The Most Critical Australian Shortage: Outspoken Optimistic Leaders

The Most Critical Australian Shortage: Outspoken Optimistic Leaders
by Victor Perton

The pulse of a nation is often reflected in the tenor of its leadership, and in Australia, there's a dire shortage—not of resources or talent, but of outspoken, optimistic leaders. This is especially critical when we look at the messaging that permeates our industries, leads our news headlines and shapes the mindset of our emerging workforce.

The Australian Industry Group's (Ai Group) latest press release, "Uncertainty, inflation and slowing demand top industry concerns for 2024," is a testament to the prevailing tone of pessimism and fear of uncertainty.

It reports that in its leaders' survey, "net optimism for 2024 is at its lowest since the end of the mining boom."

A couple of years ago, in the company of the Dalai Lama, I heard him say that the most crucial gift we can give teenagers is to foster their optimism. He insisted that it's not about instructing them to be hopeful but about us modelling optimism for them.  It's a message that resonates more today than ever as we confront a crossroads in leadership attitude.

Ai Group's "Australian Industry Expectations for 2024" survey presents a fear-led and pessimistic picture from 300 of its industry "leaders." 

These are the very individuals from whom we need inspiration and visionary thinking. 

It's a paradoxical scenario where Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox asserts the capability of industry leaders to navigate upcoming challenges but simultaneously underscores their fears of inflation, slowing demand, and geopolitical uncertainty. This dichotomy does little to inspire confidence or optimism.

The report's finding that net optimism for 2024 is at its lowest since the end of the mining boom over a decade ago is alarming but not surprising. 

It reflects a broader trend of risk-averse and defensively postured leadership.

However, there has never been a better time for leaders to echo concerns alone and to cast a vision that can steer the country through these tumultuous waters.

A solitary beacon of hope in the report is the commitment to productivity through investment in technology, innovation, and skills upgrades. While this is commendable, more is needed. Authentic leadership transcends operational efficiency. What we need is a transformation in the narrative – one that not only acknowledges the challenges but also uplifts with a clear, optimistic path forward.

Optimistic leadership is not about wearing rose-coloured glasses; it's about strategic positivity. It's about leaders who can acknowledge difficulties and yet choose to highlight opportunities, rallying their teams and the industry at large with the assurance that collective ingenuity can overcome current obstacles.

Australia is in critical need of leaders who will confidently articulate a compelling vision for the future and inspire action not out of fear but out of belief in the potential for success and progress.

If optimism is the most important thing we can foster in the next generation, then it is the responsibility of today's leaders to champion this cause. With its influential voice, the AIG could be a powerful catalyst for this change. Instead of mirroring the anxieties of the day, it should strive to be the harbinger of hope, guiding not by the limitations of the present but by the possibilities of tomorrow. Only then can we address Australia's most critical shortage - optimism for the nation and our place in the world. 

I know Ai Group has optimistic leaders and crew in its midst. I have seen Louise McGrath entrance foreign audiences with her relentless Australian optimism. Tim Piper AM always brings a sense of can-do to meetings. The tenor of their voices should be to the fore.

Two years ago, The Centre for Optimism published its proposal for "Framing an Optimistic Australian National Narrative." It's needed more than ever!

Australia Day 2024 calls for positive and optimistic Australian leaders to deliver messages and visions of a better Australia and how to get there.

They must convey a future where our policies, conversations and actions are imbued with the spirit that anything is possible with our individual and collective imaginations.

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