After the debacle of Clare Curran's resignation, a few prominent media folk have been calling out the Prime Minister for showing poor leadership. As though showing consideration and not rushing to act is somehow indicative of a leader who is indecisive and weak.
There have been columns written by people who should know better. Columns that say that under-performing Ministers, or Ministers who make mistakes, should be fired instantly by the Prime Minister. These same columnists have been called out for writing or saying horrible things themselves, or getting things wrong, and yet keeping their columns or their day jobs; they didn't seem to call their bosses weak or indecisive in those scenarios.
I've coached a few CEOs and leaders in my day-job, and one of the key attributes that people want from their managers and bosses is not someone who rules with an iron fist, but someone who energises and supports their team.
I had one client who was a new CEO and they wanted to know how best to communicate with their senior management team to show them that they were supported. We decided that the CEO would take each member of their team out for a coffee and impress upon them the importance of openness. They told staff they didn't mind if they made mistakes, because we're all human and we all make mistakes. But if you did make a mistake, be honest and communicate that and the CEO would work with them on fixing whatever had gone wrong.
Six months later when we reviewed how the team felt towards their new boss and it was nothing but positive. The team felt like they could do their jobs, and take risks to do things a different way knowing that if it didn't go to plan that the boss wouldn't come down on them like a tonne of bricks.
In the years following my internship with Bill English, we used to meet once or twice a year and have a coffee. For the first decade or so of my career I worked in the public sector. Because of this, Bill and I used to have the same conversation every time.
"How do I make the public sector less risk averse?" he'd ask me.
"You could start by not culling them," I'd answer.
And while I was being a wee bit facetious there was also a large degree of truth to what I was saying. If people feel like one step out of line is going to result in an unfairly harsh punishment then they're not going to do anything that risks failure. They're going to stick to small c-conservatism for everything they do through fear of losing their job.
There's no doubt that Clare Curran made some serious mistakes. At best she was incredibly careless, at worst she was deceitful. There's also no questioning that some of the political management of the whole situation has been very poor, but the Prime Minister doesn't want her team to think that she's going to crush them instantly without consideration. This is good leadership. It's also not without precedent. David Benson-Pope, David Garrett, Pansy Wong, Richard Worth, all of these MPs "resigned" and weren't fired at a knee-jerk reaction. This didn't make Helen Clark or John Key weak Prime Ministers.
The best leaders aren't the ones who get rid of the members of their teams as soon as they make mistakes. The best leaders are the ones who get the best out of their teams. Yes, that can be through getting rid of people, but it can also be through working through mistakes and helping their team learn and be better at their jobs. Nobody starts off perfect at a new role.
Nobody stays perfect either. All throughout the rugby season a lot of people said that Beauden Barrett should be dropped from the All Blacks. Then against the Wallabies he turned in the best performance by a first-five since Dan Carter against the Lions 13 years ago. Steve Hansen knows how to get the best from his players. And it's not by dropping them after one bad game.
David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying