Op Ed: Leadership Must Trump Management

As published in The Mercury, 9 March 2018

By Kym Goodes, CEO

The election has been run and won – and so begins the hard work of consolidating Tasmania’s positive economic position to the benefit of every Tasmanian.

Premier Will Hodgman gained success on Saturday on the back of the government’s reputation as a good manager of the State’s Budget.

Good budget management has set a foundation that can lead to further success in our State, but that long term success won’t come without leadership that can use that foundation both creatively and courageously.

It is time to lay the groundwork for success long past the next four-year election cycle.

This means tackling the long term, entrenched issues that continue to hold Tasmania back.

To do this, they must enter into long term decision making that tackles the deeper, structural change needed below the surface of what looks like a booming State.

If the new government is going to see success over the next four years – we need our elected representatives to be leaders, not managers.

Management is the efficient execution of what we already know. We’ve seen a lot of good managers come and go in our Parliaments, but Tasmania doesn’t need more good managers.

Tasmania needs leaders to move beyond managing and explore the unknown, to chart uncharted waters – and deliver what they promised.

Leaders do the right thing, not just do things right.  They see new ways to confront old problems, the same problems managers have thrown more money at for the same result.

Good political leadership brings new ideas and, sometimes, stark reality to a community. Its leadership, not management, that’s needed to tackle Tasmania’s long-term, entrenched problems.

This election campaign promised increasing funding for health, education and housing but there has been little detail on what these millions of dollars might achieve.

So many extra hospital beds is meaningless to most Tasmanians living with pain, wanting that hip replacement or other life-changing surgery. They want to know when they will get their surgery.

Tasmanians struggling to find rental accommodation don’t care about how many millions of dollars have been promised.

They want to know what the rental vacancy rate in Hobart will be in three months, six months, nine, months, a year and if they will finally have a secure roof over their heads.

Tasmania may be a better place now than it was five or ten years ago, but the fact remains this betterment has only benefited some.

The key words from the Premier on election night are that he wants Tasmania to ‘be the best it can be’ – clear acknowledgement that we still have a way to travel to get there.

We need leaders to be courageous enough to stand up and say: actually, this is a major issue for Tasmania and what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked well enough.

They need to define the problem, give us the evidence, outline the solution – however unpalatable – and the choices we might have to make.

If problems remain today, they are problems that are squarely the responsibility of our new government.  Still referencing the performance of the previous Labor government will simply be frittering away time and opportunity.

Tasmania has come a long way and things are improving.  That’s the foundation for transformative change, not comfortable complacency.

While obviously a commitment of appropriate funding is critical, it is only one part of the change we need for Tasmania to finally address the range of issues that are holding us back.

To tackle the range of long-term and entrenched disadvantage that many Tasmanians live every day, we need more.

Leaders of organisations in business and the community sector know that resources alone will not achieve the mission.  You need partners, skills, motivation, adaptability, integrity and trust.  You need leaders who can set the right conditions for achievement and inspire us to follow.

Tasmanians who want to see a different future for their children and their grandchildren will ask the new government this: what parts of the “annouceables” – these millions of dollars — will make a difference in the life of my family?   In short, what will be transformative?  What is the balance between addressing the current short term and critical needs and setting Tasmania up for a prosperous future?