In recent times I have been feeling very depressed about the state of things including sexism, misogyny, and leadership. But a few days ago came a beacon of hope.
This beacon came from an unlikely source, the Australian Army. And the topic that this person addressed was the sombre one of sexism and demeaning treatment of women by serving military personnel.
Yet I was moved and inspired by an eloquent demonstration of leadership.
This is what a leader does.
A leader speaks out for the right things.
A leader connects values to behaviour.
A leader takes ownership of problems within their organisation.
A leader sets the standards of acceptable behaviour for members of their organisation.
A leader gets their leadership team to stand along with them to support those standards.
A leader makes it clear that people who will not do the right thing are not welcome.
A leader embraces diversity and recognises its contribution to the organisation.
As Lt Gen Morrison said: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”
It appears that Lt Gen Morrison has form with this kind of thinking. In his talk on International Womens’ Day 2013 where he made his position clear:
“Any nexus between an Army such as the one I aspire to lead and sexual assault is absolutely unacceptable. I will take all necessary steps to stamp out any hint of it among my soldiers.”
He went on to say:
“Yes, we do need to bond our soldiers to one another and instil toughness and resilience into them. But when this goal is invoked to degrade and demonise women and minorities it is undermining rather than enhancing capability. We need to define the true meaning of teamwork to embrace a band of brothers and sisters.”
Organisations everywhere still allow sexist behaviour to prevail. And until their leaders take the same kind of uncompromising attitude that David Morrison has, then sexist behaviour will not disappear.
While organisational leaders are mostly men, it is time for all of our leaders to step up and show similar leadership to that demonstrated so admirably by Lt Gen Morrison.
Even Warren Buffett recently spoke out on this topic, saying:
“Fellow males, get onboard. The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about America’s future.”
I encourage all to view the message from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.
I also recommend the PDF transcript of Lt Gen Morrison’s speech at the United Nations International Women’s Day Conference, New York, March 2013