Contact one of our experts

The Turnbull Effect – How important was Leadership Style in our change of government?

Following the tumultuous events of September 14th that resulted in Tony Abbott being usurped as Prime Minister of Australia by a member of his own party, much has been made of his successor, Malcolm Turnbull’s, desire to introduce a different style of leadership in his new administration.

In his press conference to announce his challenge to Mr Abbott,  Mr Turnbull openly called for “a new style of leadership in the way we deal with others”, as well as putting an end to “captain’s calls”. It was a message that seemed to be headed by the party room and ensured his victory in the subsequent leadership ballot.

So is it true that a leader’s style of leadership can be so influential, and what are the lessons for corporate Australia if that is the case?

In current leadership theory, two recognised approaches are Transformational Leadership and Transactional Leadership.

The former is concerned with how leaders are able to inspire their followers to accomplish great things, with proponents of this approach being adept at achieving high levels of performance from their teams through idealised influence, motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration.

Conversely, Transactional leaders tend to focus on supervision, organisation and group performance to achieve their aims, promoting compliance through both reward and punishment. Critically, leaders using a transactional approach are often not looking to change the future, but merely keep things the same.

Ultimately, all leaders will be judged on the outcomes they achieve, and both the above approaches can have effective results in the right circumstances. However, in the world of politics, business and beyond, the need for exceptional and sustained performance is required in increasing frequency and regularity.

One relatively new theory of leadership designed to define and quantify outcomes in this field is Performance Leadership, which introduces a systematic and results orientated framework that enables leaders to develop high performing individuals, teams and organisations.

The major benefits of this approach are that it is highly measurable, moves the focus from individuals to the group or organisation, and enables capability building.

The ultimate aim of the Performance Leadership approach is to increase self-awareness through lateral engagement and leadership networks, thus contributing to a greater sense of organisational awareness and a team based approach that increases effectiveness and the outcomes achieved by this. Put simply, this style is less about an event based approach and more about what happens on the job.

So what can these leadership styles tell us about the recent political upheaval and how can corporate Australia heed these lessons?

While it is fair to assume that Mr Abbott’s inferior polling figures had a major impact on his ultimate demise, there seems to be significant anecdotal evidence that his style of leadership did not always endear him to his party colleagues (a trait also levelled at his predecessor Kevin Rudd during his initial term of office). This ultimately led to a lack of trust in the leader himself, a classic symptom of badly managed Transactional Leadership. Many large corporates have already embraced new leadership thinking, but the challenge for many small and medium sized enterprises is to maximise the return on the significant investment this entails – which is increasingly an opportunity for the Performance Leadership approach.

Ultimately, it is fair to state that the business community in Australia is yearning for stability and clarity of direction from our politicians, and hopefully Mr Turnbull is able to implement a new style of leadership to provide this in an increasingly challenging economic environment.

TMS Consulting offers a range of consulting services within our Leadership Development stream, and has developed a leadership development model that embraces the concept of Performance Leadership, enabling our clients to benefit from this innovative approach. For more information on our services in this field, please contact us on via        


About the author

TMS Consulting