Keeping it simple and keeping it honest
Six-term former Waitakere mayor Sir Bob Harvey talks leadership, the good and ugly.
What a turmoil the political world is in right now. Holy hell we would never have guessed it but two of the greatest nations in the world are coming to grief before our eyes and that’s not even including Australia.
How could people get it so wrong to get such bad political leadership. For the millions of words written in the last month over Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the British Brexit fiasco, I wonder is there a trickledown effect in the forthcoming mayoral elections. My thoughts are inevitably that there will be, simply because all politics are local, and the forthcoming election will be no exception.
I started my political career working closely with the great Sir Dove-Myer Robinson who was small in stature but a giant in vision and leadership. I learnt all my political smarts from him and went on to invent the modern political election campaign.
I picked up hints along the way from Norman Kirk and David Lange and then when my time came to stand for the mayoralty of Waitakere I tried to bring their wisdom to my campaign. That I was successful, and held that job through six elections, was really understanding that leadership has many hats but the one to wear every day is truth and transparent honesty.
The presidential election in the United States needs clear understanding of what you stand for and for all his shock tactics Trump has this in spades, he speaks in a direct language and as troubling as it may be to us, he resonates while Clinton gives us a granny speech which is stomachturning.
I learnt quickly that you could never go into an election without a strong issue whether it be change, job creation, or the big ones like the environment which I picked and it carried me to victory.
They say in politics: ‘‘It’s wrong to be right, too soon’’. The other thing I’ve learnt is that New Zealanders will do anything that you ask them but nothing if you tell them, although Prime Minister John Key did ask us to vote for a flag we didn’t like. If he’d asked us to vote for Red Peak we would have.
I always admit mistakes and apologise immediately with deep sincerity, it’s the hardest one for any politician to fake. I regarded the stakes as enormously serious; people can tell and will forgive you if you do it well. I also believed that good leadership is not easy; it’s cruel but the voters hate mind changing and shallow promises.
People are deeply suspicious of politicians and so the job has to be done as openly and as honestly as humanly possible; surprise them with humility and humbleness.
Eat sawdust if necessary but get the job done: today’s enemies in politics are tomorrow’s friends: never hold a grudge and remember those who are standing in this year’s election, it’s bloody hard work but it’s better than the dole.
Sir Bob Harvey: ‘‘Leadership has many hats but the one to wear every day is truth and transparent honesty."