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Extraordinary Leadership in Australia and New Zealand: The Five Practices that Create Great Workplaces by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner, Michael Bunting

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Introduction: The Leadership Challenge in Australasia

Michael Bunting

Founder of WorkSmart Australia

AFTER 21 YEARS OF ADVANCED psychological and mindfulness study and practice, starting and running three successful companies, coaching and training thousands of people, and a lifetime dedicated to learning and teaching leadership, the greatest lesson I've learned about leadership is this: it is profoundly difficult to lead really well. And after more than a decade of coaching and training leaders in Australia and New Zealand, I can tell you this: leadership in our region poses unique cultural challenges.

This is true for many reasons, not the least of which is the ‘tall poppy syndrome', which permeates the culture and goes a long way towards explaining why Australians and New Zealanders tend to mark their leaders 13 to 20 percentiles lower on leadership assessments compared to what's reported around the globe.1 According to The Australian National Dictionary, a tall poppy is, ‘a person who is conspicuously successful, frequently one whose distinction, rank, or wealth attracts envious notice or hostility'.2 The Penguin Book of Australian Slang describes a tall poppy as a ‘very important or influential person, or person with status, often held in contempt by others who try to bring about this person's downfall or ruin'.3

Australians are fiercely egalitarian. This is evidenced in many ways, including the informal way of speaking with each other across hierarchies. In a famous example, ...

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