Importance of Leadership Skills: The Case of Australia

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Executive Summary

This paper examines the important roles leaders’ play in managing people as well as organizations. The main aim of this report is to review those vital elements in leadership essential to managers and leaders in the private and public sectors, which can be employed to realize success in other organizations. The information in this report has been gathered from various publications and discussed in light of Australian leadership practices. It considers the current competition in the markets and the agreeable fact that inadequate leadership leads to frustration of objectives and bad results. A classical approach to management points out some common roles and this consist; planning, coordinating, controlling and organizing.

Having enjoyed a steady economic growth in the last two decades, Australia offers a good example in how good management in both private and public institutions and workforce development, can make businesses competitive in the world market. There has been a shift from the Predict and Provide model of institutional leadership to a creative and innovative leadership, with the aim of remaining financially relevant to a constantly unpredictable market.

In conclusion, the report provides a potent and significant picture of good leadership practices. Leadership prerequisites include having a strategy; being future oriented and winning employees trust to augment their input and ensure that an organization moves in the same direction.


In Australia the role of management in global competitiveness became a significant public policy issue during the labor government on the background of extensive reform (Rozario & Hampson 2005, p.2). In the 1990s this agenda was expanded to include management owing to the poor performance of businesses. It was apparently essential to develop leadership skills not only for entrepreneurs in the private sector, but also for managers in public institutions.

Because of its nature, leadership in most times is perceived as a way to attain outcomes. However, it also refers to the development of issues outside the common concerns and knowledge. Leaders in the private or public sector face a necessary challenge to remain relevant and meet public interests. It involves giving of priority to competing needs. Leaders ought to be motivated to realize and build up cooperation. Leaders should nurture development and responsibility. In the last two decades the Australian economy has significantly changed. Consecutive governments have initiated economic reforms for instance phasing out financial deregulation, tariffs and airfreight reform (Edwards, O’Reilly & Schuwwalow 1997, par. 5). Resultantly organizations in Australia faced a new form of competition as indigenous industries were exposed to a free market. This called for a change in approach by workers and companies. This report can be an important source of information on management systems drawn from Australian managers in developing appropriate organizational practices (Kendal 2003, p. 49)

Importance of Leadership

In Australia there has been a large focus on examining the competencies of leaders. According Hager (1993, p10), competence comprises the specification, knowledge and skill and the application of that knowledge and skill to the standard of performance required in an organization. Leadership is multifaceted and subject to many variations making it difficult to explain it using a limited set of existing theories. A classical approach to management points out some common roles and this are planning, coordinating, controlling and organizing (Fayol 1949, p 23). In Australia regardless of the inadequacies in formulating policies to sustain leadership at the community and organizational level, there came up a need to convince managers in organizations and leaders in the larger community, that good leadership is crucial for effective management. Meager leadership leads to frustration of objectives and bad results (Working futures 2005, p4).

As Holden (2006, par 1): states: “It is no exaggeration to use the word crisis in relationship to leadership. We seem to be getting certain things wrong on an enormous scale. So, let us try to think what it might be”.

Leadership Roles, Skills and abilities

Australia has enjoyed a steady economic growth in the last two decades and has the most resilient financial system in the world (Paul 2006, p6). Its economy is established on an urbane knowledge, high technology, a skilled workforce, political stability and well-built export links. There has been a dramatic shift at the organizational level from the state of predict and provide organizational model, with leaders expected to be innovative in a fast-paced and unpredictable world. This continued growth has resulted from quality in business leadership (Daft & Gonczi 2009 p 506). Outsourcing of labor and services has been a common phenomenon in Australia off late resulting from internationalization of the economy and impacting directly on the way businesses are operated. Competent as well as talented staff becomes a test to the leadership since they will not just agree to what they are told. Motivating workers is thus challenging hence the need to develop leadership in order to succeed in a society where creativity and innovation are the drivers of prosperity (Holden 2006, par 6).

Owing to these requirements, today’s leaders require a variety of competencies. These include the ability to open to new learning, being flexible and adaptable. Leaders need to cultivate a culture of responsibility; a personal drive and zeal to achieve results and trust among members of staff in order obliterate the tradition of blame shift. Development of managers and other leaders at the local level is essential in ensuring successions. There has been a debate across Australia on the significance of leadership. For instance, one should ask whether leadership should be viewed from a management perspective as is in most public sector managers or the actual concept leadership. To the contrary leadership and management are different.

The enterprising nation report of the industrial task force on leadership and management skills indicates that instead of trying to differentiate between leadership and management the significant issue is to address managers’ competence. Leadership involves inspiring and engaging staff. Good leaders and managers know their employees and always never loose track of what they are doing. Focusing on results and controlling costs remains a critical aspect of management. The ability to mobilize people and reason strategically coupled with involving staff in decision making is essential in realizing organizational growth. This ensures that planned activities are implemented (Daft & Gonczi 2009 p 481).

Effectiveness is based on performance outcomes which need management as well as leadership skills. Each individual manager should be aware of his capabilities of leadership and management skills because of their distinct nature. A leader should establish strong relationships not only with his peers, but more important with members of staff. A detached style of management will not be effective in the current world order. The rewards of having good interpersonal relationships in an organization are long lasting. Enduring relationships are established on a collective purpose of working together (Hager 1993, par.4). In modern management, leadership should not be limited to hierarchical positions. While there are different styles of leadership depending on markets and circumstances, some common aspects may be derived from successful organizations. These core values are regarded by some as human kind’s greatest genius (Buzane & Keene 1994, p12).

The collective values of a good leader include: integrity, honesty, honorable, achieving results and finding solutions, fairness and respect for individuals, commitment to the organizations stakeholders, Innovation for discovering new ideas from both indigenous and non indigenous sources, value for individuals and information issues such as training, learning and creativity. While development of elementary values is essential, integrity is one exceptionally requirement in every leader. Integrity in itself is not just the lack of lying, but a virtual of telling the full truth, as painful as it could be (Wilmort 1993, p15). Having compassion for your subordinates or what is commonly referred to as being “big hearted” is important as a leader. Some leaders distance themselves from employees experiencing a full array of challenges, hardships and difficult situations. As a company’s role model the leader should give an example of a caring and empathy. During these times of economic crunch coaching and training is not an outlay but rather an investment in the future prosperity of the business (Jacob 2009, par 9). Employees need to be engaged by way of credit and reinforcement, sufficient resource allocation and empowerment. Managers must realize the link between customer satisfaction and staff motivation. (Bogan & English 1998, p 14).

The Industrial task force (1995, p. 203) emphasized on the significance of leadership in the larger community which would in turn benefit local organizations and enterprises. As Felicity (2009, p3) notes, there is a need to ensure leaders collaborate across sections and divisions within and outside the organization. They need to focus on outcomes in the long term especially in the Australian Public sector. Leadership is tasked with the responsibility of bridging the gap between the laid down policies and the actual service on the ground. Various approaches are needed to manage people from different backgrounds to guarantee achievement of objectives and high quality client service.

Communication is an important role of managers and leaders. This not only applies to the private or public sector, but also to between managers in the two sectors. It involves the passing of timely information to subordinates as well as attention to feedback. Organizations should also commit themselves to leadership development. This is essential for the success of the organization since it enhances increased productivity. Organizations should support their leaders in acquisition of new skills in order to effectively deal with the constantly changing environment. Merit in organizational leadership is a requirement for economic growth, creation of wealth and realization of social benefits that strengthen our society. In disregarding this fact we unsuspectingly put off the most talented people from pursuing management roles.

The business environment is increasingly turning complex and leaders must deal with countless roles and expectations. Agreeably highly efficient leaders can achieve great results which can be attributed to their aspiration to grow and throw in to the organization (Davidson et al 2009 p80). It is also worthy noting the importance of balancing organizational roles with a personal life. Many leaders drop out of management positions in order to pursue personal goals. The workload of about 51 hours a week in addition to family pressures and individual obligations can be an overwhelming task (Paul et al. 2006, p15). It is therefore important to note that certain ambitions in leaders can cause an imbalance to their work and personal life. The executive needs to use at least an hour without any interruptions reading books, relaxing, walking or even at the gym. It is also of utmost importance to encourage staff to engage in activities that promote their fitness. This is essential to ensure a healthy team which would be more productive (Jacob 2009, par 4).

Another important quality of leadership is to be authentic in all regard. It is essential to be autonomous; those who are reactive to the wishes of others are likely to be derailed by competing interests, too quickly to stray from their path or reluctant to make complex decisions for fear of wronging others. The essence of being true to yourself refers to tolerating your faults and using your strengths. In addition a leader should be driven by purpose without which they will be at the mercy of their Egos as well as being susceptible to conceited impulses (Sandberg 2000, p14). An accompanying enthusiasm to pursue that purpose and a strong believe in an intrinsic worth can make one to fully exploit their abilities.

Leadership is not as much of challenging when times are good and there is plenty of funds, but successful leadership can be attributed to a personal discipline and the ability to engage teams, motivate staff and maintain high quality productivity even in difficult times such as during restricted funding (Felicity 2009, p6). There are many setbacks which arise in business, but leaders need to be well built to whether the storms and adjust accordingly for the benefit of the business (Jacobs 2009, par 6). Communication is a vital tool in management and a good leader should have the ability to track performance. Australia’s place in the globe and more so in resource boom in recent times is an indication of strong relationship in wealth creation, domestic policies and good leadership. Scarcity of leaders has arisen at different times, for instance when lack of respected and experienced management causes futile succession in higher levels within both private and public organizations. There is a stiff competition for qualified executives at the international level. Those managers who have achieved great success have done so as a result of a lengthy period of challenging situations. Following a background of increased complexity, increased stakeholder scrutiny and a reducing labor force there is still need to develop leaders who will bring business outcomes (Paul et al 2006, p6).


This report provides a potent and significant picture of good leadership practices, perceptions and development. Success in businesses and the political scene has is good but comes at a cost. Leaders need to make critical decisions based on public interests, prevailing and future market circumstances. The expectations on leadership include abundant prudence and possession of competencies that supplement fundamental core- values. Leadership prerequisites include having a strategy; being future oriented and winning employees trust to augment their input and ensure that an organization moves in the same direction. Where organizations have put good performance measurements tasks are appropriately executed.

There is no end to learning as a leader and this involves a strong sense of confidence in managing organizations in both hard and good times. Thus, Australian leaders in both private and public sectors have proved to be successful owing to the tough challenges they have gone in resolving business and political issues.

Reference List

Bogan, C., & English, M., 1994. Benchmarking for best practices: Winning through creative adaptation San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, Inc

Buzan, T., & Keene, R., 1994. Buzan’s book of genius (and how you can become one). London: Stanley Paul.

Daft, R.L., & Pirola-Merlo, A. 2009. The Leadership Experience: Asia-Pacific Edition. South Melbourne: Cengage.

Davidson, P, Simon, A, Woods, P & Griffin, RW 2009. Management: Core Concepts and Applications 2e + eBook, 2nd edn, John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd.

Edwards, R, O’Reilly, H. & Schuwwalow, P. 1997. Global Personnel skills: A Dilemma for the Karpin committee and others.. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 35 (3):80-89.

Fayol, H. 1949. General and Industrial Management, London: Pitman.

Felicity, H., 2009. Leading organizational change in a complex environment. Web.

Hager, P. & Gonczi, A. 1993. Attributes and competence, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Vocational Education Research, 21(1): 36-45.

Holden, J 2006 ‘The Culture of Leadership’. Web.

Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills 1995, AGPS, Canberra.

Jacob J., 2009. Executives competing in today’s markets will benefit from being as well prepared as possible. Web.

Kendal, S., 2003. Leadership Competencies, Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, 106, pp 49 – 52.

Paul, R., Richard, S., Mark, B., 2006. Development Dimensions International Australia. Best Practices for Tomorrow’s Global Leaders. Web.

Rozario, A., & Hampson, I., 2005. Management Development as Public Policy: The Case of Australia’s Frontline Management Initiative (FMI) 1995 – 2002, Paper prepared for presentation of the 28th Labor Process Conference 2005’. Web.

Sandberg, J., 2000. Understanding Human Competence At Work: An Interpretative Approach, Academy Management Journal, 43 (11): 9-25.

Willmott, H., 1993. Strength Is Ignorance; Slavery Is Freedom: Managing Culture In Modern Organizations, Journal of Management Studies, 30 (4): 515-552.

Working Futures, 2005. The Knowledge Exchange. Web.

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