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  • A QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP

    Two dramatic issues presently confront the Australian people: ‘Children overboard’ and ‘Child sex abuse’.

    Both issues highlight the leadership of those at the top – Mr Howard and Dr Hollingworth.

    If Mr Howard did not know whether a vital piece of information crucial to his election strategy (and which was being debated throughout the nation) was valid or not, then he failed in his responsibility as a leader to identify a key issue and organise and influence the reaction to it.

    Either that, or ‘Honest John’ might not be as honest as he purports to be – a possible lack of the leadership attribute of integrity. As a leader Mr Howard appears to have shied away from making a hard decision.

    The information emerging in the Dr Hollingsworth sex abuse issue would indicate that Dr Hollingsworth, a compassionate and forgiving man as is to be expected in a person of his calling, might well be guilty of sins of omission rather than commission. That is, perhaps because of his obvious compassion and forgiveness towards his fellow clerics, he misread the key issues involved, particularly in regard to the victims of the abuse, and subsequently failed to take the appropriate hard decisions to rectify the situation.

    Either that, or he might have deliberately misled people about his views and therefore lacks the level of integrity required of a person in such a sensitive senior leadership position.

    One effect of this apparent inability to take hard decisions in both these situations is failure to achieve effective outcomes.

    Even more importantly is the breakdown of trust. Trust is clearly a casualty in the relationship between politicians and the military. It is heart-rendingly evident in the relationship between Dr Hollingsworth and the victims of abuse.

    Leaders who lose the trust of the people they serve are fated to relinquish the positions granted them by the people in the first place.

    Peter McDougall

    26 February 2002