Clough Colloquium: Former Australian Prime Minister on Leadership
by Elisabeth Schaeffer, MCAS ‘18, Winston Center Ambassador
At September’s Clough Colloquium, Julia Gillard, the 27th prime minister of Australia—and the first woman to hold this position—addressed the Boston College community on the topic of leadership, focusing on gender equality and education. She began her presentation by stressing that her own education was indispensable in her development as a leader. While acknowledging that existing inequality within the educational system makes the privilege of education inaccessible to some, Gillard stated that when you deprive a person of an education, you are depriving the world of a leader.
Speaking of the inequality of women vis-à-vis leadership and power, Gillard asked, “If we are not accepting of half the population, how can we have a full world?” She stated that even as a woman gracefully and powerfully ascends to a leadership position, there is skepticism and criticism about her capability. Gillard is optimistic, though, that gender disparity will loosen over time. “All of us—men and women,” she said, “have to be soldiers in this fight for gender equality.”
Gillard identified four steps to becoming the best possible leader. First, hone in on your own sense of purpose. “What’s driving you? What’s your vision? Reach for it on the toughest of days.” Second, stay true to yourself. You must have “an inner reserve of self-approval.” You cannot be pushed off your track by criticism. Third, have the discipline to balance what needs to be done urgently with what will make a difference later on—notice the important. And fourth, leadership requires that you look toward the horizon. Here, Gillard used the example of Asia’s industrial rise, which seemed to happen at warp speed. Rather than seeing this as a threat to security for the West, Gillard pointed out that the diplomatic efforts and the creativity of our generation will foster unprecedented success. Our generation will more naturally feel the obligation of international citizenship. And since “there is nothing preordained in our democratic world about who is a leader,” said Gillard, “we are all impelled to stand up and create change.”