Latham the flawed leader

One of my daughters bought me The Latham Diaries for Christmas. I read a chunk of the book each night over my holiday.
I am struck by the leadership lessons in this book, but first some background.
Mark Latham was elected leader of the Australian Labor Party and hence federal opposition leader in December 2003 by a narrow margin in the caucus vote. At the time several leading commentators (eg Michelle Grattan) described the decision as a radical experiment and a choice by the party to follow Latham in a wild roller coaster ride.
Latham had been a crude critic of the American Alliance and even harsher critic of George W Bush.
I had a roller coaster ride in my view of Latham’s performance. I was glad to see his early wins against what I saw as a tired and power hungry incumbent government. But then there were times when Latham seemed to “go missing”. His interest in the job seemed to wax and wane.
In the end he lost the 2004 Election convincingly with a net loss of seats to the government and for the first time in its term giving control of the Senate to the government.
I was disappointed with Latham’s response to the loss. Publicly he seemed to lack any real ability to analyse what happened and where fault was to be found, he found it in others. In my mind I decided he could no longer continue as leader. He was a spent force.
Reading his diaries has given me more insight than I could have imagined. Historians, political analysts, students of leadership and the general public owe him a great debt.
One the one hand he gives us a wide open look into the operation of a modern Australian political party (not that he would claim it was very modern). He holds little hope for the future of the Labor Party seeing it as been riddled with and under the complete control of ‘machine men’ whose only interest is their own power base with zero regard for the greater good of the party. Who knows how much of his analysis is correct. I am convinced that a great deal of it is and it has changed my view of modern Australian politics. I am almost convinced that party politics is in its death throws.
More interesting though is the insight into the mind of a leader. Mark Latham was a loner. From the start to the finish of the book he sees fault, with the exception of a very small group of supporters and friends, with everyone with whom he has ever worked. His analysis of them is powerful and incisive. What he lacks is any ability whatsoever to see his own contribution to the malaise he sees around him. He is a member of the part of which he became leader. But he regards himself as completely separate from its history and evolution into the organisation it is today. In failed working relationships, he sees the fault of the other but none of his own.
What he fails to see is the ordinariness of his experience. We all live and work in organisations of which we can find what we believe to be fatal flaws. We all see the unethical and self serving behaviour of others whilst finding it hard to see it in ourselves. Latham is a good writer so he documented it lucidly. Good but not good enough for a man of his talent.
The leader’s role is to rise above such a simple understanding of events around themself. The leader must reflect on their own contribution to the events which shape their organisation.
Sadly, so few who c all themselves leaders are able to find this most basic understanding of themselves. Sadly, Latham failed, first and foremost because of this failure.

Summer in Melbourne

ThunderstormAtMordialloc480.jpg
It’s been a hot day in Melbourne. And, as often happens here in summer, the day ended with a thunderstorm. This is a picture I took about an hour ago from the beach at Mordialloc
There are major bushfires around the state and the firefighters are sweating on a wind change and some rain. It looks like the relief will be short though. The weather bureau is predicting that it will be warm to hot through until next Tuesday. The only relief is that there will be some rain each day during this period.
The fires started last Sunday when it was over 40 in Melbourne and have been continuing ever since.
ABC local radio has had extensive coverage of the bushfire situation. Normally the Cricket takes precedence over everything else on ABC radio in summer, but the bushfires are so serious, that we are now only getting updates in breaks of the fire coverage.
It was really hot last Sunday. Judy and I went to the moves to escape the heat for a couple of hours. The famous Melbourne cool change came through early in the evening so we opened all the windows to let the house cool down. In the morning, when I got to my computer, there was ash on the keyboard. IT wasn’t black but it was very noticeable.
It’s cooled down a bit tonight after the thunderstorm, but it’s still very warm and humid. We’re in for a warm night.

Jamuary in Melbourne

It’s hard trying to get back to work in January in Melbourne.
It’s hard enough trying to get back to work after a break, but in Melbourne it’s always hot in January. I think the minimum overnight temperature last night was 25 (C). It’s hard to sleep when it’s that hot. Although we get hotter and last night wasn’t close to the worst night I’ve experienced here. Regardless, it’s hot enough and it is hard to sleep comfortably.
Today has been very warm. The maximum was about 36. Again, not as hot as it gets but hot nevertheless.
Then from about 4:30 this afternoon, the sky became very threatening. It was still hot but you could tell a thunderstorm was on its way. When its hot and you get a thunderstorm, you know you’re in Melbourne. The storm came through about 6pm. There was lightning, thunder and rain. Heavy rain. For about ten or fifteen minutes then it was gone.
There was quite a lot of cool air circulating around when the rain came but now (at 9pm) it’s hot and sticky again. I’m sitting next to an open window and every now and again I get a puff of cooler air, but not only enough to give a taste of a change. Not enough to know that it has cooled down again. It feels like it will be another hot night.
For the last hour it has been really eerie. The sky was completely clouded over but it was quite bright. Almost as though it was being lit from below the clouds, This is common in Melbourne in summer but I never get over it. Also over the last hour, the sky has been getting more and more red. Although over the last fifteen minutes it has slowly been getting darker and the red has almost completely faded away now. All this is typical of extreme weather conditions in Melbourne.
And it all means it is hard to get back to work. I get home from visits to clients during the day and I just don’t have the energy to do anything at night. Hardly even enough energy to check my email.
In a way it’s nice. It’s like extending the break. I don’t want to get on the treadmill again and work late every night. But it’s so hot during the day that I don’t get much done so I feel like I should be working.
I just have to keep telling myself this is what it is like every January and early February in Melbourne. I will get used to being back at work and the weather will quieten down to a beautiful Autumn. (There is nothing as beautiful on all the earth as Autumn in Melbourne.)
Gradually, I will get used to being back at work and forget that I even had a holiday. I hope not too soon and I hope that I will remember the groundedness of being on holiday. The feeling of being in touch with myself. I hope I will be able to cary these things right through the year.

Back at work

I’ve been back at work for nearly two weeks now. You might have noticed I haven’t posted anything during that time.
The first week back from holiday, I treated it more or less like an extension to the break. I just didn’t want to start work again. I had really enjoyed my holiday. I had loved my holiday. I was determined not to get onto the treadmill again. (How many times have I said that before. I think I may have even wrote it here this time last year.) It was a nice week last week. I went to bed about midnight most nights and I was getting up at 8. Quite relaxing.
This week I felt like I had to get back to work. I had to earn some money for a start. But I also wanted to start acting. To start making contact with people again and get over the hesitance to put myself out there.
I haven’t been working at 100% but I have got some things done. It is nice to write here again at last. There is so much I want to write about. I hope I get the chance to write more regularly again this year.
Let’s see.

Fully Restored

chriscurnow.com is now fully restored.
The chriscurnow.com server came back at the start of this week after having a logic board transplant and all is OK. It’s hard drive survived the ordeal intact which is absolutely fantastic news.
We have upgraded to Moveable Type v 3.2 and to the latest version of mySQL. We had some heartstopping moments on the way but we solved all the problems that arose. We learnt stuff about backing up restoring mySQL databases and lots of command line stuff. A good experience but one we would rather not have had to have just now.
We now have to look at the new Moveable Type templates and style sheets and see if there is anything we want to change. So over the coming weeks you might see some more changes to the formats. Hopefully all will be for the better.
Throughout it all we learnt the second rule of backing up – always backup everything AFTER you have had a crash.
Of course we are yet to fully learn the first rule of backing up – always backup everything REGULARLY.
It would help if we had a tape drive but unfortunately we just can’t quite justify the expense. So we still backup to DVDs which is a big drag.
Anyway, back to regular blogging.

Last Full Day

[Updated 28/1/06]

Well, it’s my last full day down here at Anglesea.

It’s 11:30am and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day. There’s
not a green cloud in the sky and the breeze is just a breath.

I always get sad when it’s close to the end of a holiday down here. I’ve
been having my summer holiday down here for so long I don’t know if it is
to do with leaving this place or if its just the end of the holiday and time
to get back to work. I suspect it is a bit of both. I will miss going for
my walk each morning. The sound of the ocean and the different personalities
it takes on each day. Noticing whether the tide is in or out. Is it going
to be a fine day or overcast.

I notice the weather when I’m in Melbourne but not as intensely. Down here,
I become much more attuned to the natural world. I am sure if I worked harder
at it I would become much more attunded. But as it is, it is much more present
in my daily life.

One of my goals over the last few years has been to spend the whole of January
down here. I made it a specific goal for this year but it didn’t happen. We
stayed in a cheaper house last year and we thought we could afford to hire
it for four weeks instead of two. But the further we got through last year
the more definite Judy was that she didn’t like that house. In the end it
was available anyway so it didn’t matter.

Nevertheless I am determined to do it some day. My plan is to spend the first
two weeks just having a holiday and the second two weeks focussing my intent
in my work for the coming year.

I have been reading "http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=as2&path=ASIN/038551624X&tag=chriscurnowco-20&camp=1789&creative=9325">
Presence

[see my review here]
during this holiday. Pretty well a chapter each day. It has been powerful
reading. This book records a conversation between Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworski,
C. Otto Scharmer and Betty Sue Flowers. From the back cover:

At this turbulent juncture in human history, a whole new set of
social innovations promises to shift humanity away from its destructive path
towards a brighter planetary civilization. Presencing and its U process is
one of the most profound. It provides all who want to change the world not
only with profound hope, but with a systematice and effective way to birth
a sustainable planetary society. Nicanor Perlas, Recipient of the 2003
Alternative Nobel Prize and the UN Environmental Program Global Award.

It has led me to focus on what I want the intent of my work to be.
I feel like I have got closer to this intent each year down here over the
last few years. I can remembr walking along next to the cliffs down from Roadknight
beach in deep contemplation. I really feel like another two weeks down here
right now would allow me to get closer still to this elusive part of me.

Maybe be next year. Who knows what this year will bring.

Different Personalities

Another fine day in Anglesea.

It was overcast with a few sunny breaks this morning when we woke up. So
many times I’ve been down here and woken up to an overcast sky and wondered
what it was going to do. I always live in hope that it will burn off to a
fine sunny aternoon. But most times it doesn’t. It was a bit hopeful today
because the sunny breaks kept appearing and it had an air of warmth about
it. But when we got to the beach around 3:30, it was still quite cool when
the sun went behind a clound and the inland sky was quite overcast. It was
pleasant enough so we decided to stay. The tide fairly high and running in.

Between 5 and 5:30, the tide turned and the sky became completely clear.
There is a change to the sound of the waves after the tide turned. It becomes
gentler and subtly quiter. Combined with the clear sky and drop in the wind
it had an overall feeling of gentleness. A feeling that the day was coming
to an end and was winding down.

It all made me think how the personality of the beach changes during the
day and from day to day. There is nothing like the beach down here when the
tide is a low ebb. It has a lazy feel to it. Especially if it is also sunny.
The tide turning in late afternoon has a different feeling. Perhaps there
is a subconscious fear that the advancing tide will keep coming. When it turns,
there is relief. Nature is still in control and its patterns are still reliable.
She has protected rather than harming us.

Seachange at Barwon Heads

[Updated 8/1/05]

It was an overcast cool day today so we headed to the second of our traditional
holiday destinations – Barwon Heads, home of the ABC
series Seachange.

We were big fans of the Seachange series so the first time we came
to Anglesea after the series first screened, we headed down to Barwon Heads
to sea the township for ourselves. We’ve been going down once each year since.
We have to go to The Heads (Bar, Cafe, Resteraunt) which was orginally
Diver Dan‘s
boatshed
in the series but has not been turned
into a 70 seat resteraunt. Althought only part of the original boatshed remains,
we really like what they have done with it. Barwon Heads has really capitalised
on the popularity of the TV show.

We normally get there late in the afternoon and just have coffee and the
kids have wedges. Today though we planned a bit better and got there in time
for lunch.Well we thought we planned a bit better. We got there by about 2pm
but we nearly missed out on getting a table. There was no room left in the
main resteraunt, but they found a table in a side room. The meals there are
really good and we enjoyed it very much.

After that we went to Queenscliff, had a bit of a look around and then had
afternoon tea at The Accoustic Cafe
[I'll try to get around to posting some photos] the last of our traditional
activities. We went there a few years ago and I fell in love with their courtyard.
I liked it so much I built one, including ponds, outside our loungeroom.

If this is global warming – bring it on!

[Updated 8/1/06]

Just joking about the title. I really think global warming is an extremely
serious issue and I’m upset at Howard’s refusal to ratify Kyoto. But January
is light hearted month so I’m being a bit flippant.

What I really mean by the title is that it is another fine day down here
at Anglesea and in my lighthearted mood thought of the title. So far, I’ve
been to the beach everyday except New Year’s Day. It’s looking the best beach
holiday I’ve had for years.

Today was a tad cooler than the other days with a bit of a cooler breeze
and light patchy cloud cover.

One of our traditional things to do on family holiday is to go to Lorne
for an afternoon. Many times we have done this on cooler days. A few times
it has been cold or raining on the day we go to Lorne.

Not so this year, although I was the only one to go swimming. I had left
my rasher and sunscreen back at the house so I kept my t-shirt on. The waves
are always bigger at Lorne and today they were really good. They are also
quite even with each wave pretty much the same height for the full length
of the beach.

It’s quite an amazing experience standing there and seing a wall of water
heading towards you. I’ve been mucking around body
surfing
for most of my life but the last few years I’ve tried to get more
serious about it. I got dumped quite badly a couple of years ago and I realised
I had to be more careful until I have more experience with big waves. So I
let some of the bigger waves go through but some were really fantastic. I
ended up staying in the water for nearly and hour and a half. I was pretty
cold when I got out.

Afterwards we all had coffee and some cakes at The
Arab
, which is probably the oldest continuously operating cafe in Lorne.