I listened to the Rugby League game yesterday between the Broncos and the Raiders, an extraordinary game that the Broncos had won, almost lost, then won in a golden point “coin toss”
For no particular reason, the term “character” came to mind while listening. It is an overused term in Rugby league, every player doing something a bit good is suddenly a “hero” who showed “extraordinary character”, according to pundits, but this is not what post is about.
This is about the character of leadership, the person who can imbue an organisation with a set of behavioral norms that have a lasting and wide impact.
Wayne Bennett must be such a leader. I have never met the man, no longer follow League with any passion, but Bennett’s leadership record from the Canberra Raiders in their formative years, to the Broncos, and now St George is unmatched. Few would bet against him in his next iteration at Newcastle.
So, what is the character of a leader like Bennett?
Surely it is someone who can overcome the challenges presented by the complicated and multifarious environment we all live in, by developing and articulating a sense of inner moral certainty that impacts those being led. They seem to be able to make the leap necessary to subjugate their own needs and ego to those they are leading, effectively to be their leader by being their servant, getting their kicks from those being led, rather than from observers.
In this context it is about giving a bunch of very aggressive young athletes in a brutal contact sport who largely lack formal education, their own moral compass that makes them better players with reserves of determination and commitment they probably do not even recognise, but more importantly, makes them better people in a lasting way.
In other contexts, the impact of character is the same, it is just the names that change. Perhaps this is why we are so cynical about our political and institutional leadership, every time we wake up there is another example of someone in a leadership position demonstrating the lack of moral and philosophical depth by being “pragmatic”.