Jason Smith talks to Victor Perton about Australian Leadership. Jason T Smith is the founder of Back in Motion, Australasia’s’s largest physiotherapy franchise group with 100 locations nationally and recognised by several BRW and Ernst & Young business awards.
Victor Perton: Jason, what’s your favourite story of a boss or a leader you have had?
|Jason T Smith|
Jason Smith: I have been deeply impacted by the lifecycle of one man’s leadership in particular. He was loved, respected, and followed by tens of thousands. I had the opportunity to sit close to him, observe his modus operandi, and be friends. After decades of effective leadership, circumstances in his organisation changed. He fatigued, expectations of him changed, and arguably over time, he lost some relevance with those he was leading. Importantly, and without criticism, the organisation needed new leadership to take them in a different direction. Over the course of 2 years, I was fascinated to watch the dawn of change settle over this leader, note the different postures he needed to adopt, carefully listen to his musings, and celebrate with him the transition from the highest platform of influence and authority to relative obscurity as his season shifted. I marvel at this story, not because it was a failure, disappointment, or the wrong decision. I reflect on it often because it’s a great example of the authentic leadership story: one with exciting beginnings, enduring positive impact throughout tenure, and then a sensible, calculated, and definitive end. So few close the book on their leadership on their terms and end up in disgrace with the book thrown at them. My learning is to make sure I identify the right time to transition my leadership to ensure the people I serve experience the best I have to offer.
Victor Perton: Jason, what are the unique qualities of Australian leadership?
Jason Smith: Unlike some other parts of the world, effective leadership in Australia is heavily nuanced with traces of confidence and humility in equal portion.
As a national culture, we are highly sensitive to ‘tall poppies’, arrogance, and a ‘fair go’. We crave assertive vision and a pioneering spirit (that might hark back to our days of colonialism). So, leaders in this great country of ours must find the right balance of mateship, courage, aspiration, high work ethic, sprinkled with some self-effacing humour.
Leadership “by example” is much more favoured over any approach that smacks with elitism or superiority.
Victor Perton: Jason, what do Australians want of their leaders today?
Jason Smith: More than anything, I think Australians are screaming for clarity from their leaders. We have too many who have oscillated at the whims of what wins them votes, “likes”, or higher remuneration.
The average “Aussie battler” wants a leader who is genuine, can articulate a better future for all and knows the pathway to get there. This is not a reference to just our government context, but also in our workplaces, not-for-profits, schools, sporting clubs and other dimensions of community life.
Australians pride themselves on being able to smell a phoney within 5 sentences, and so leadership in this country must be honest, transparent and driven by an internal conviction that won’t compromise to the pressures of public opinion. Will the real leaders stand up?
Victor Perton: Jason, thinking about your life, who have been the leaders who have inspired and inspire you?
Jason Smith: Resilience is one of the most aspiring characteristics that attracts me to an individual. Great leaders tend to have this in common. I’m often inspired by our sitting politicians, not because of their policies or personal life choices, but because they can withstand the onslaught of public criticism, internal conflict, exhausting schedules, and any number of other competing tensions with poise and posture that reveals resilience.
In particular, this is true of our some of our greatest global leaders who have inspired me too. Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, more locally, Brendan Nottle (Victorian of the Year, Salvation Army), and most supremely, Jesus Christ who lived more than 2,000 years ago.
Resilience: What an inspirational attribute to model our lives and leadership on!
Victor Perton: Jason, What makes you optimistic? What’s the case for optimism?
Jason Smith: Labelling someone an “optimist” can be either a compliment or criticism – depending on the accuser and associated circumstances. They might be calling you a mindless dreamer with no reality…or a hope-filled visioneer who chooses to believe the best in people. I aspire to be the latter.
Without hope you cannot lead, you can only manage. Virtuous optimism compels me to over-lead and under-manage. Help people identify the opportunity in every situation. Look for the learning in mistakes. Bounce forward, rather than bounce back.
Popular literature calls it adversarial growth – and it’s when you embrace the stretch and pain of failure to improve your life. Be grateful that a setback gives you the setup for a comeback. My lens to the world around me is that we can do better, go further, and get there faster.
Why? Because everything is created three times. First, in your mind. Second, with your words. And finally, by your action.
Speak words of life into yourself, the team around you, and the challenges you are facing, and the power of optimism and hope will be the rocket fuel to propel leadership influence at every level.