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What does leadership mean to you?

As part of my research for a book that I am writing on leadership I have been interviewing people who have shown leadership qualities yet may not be well-known outside of their sphere of influence.

Paul DillonHere is an extract from an interview with Paul Dillon – a community leader in the Parramatta area of NSW, Australia.

Paul has kindly shared his experiences and observations from his varied leadership roles.

1. What does leadership mean to you?

To me, it means respect. Leaders, real leaders, have the respect of those they are to lead. That way leadership is conferred rather than assumed and conferred leadership is more stable and has longevity.

All people respond better to respect than they do to fear. It is surprising how many people who would assume leadership believe that fear is the key to obedience – believing that is what makes a leader.

Fear produces minimums, respect produces maximums and teamwork produces optimums. No leader, no team.

2. What do you see as the essential qualities of a leader?

Consistency in decision making. Consistency is the key to communication. It instils confidence in people when they feel they know what will happen or is happening and develops a culture that supports a leader.

People who have their confidence in a consistent decision maker don't get 'fazed' by situations or events that are external to their field of influence. They have a leader who they know will deal with it.

3. What are your views about leadership in a changing world economic climate?

The fundamentals of leadership will not alter but the areas where leadership will count most will shift to the major areas of concern.

In the immediate post war period up to about the eighties, marketing ruled as war-time production was geared to maximum productivity and high production drove the need to broaden and maintain markets.

The technology revolution firstly fuelled a speculative fiscal environment following on from the age of the entrepreneur leader and produced leaders like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

The global financial crisis has produced a world-wide situation that will need to attract and produce leaders, both in government and in commerce. Natural leaders generally gravitate to areas of need as they seek challenges.

In the financial world confidence is everything and that is where leadership will focus. Leaders bring confidence.

4. Over the next 10 years what do you see as the major leadership issues for businesses?

The elimination of corruption in organisational decision making. Merit must replace all other reasons for making appointments and then merit will be the determinant in decision making.

Decisions have to be made not based on friendships or politics but on what is the best solution to a problem or the best way to go forward from a position.

'Group think' has been the driver of world financial crises and will need to be eliminated by its exposure.

5. What advice would you give those currently in a leadership role or aspiring leaders?

Don't think you can or must be the leader at all times – give others a chance to develop themselves. Be consistent in decision-making and always make decisions based on merit.

Don't surround yourself with compliant people; good people aren't the ones that tell you only what you want to hear. Make sure someone is available who will say 'what if ' when decisions are being made.

Aim for respect. With it comes leadership.

About Paul Dillon:

Paul has a Master of Management degree and 45 years of experience in both the private and public sectors. He's held a number of board and committee positions in government, non-government and business organisations.

Paul worked in an agency of the Australian Public Service in Communications and as the National Manager Small Business.

In 2011, his leadership skills and experience were put to effective use as Chairman of the Western Sydney Awards in Business Excellence.

The event drew wide recognition in the whole Western Sydney business community.

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Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides tailored programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member. Maria’s programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.
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