Research & Insights


Leader or Individual Contributor?

(July 6, 2010)

The recent change in Australia’s top leadership role (the replacement of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by his deputy Julia Gillard) resulted in a myriad of articles and comments about Mr. Rudd’s leadership style.

Graham Richardson's article, Fear and loathing of Rudd was his own doing,* makes some interesting observations about Kevin Rudd’s leadership style and ability.

Richardson says: "He didn’t listen; he never listened… he treated colleagues with total disdain."

Richardson further describes Rudd as "… a law unto himself… he would listen to no-one." This says a lot about why Rudd’s caucus turned on him, and highlights a key component necessary for successful leadership—engagement.

How many times have we heard similar mutterings from employees exhausted by an autocratic style of leadership; a leader incapable of truly engaging his or her people?

So was Kevin Rudd a Leader or an Individual Contributor? Wilson Learning’s research shows that a key distinction between a leader and an individual contributor is the accomplishment of goals by engaging others. To achieve targeted business results, leaders need not only to direct, but also inspire and harness others' talents toward an exciting vision.

Many ineffective leaders aspire to a leadership position because they yearn for power, control, and the authority to do things their own way. Does this sound familiar?

Yet, as Mr. Rudd has painfully discovered, it is not enough for leaders to merely gain compliance. A true leader generates a passion that fuels the highest level of commitment and loyalty. In return, employees receive what they need to grow and gain professional fulfilment.

Wilson Learning’s view is that for any organization to thrive—whether a political party, a government, or a public or private company—all stakeholders need to feel valued, and in return feel they have added value to the organization. Wilson Learning describes this as the “being” and the “doing” of any leadership role. The accomplishment of goals by engaging others is a key distinction between a Leader and an Individual Contributor. What other examples do you have of a Leader versus an Individual Contributor?

* (The Australian, 29 June 2010)

About the Author
Hazel Stewart

Hazel Stewart

Hazel commenced with Wilson Learning in 1996 and has progressed with the company to the role of Managing Director AU/NZ in this time. Prior to joining Wilson Learning, Hazel worked in management and marketing roles including the role of Managing Director for a company in the licensed product industry. Hazel has undertaken studies in adult education and graduate studies in career management, and is currently studying for an Masters of Business in Management.

In addition to her operational responsibilities, Hazel spends time working with large client organizations, both at a local and regional level. With a background in strategic account management, in-depth consulting, curriculum design, workplace assessment, facilitation, coaching and career counseling, Hazel is well placed to drive the AU/NZ team to deliver above and beyond our clients expectations.

Read more by Hazel Stewart