Thinking bigger, and getting into the arena

Last month I spoke about the quality of authentic, values based leadership that was so obviously displayed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Over a week ago ago Australia voted in the Federal election for its new Government and Prime Minister. The surprising results said a lot about our country and why people voted the way they did.

I usually avoid commenting on politics and political parties. But, rather I tend to focus my views on specific policies and leadership decisions, and how they impact people, communities and a nation.  However this election has given me much to reflect on, especially in light of what we have seen with the people and their elected leader in our neighboring country

The election campaign saw both sides, one in particular, wage a very negative war.  Rather than focusing on its policies and agenda for the country it focused its messages around discrediting and belittling the opposition and using the narrative of fear to persuade people to favour one party over another.  The other side were not much better.  Rather than clearly articulating their policies, agenda and values, they pushed the narrative of fear and division, waging a class war and trying to pit the alleged poor and working class against the middle class and perceived wealthy.

The whole pre-election spectacle for many of us was uninspiring, disappointing and a reminder of the lack of storing, honourable and courageous leadership we currently have in Australia.  The election results make it clear that our country has joined those that have increasingly embraced the rise of conservatism and nationalism in some parts of the country. The results showed the continued tendency by our political leaders to focus on short term wins over longer term sustainability. Neither major party offered a clear strategy to assure sustainability.

When I voted my focus was not on the impact of my back pocket, or home accounts, but more on things that are bigger than myself.

My thoughts were about the future and quality of life of our working poor, our unemployed, of our under-represented and often voiceless Indigenous brothers and sisters, of our asylum seekers and refugees, of our marginalised communities, of our farmers, and of my children and their children and the planet they would be inheriting.  This is what informed my vote, and I assumed it would have informed the vote of most of Australians.

But it seems I may have been wrong.  The unwillingness to think bigger and the language of negativity, fear and division that leaders across the Western world have been feeding led to one of the most shocking election results in Australia’s history.

So what now?  Do we put action on climate change on hold for another 3-5 years?  Do we continue to indefinitely intern asylum seekers?  Do we sit back and watch while the poor become the homeless and mental illness grows from surge to plague proportions?

Or do we dust ourselves off and remember that democracy should occur every day and not just on election day? We must demand of our leaders that they demonstrate integrity, vision and true custodianship of our land, our people and our future.

We must show our leaders that we are better than what we have been.  We must use our privilege, our voice, our education and our influence to impact positive change in our lives and, more importantly, in the lives of those around us that need it the most.

That is our legacy, that is our responsibility and it’s down to us all.

That is why for three days at the end of May I attended  s p a c e!  Not literally our outer galaxy, but a gathering like no other – an un-conference if you will, where everyone is a contributor.  s p a c e is the coming together of many other thought leaders, disruptors, innovators and change agents.  Like and un-like minded people will explore what we as a people can do to collaborate, inspire and deliver change where it is most needed. These are the people that, as Brene Brown said in her talk “Call to Courage” are the ones in the arena getting their heads kicked in on a daily basis, but choosing to continue to show up, get dirty and take action.

Are you in the arena?  Are you being distracted by the side shows that we have seen in the run up to our election? Are you thinking bigger?  Are you using your voice and influence for the greater good?

As I often say about the commitments we must make as leaders, we must be prepared to constantly face our realities, challenge our perceptions, protect hope and do the uncomfortable and courageous.

Anna Stanford