Book Review: The Australian Leadership Paradox

Paradox is the right word to use when discussing the relationships to leaders and views of leadership in Australia.  This “lucky country” has an interesting history that has fed into these paradoxes of leadership and authority.  I’m thankful for this book to help navigate some of the unspoken rules and general assumptions that a typical Australian wouldn’t question or think twice about.  But this book isn’t just for outsiders seeking to understand the system.  This book is a great read for Australians who want to unpack what may be obvious in regards to Australian leadership but also what sits, often hidden, beneath the surface.
Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 8.04.45 PM.pngThe Australian Leadership Paradox: What it Takes to Lead in the Lucky Country by Geoff Aigner and Liz Skelton walks the line between critique and advice very well.  More than just stating the paradoxes themselves, they begin to tease out the why behind them.  And they also give examples of how Australian leadership can and should change for the better.  These examples are in the form of short stories which give context and I believe make them easily relatable as well.  Anyone who has ever struggled in a position of leadership in Australia could potentially find their story here.  And in finding their story, hopefully see how they could be empowered to change their leadership style for the better without losing some of the great things about being Australian.

This book is primarily talking to Australians about Australians and for that it speaks very well.  For me personally I will have to do my best to apply this knowledge appropriately because so far my interactions in Perth have been with very few Australians.  In the past month, I have met more immigrants or children of immigrants than anyone else.   This is maybe my own personal paradox, coming to Australia, seeking to know and understand Australians.  But instead of being surrounded by primarily born and raised, multi-generational Australians, I’m surrounded by an amazingly multinational, multiethnic community.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but my own definitions of what it means to be Australian are definitely being expanded.

The First Day of School

“Smile, make friends and eat a healthy lunch,” was the advice from a friend when I expressed that I was a bit nervous about today. It’s been 10 years since I graduated from UCSB so I do feel a little out of practice with this whole student thing.

But here I am ready for my first day with my healthy lunch packed, smile on my face and ready to make friends. Please pray for this week of learning and adjustment.  Graduate school can’t be too difficult, right?

Getting to Know Perth: Fringe Festival

Perth may be a small town masquerading as a big city but there seems to be some event or festival happening all the time.  Maybe it’s the time of the year but in addition to Australia Day and Chinese New Year events, Fringe Festival has taken over the city.  While out on the town yesterday evening there were lines of people waiting for shows, live music playing and a general festive tone.  Nothing was too full or busy for a Friday night but couples, groups of friends and families were all out enjoying the evening.

We explored Perth in a different way these past couple of weekends.  We walked around and watched some of the street performers, and I loved the mermaid tank.  Since we live in East Perth, everything is an easy bus ride or walking distance from our place.  We stumbled across the dress rehearsal for an open-air Opera on our way home yesterday and since it looked fun we’re headed back tonight for the show.screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-11-46-10-amBut so far the highlight of Fridge Festival for me has been the Djuki Mala dancers.  I went on Tuesday with friends to see their fun show.  It was a great mix of traditional Aboriginal dance and storytelling mixed with modern music and stylized performances.  Bollywood, Michael Jackson and singing in the rain, just to name a few.  It was a very fun way to spend an evening, getting a little more Australian culture with a fun, energetic twist.

Preparing for UWA

It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been in school.  And starting next week, I will be a full time student again.  I’ve been organizing the paperwork.  I’ve bought basic school supplies.  And I even did a bit of reading at the beach for my first seminar that begins on Monday.  It brought back flashbacks of my undergrad at UCSB where I certainly tried to study at the beach but was never really successful.  Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 4.03.53 PM.pngMaybe the beach won’t be the ideal place to study for grad school either but I will not make that decision until I try at least a few more times.  Please pray for me in this new endeavor.  Pray that I would learn well and be able to understand the coursework.  Please also pray that I would connect well with my professors and fellow students.  I’m looking forward to having a student community again.  And I’ll be sure to let you know how the beach studying works out.

American Politics in Australia

I’m an American, a citizen of the United States and unless something unexpected or drastic happens, that’s not changing anytime soon.  However, I’m living in a very multicultural city in Australia and meeting new people every day.  It doesn’t seem to matter what their background, pretty much everyone has some sort of interest in US politics.  I couldn’t escape the conversations if I tried, so I don’t try to avoid them, I listen.  Listening allows me to hear what others think and also gives me input to continually reexamine and check my own attitudes and assumptions as well as values and beliefs.  I am generally encouraged by these conversations and my personal convictions are strengthened, although I am often challenged to look deeper into certain issues and policies.  Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 1.59.50 PM.pngConversations aside, I do realize that I am somewhat removed from US current events.  Although, the news here covers the main issues and my Facebook feed is an ever present reminder.  But I’m not in the US so, even if I wanted to, I can’t join the marches and protests.  I am not around to be a part of certain US organizations that are on the frontline when it comes to refugee resettlement.  I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to writing to US political leaders or to organize something more substantial.  Even if I was still in my safe, insulated US community, I would probably find it difficult to engage appropriately with the current policies that I agree or disagree with.  This is what, in my experience, often leads to apathy.  I can’t be the only one who recognizes something should be done but then doesn’t have the time, energy, resources and/or knowledge to do anything that might be deemed worthwhile.  So what are our options?

  1. Pray – Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1,2).  Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Pray for those who agree with you.  Pray for those who disagree with you.  Pray.
  2. Read the Bible- Justice (Isaiah 1:17), mercy (Micah 6:8), love (Leviticus 19:18), compassion (Matthew 25:25-37), all of this and more is addressed in the pages of scripture.  I didn’t struggle to find verses here, the struggle was to choose just a few.  The Bible is an amazingly rich and holy resource.
  3. Love your Neighbor-  I mean your neighbor in the broader sense of Luke 10 (the parable of the Good Samaritan).  Your neighbors are those people you come into contact with during your daily life.  This can be as simple as loving and serving your family in your home, the person across the street, the man or woman who is driving next to you on the road, the person bagging your groceries, serving your meal at a restaurant, etc.
  4. Do What You Can- There are a lot of important issues that we can advocate for and be passionate about but refugees are close to my heart.  World Relief, one organization that I have worked with and respect just posted this to their blog: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees.  There are probably simple things to do online or in your community for almost every social cause that needs attention.

As divided as my Facebook feed is at the moment, I am generally encouraged by the real discussions that are happening, the hypocrisy that is being confronted across the board and those who are rising up to the challenge of practicing what they are preaching.  I can not fight every battle and shout from the mountain tops over every important issue.  But I can pray, I can read my Bible, I can love my neighbor and I can do what I can to live justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.

Getting to know Perth- Rainy Day Transportation

Today it rained. We have given back the car we were borrowing and our umbrellas are packed in our shipment that will be arriving (hopefully) next month. So we worked out the least wet route to church. And this happens to be the same as the route we would take on a super hot day:-)

Thankfully we had a few things going for us this morning, it was not pouring rain, the rain was warm and there are a couple of different bus options. But we were grateful to have an overhang to take refuge under since there was no covering at this particular bus stop. We made it somewhat dry to church and it was clear enough to walk home this afternoon through the city. 
Maybe the Perth weather got the memo that we’re missing the California rains. It’s forecasted to rain 3 inches tomorrow!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In my experience even the best days have lowlights and the worst days can have highlights.  Usually things aren’t all great or all terrible, it’s a little bit of everything, sometimes happening simultaneously.  This week has been hard, it’s probably a mix of culture shock, high expectations, unexpected pressures and poor timing, among other things.  I’ve yelled at my husband, cried tears of anger and frustration and spent more time wallowing than I’d like to admit.  Moving is hard and moving around the world has even more, sometimes hidden stresses.  It’s often ugly but it’s real and it’s what I’m living right now.screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-2-22-52-pmYesterday was Australia Day (even this has it’s own set of controversy over the celebrations but that’s for another time).  We chose to have friends over and partake in the festivities happening right outside our door.  We were excited to see people out and about along the water, hear the music, enjoy the carnival events and taste the food truck treats.  Later in the evening, the plan was to all gather in our home to watch the fireworks display from our balcony.  But then we heard that a plane had crashed into the swan river, killing those on board. (News Article and Videos if you’re interested in details.)  Of course, the fireworks were then cancelled so we just gathered and hung out for awhile before everyone headed home.  This morning we are still able to watch the cleanup from our balcony, which is the picture above.  In all honesty, there is a part of me that was disappointed that we missed out on the fireworks but that is a tiny loss in comparison to the families who lost loved ones.  Another tragedy and one more bad thing for this challenging week.

But I need to remember that this week has not been all bad.  I’ve been to the beach, finished our first Australia newsletter update (coming to your mailboxes soon!), spent time with friends, we had our entire team around a table together for the first time, my husband still loves me (even when I’m not kind to him), I found a fun way to celebrate our anniversary in February and even bought tickets to an interesting show this week as a part of the Fringe Festival (Djuki Mala).  This week I’ve accomplished things, spent quality time with people and planned some things to look forward too.  It definitely wasn’t all bad and it definitely wasn’t too ugly despite some really terrible moments.  I’m thankful for the measured good that allows me to keep learning and growing, reminding me to be appreciative for the things that are wonderfully and overwhelmingly good in my life.