In his immensely readable book, ‘Lessons from the Top’, BBC presenter Gavin Estler takes a close look at the story telling techniques of those who have made it; from Bill Clinton, to Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs to Angela Merkel. In summary, they’re all very good at telling us who they are, their purpose in life and what defines them and their followers as a distinct group.
Estler’s analysis got me thinking about the Malcolm Turnbull story – that’s the new Prime Minister’s personal narrative; the story controlled and projected by Turnbull, as opposed to stories about his life to date. Undoubtedly, the life to date has been remarkable for its breadth and its achievements – journalist, lawyer, business man and technology entrepreneur. Seemingly, rich pickings to answer the ‘who am I?’ question, or is it? The Prime Minister and his advisors are smart people and to that end, acutely aware of how previous achievements could be misinterpreted by vast swathes of the public; for one man’s achievements, read another man’s privileged opportunities.
Rather unfairly, such a string of accomplishments could be framed by some as indicative of a restless streak – to put it bluntly, he’s not a stayer. Consequently, Mr Turnbull’s storytellers would appear to be focussing on the other parts of the process – namely, what defines the leader and his followers and what exactly is their collective purpose. This, in itself, is interesting as it takes us – for the time being – to excitement; more specifically, “the most exciting time to be an Australian” according to the Prime Minister. This presumably means that Mr Turnbull and his cabinet are the men and women who will help the rest of us realise the bounty of such heady days? There’s gold in them there hills, son; join us and we’ll get rich together.
They’ll backtrack from ‘excitement’ – they have to. It’s ephemeral and more importantly, it’s the opposite of ‘calm’ – a trait much sought after in our leaders.
It’s an intriguing word to choose; it’s evaluative and to that end, subjective. It wasn’t, it’s assumed, chosen lightly. These are exciting times, but the excitement is largely borne of uncertainty and that’s one place the Prime Minister wouldn’t go. As I said, he’s a business man, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that markets hate uncertainty.