Bastard, Boss or Leaders? What works best in Australia?

In my 30 years of working, I’ve had a couple of great bosses - and many mediocre.  One of them was my producer, Peter, (his real name) at ABC radio National.  At the time we put out a weekly half-hour program that was broadcast to 30 million local and overseas listeners.  One day he said to me “would you like to do your own program?”  I was gobsmacked - a whole half an hour on any topic I liked?

I chose to cover the new drug trafficking routes through south-east Asia.   He agreed, gave me some contacts to interview, set a date to go to air and let me go.  About 10 days before deadline he sat down with me and listened to what I’d done.  He made some (great), suggestions (that I give some more time to the de-criminalisation argument, change the sequence etc.) gave me the name of someone else to interview and again set me free to do the work. Did I work hard on that program!  After all, it was going to go to air, with my name attached to it, and it was all my own work.  I don’t think I’ve ever been as highly motivated.  What was he doing right?

It turns out that Peter was displaying many of the qualities that Australians look for in a leader. 


  1. Acted as a “Captain – Coach”,  not a taskmaster
  2. Provided appropriate support - he helped where it was needed, and left me alone to when it was not
  3. Gave me autonomy and the resources to complete the task
  4. Motivated me to a worthwhile cause
  5. Acted as a “Captain – Coach”,  not a taskmaster
  6. Cared about my success

These attributes are captured in a report about leadership in Australia “Australian Cultural Imprints at Work” (2011, BTLi).   It identified three leadership styles that predominate in Australia- Bastards, Bosses and Leaders which have a marked impact on performance (I will cover these next week).

Now is the time to develop the capacity of your leaders - and we can help you to succeed.  We have a full range of leadership programs, as well as mentoring and coaching.  An initial consultation is free: Get in touch with Cris: or (+ 61) 0438 545 607