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The Emotional Intelligence of Julia Gillard

The doomsday headlines keep coming for Labor, and yet the Prime Minister shows incredible resilience and doesn’t seem to be cracking under the pressure. How does she do it? What is in her emotional make-up that makes her so strong? Few CEOs have taken such a battering in the media.

The model of temperament that I like to use is the Humm-Wadsworth. Gillard has two very strong components in her personality: the Politician and the Normal. In the Humm-Wadsworth model, six components are related to a mental illness while the Normal acts as an inhibitor and stabiliser of the other six. The Politician component is related to paranoia.

Politicians are driven by the desire to win. They seek power and are steadfast, decisive and forceful. Politicians often become managers in large organisations. They can be assertive and argumentative and are very good with words. Politicians are so aggressive that they are frequently nicknamed tigers. Blanche D’Alpuget, wife and biographer of Bob Hawke, calls this fighting spirit the warrior instinct and maintains it is a necessary ingredient in the personality of a national leader, such as the Prime Minister. Hawke, of course, has a very strong Politician component; even after winning four elections he still believed he would win a fifth. Like him, Gillard too has a very strong Politician component. Of course, many CEOs have a high Politician component.

Normals are governed by the desire for order. These people are logical, ethical and conservative. Normals tend to work for professional organisations such as lawyers and accountants. Because Normals tend to follow group norms assiduously and dress in white shirts and dark suits, many people think of them as penguins. Before she became a politician, Julia Gillard was a lawyer at Slater & Gordon, and with apologies to Germaine Greer, Julia dresses like a Normal.

The Normal of Gillard is very high. Her self-control over the past months has been unbelievable and there is no doubt that she has a track record of getting things done. You may not agree with what she has put through Parliament but you have to admit she has got it through. She is terrific for staying on message.

The senior political journalist and former assistant to Peter Costello, Niki Savva, has said that people made three mistakes when they considered the temperament of politicians:

  • People underestimate the depth of the paranoia.
  • People underestimate the depth of the resentment towards slights received.
  • People underestimate the desire for revenge.

Given that Gillard has such a strong Politician component, all three of these factors will come into play. She was ruthless in her execution of Kevin Rudd in the leadership battle. You also see it already in her constant blaming of Tony Abbott for everything that is wrong in the country. Her fingernails will be clawing the desk if the Labor party tries to remove her as Prime Minister and the subsequent repercussions will be put everything so far seen in this government in the shade. She will not go gently into the night.

Chris Golis

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Chris Golis has had a successful career in IT and venture capital, where he was director of some 30 private and public companies. He is now pursuing a third career as a professional speaker and workshop leader on practical emotional intelligence.