Turnbull's Fatal Flaw

Last Updated Aug 20, 2009 3:38 AM EDT

One of the great benefits of living in a democracy like Australia is that you can see and read about the actions of political leaders and learn from their mistakes. We have just seen Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the Opposition, because a fatal flaw in his personality, shoot himself dramatically in the foot.

Malcom Turnbull, before becoming a politician, was a successful lawyer and merchant banker. He is exceptionally intelligent but his personality is dominated by the desire to win. Unfortunately, he lacks the self-restraint which is so necessary in politics. To those overseas readers unfamiliar with the issue, Turnbull was supplied an email by a public servant, Gordon Grech, which implied that Labor Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swann had acted corruptly. Gordon Grech worked in the Treasury and it has transpired had provided other information to the Liberal party and while the Liberals were in power was trusted advisor.

It turned out the email provided by Grech was a fake. However instead of simply admitting he made a mistake and apologising to the Prime Minister, Turnbull turned on Grech and destroyed him in a 17-point rebuttal. Grech is now a seriously ill patient in a psychiatric ward in Canberra driven to poor health by overwork, stress and political pressures. The popular reaction to Grech's actions is that while he has betrayed his public service principles and is clearly partisan he was a minor player.

This fatal flaw in Malcom Turnbull's personality of so desiring to win without any self-control reminds me very much of the first feedback I received after completing my first personality test. Expecting compliments, the first comment from the consulting psychologist was that you have a serious problem as a manager.

Because you are bright you will generally be right. However when there is a discussion your strong desire to win means that not only will you not give in, you will stubbornly crush any opposition in excruciating detail. That is not the way to win friends and influence people. People who become successful CEOs learn this lesson early.
I was a lot younger then but I have to confess I never forgot those words and it was start of my journey in gaining emotional intelligence. Unfortunately for Malcolm there is nobody around to give him the necessary feed back.

My wife and I are off to Buenos Aires and will return on September 10. Until then blogging will be replaced with the tango. Hasta luega.