A cheerless farewell

THIS week’s THINKING ALLOWED contains excerpts from the cathartic leaving speech of Melville council CEO Shayne Silcox, who stood down at the end of July after a decade of service. Given during his last public council meeting, Dr Silcox’s valedictory had the air of an exasperated bureaucrat who had reached the end of his tether. He says local government administrators needed the combined skills of Jesus, Ghandi and Houdini coupled with the “courage of 13 Thai children in a cave”. 

SENIOR roles in local government are not for the faint hearted.

They are roles for people who wish to make a real difference, as leaders we must transform our communities if they are to be truly sustainable and not just transact with them.

Transformation must involve vision, courage, endurance; sacrifice; persuasiveness; resilience; stewardship; and the ability to bounce back when there are inevitable attacks, because there will be attacks, on you, your integrity, your staff and even your family.

The attacks can be from within or outside or both; the attacks do not have to have a factual foundation.

Attack is a lazy person’s game in government – it’s easy to play the popular card – it’s hard to be a statesman; the attack is made even easier by social media and mobile devices.

I am not critical of social media and mobile communication, in fact I think this has in a single way flattened the world and given voice to individuals and society against oppression, hardship and evil.

But it also has given a platform for manipulation and abuse to the uncritical mind.

There are many opinionated people in the world; you hear them every day on talk back radio, experts who have nothing on the line but want to dictate the terms to the many, you read them in the papers and on-line.

They are armchair experts without the semblance of, or worse still, some knowledge who forcefully express their views to willing and unquestioning ears.

The sad part of this dynamic is those with authentic voices are smothered or muted by the loud noise; their aim being so we don’t hear the signal through the noise.

I am reminded when thinking of this of a recent headline by Andrew Bolt, “Haters blind to our achievements”.

Local papers will run arguments because it suits a certain narrative. Blogs purport to be the voice of the people but are the rantings of individuals with an axe to grind.

Axe to grind

On-line posts are made about the integrity of senior staff or people who dare to have a different view.

Advertisements are purchased to make personal attacks on CEOs and elected members. Clandestine letterbox drops with defamatory statements about staff are made under the cover of darkness that do not have the names of the authors.

Meetings, council and public, are stacked with crowds of like-minded people with a cause to promote.

Statements are posted on the internet which is there forever. The call is more transparency in government but less honesty from the noisy anti-groups.

Interestingly, once there is a victory for the naysayers and they take office, the very same issues that galvanised their opposition no longer loom large, but more importantly the achievements that were often undermined in the past become very important.

That bullies are the most insecure people in society and their issues are within themselves.

If you treat people properly, recognise their achievements and respect them, they will repay you threefold with their loyalty.

In fact the true measure of a person is how you treat someone who can do absolutely nothing for you.

… if we are honest with ourselves most of us spend the better part of our working lives convinced that we could do the boss’s job better than the boss. Something about what bosses do looks so easy that we all believe we can do it better.

We all seem to make demands on our administrators that are nearly impossible to meet.

… being a steward then, in other words, requires people to display on an every day basis the combined skills of Einstein, St Peter, Nelson Mandela, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Don Bradman, Weary Dunlop, Ghandi and Houdini coupled with the courage of 13 Thai children in a cave.

No wonder most elected members don’t meet expectations!

These unreal expectations we must all consider when making judgements about people and their abilities

… stand back and look at what your staff have achieved despite the obvious political agendas – again I am reminded of Andrew Bolt’s headline! .

So, farewell for now. I wish each and every one of you the very best for the future and I trust you will achieve all your personal dreams and aspirations … and remember nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.

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