. Given time, leaders will develop and contribute to the betterment of their reports. The struggle for Rick Stone is that he was too gentle on his poor-performing team, as well as too reluctant to substitute older players to blood young talent.

    Adding to Stone’s issues was the reluctance of the board management to hand young players their first-grade opportunities for the risk that by showcasing them early, rival clubs would poach those players by the time experienced players retired.

    Politics aside, I think leaders need to find a balance between respecting their reports with earning and maintaining the respect of others. Rick Stone personally seems to be a great guy, however he lacked the respect of his playing group to improve themselves each week.

    • Helen Carter

      Hi David, Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
      In relation to Rick Stone, I probably agree with you. The timing of his sacking was very convenient to the timing of the article so he came as a natural example. What is perhaps unusual in his case, was that he was given a second chance by the knights in any case. This was no doubt a factor in the speed of the Knight’s decision. This situation is something we would almost never see in other part of the business world, so it may have been a poor example.

      But NRL Clubs attitude to Head Coaches has always shown us some interesting examples of attitudes towards leadership and responsibility. I still think back to the fact that Brian Smith was given 10 years at Parramatta despite not winning the premiership with a great team (albeit with two minor premierships). Yet a few years later Daniel Anderson was sacked just over 12 months after taking them to a grand final.
      There have also been those calling for Jason Taylor to be fired from the Tigers after less than a year. Any reasonable person would see that the job in front of Taylor was always going to require slow rebuilding. In this scenario it would sensible to separate Taylor’s Key Performance Indicators from the Wests Tigers on field results. His performance as a leader needs to be judged on the many other goals of his role. At least in the short term.
      I think it’s some of these very public examples that are indicative of a broader problem in our expectations of business leadership. When we view leadership as being inexorably tied to short term results, we can lose sight of the big picture.

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