Chain Reaction Foundation

Leadership Traits in Disadvantaged Areas: A Strong Sense of The Practical

by Margaret Bell | May 11, 2017

One of the most frequent questions that a leader must ask in a disadvantaged areas is "is it practical?" This is because leaders in such areas do not have the luxury of experimentation or trial and error. They must first understand if a suggestion is going to provide a genuine, practical benefit to them as they seek to do the best job they possibly can.

This permeates into every level of leadership in areas low on the socio-economic index. Community leaders and political representatives must negotiate and work with tight budgets, in which every expense must be justified. Ruthlessness becomes a necessity which may appear cold, callous and calculating from the outside. But is a necessity if the mechanics of leadership are to remain operative.

Similarly, this is the case in workplaces. Employers and union leaders must make decisions which are in the best interests of their staff members and those they represent. Workplaces are a fundamental part of the economic biosphere of a disadvantaged community. Jobs must be protected and workers' rights must be upheld. Neither of these things can be achieved without a strong sense of the practical.

Statistics released in 2014 showed that many Australian employees feel that workplace leadership structures fall short in this regard. The University of Melbourne's Centre for Workplace Leadership found that as many as three quarters of Australians feel that their workplace managers and leaders do not do a good enough job in operating an efficient company and protecting the workers in their charge. This is certainly problematic, and it underlines how important it is for leaders at all levels to recognise these findings.

But it is in our schools and in our homes where it could be argued that this sense of the practical is most valuable. It is in these places where our children -- our next generation -- are directly impacted by leadership decisions. This is precisely where such decisions have the most influence on their characters and on their lives and specifically where education is most effective that leadership is about enabling the other.

Our children are the leaders of the future. Not only do they need to show that a practical and responsible attitude to leadership is the right approach to take, but they also must understand that limited resources and finances are not necessarily negative restraints. While leaders in disadvantaged areas certainly do not find themselves at the helm of an ideal set of circumstances, they can, do and will achieve overwhelmingly positive results. These are the exciting, beneficial products of leadership that our children must witness at home, at school and in the wider community.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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