Saturday, 12 April 2014

Helen Clark - Leader

Helen Clark reflects on life as a leader
 
Hello, I'm Vanessa Stoykov and welcome to The Bottom Line.  She grew up in a small country town in New Zealand but always had big ambitions.  Helen Clark was the Prime Minister of New Zealand for nine years, a position only two women have ever held.  She now holds another lofty station as the administrator for the United Nations Development Program and as Alex Malley found out is redefining power, not just for women but for everyone. Helen Clark, welcome to The Bottom Line.
Thanks Alex.
Your dad had a wife and four daughters in a remote farm.  That must have been a challenge for him.
I think what he set about doing was making sure that the girls could do anything on the farm that sons would have done if he had had them and that was really a great lesson for me that girls could do anything and did do anything because that was the way farm life was.
That whole concept of self reliance is everything from catching the animal to eating the animal and everything in between wasn't it?
You tend to be pretty self contained on a back country farm, particularly in 1950s New Zealand.  So yes you did have your own meat as it were and have very rare trips into the local city which was 20 miles away to get supplies and do the odd orthodontist appointment and that kind of thing.  I think by the time I went to secondary school in the big city, in Auckland, I'd only been to the movies probably four or five times in my life so it was quite an isolated upbringing.
And being the eldest of four was it evident to all and sundry that you had leadership qualities from those very early years?
Who am I to judge but clearly if you're number one in the family you're leader of your little pack and I did have the three youngest sisters, two of them were at primary school when I was still at the school so we tended to hang together.  But number one usually lends itself to being a leader.
It's the youngest ones that you worry about.
Correct.
In terms of politics, there seems to have been this genetic link for you in your early teens and going to university.  You were very interested in the JFK moment, the Vietnam War military basis, quite topical issues of their time.  What attracted you to those issues?
The first international event that ever impinged on my awareness as a young person was the assassination of John F Kennedy in late 1963 when I was at a boarding school.  We didn't have television in the boarding school at that point so it took a lot for news to percolate through but it was deeply shocking to hear that the President of the United States of America had been killed.
I did from that time become very interested in international affairs and perhaps it says something about the secure upbringing that really domestic matters didn't impinge so much on me, life went pretty well on the farm, at the school.
Secure.
Yeah, very secure.
So by any measure a stellar political career, 30 plus years in Parliament and three times Prime Minister.  Can you reflect for us those early months of being Prime Minister for the very first time?
After 18 years in the New Zealand Parliament and after a pretty solid period as leader of the Labor Party I think I was ready for the job so there was nothing that came as a great surprise when I moved into it.  I'd been an understudy for this for a number of years, I'd been leader of the opposition for six years and we did have a very clear program.  You had to get on with it,  you had to move quickly in the New Zealand political cycle with only the three year terms.  If you don't move fast in the first year then you're not going to have a lot to show for it at the end of the third.
What was your approach to influencing a particular policy direction?
I took a huge interest in policy right through my political career.  I was interested in issues, I was interested in how you could make things better, how you could improve policy from domestic to foreign policy to defence policy.  So I was an avid reader of all the cabinet committee papers, all the papers that preceded them and liked to really range across policy areas and work closely with ministers.  I had a very dedicated Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance who also was a policy wonk so that helped and often I would toss him, in the last six years I was PM, the tough issues to sort out because I had absolute faith that he would come back with solutions that would be acceptable to me and that aligned with the principles of the Labor Party.
And that's a big part of leadership isn't it, to be able to empower someone else particularly when politics at the best o times is precarious?
There's only so many hours in the day so you can't do it all yourself.
I think what is a big step up, and not everyone makes the step successfully, is to go from being a minister or a spokes person to being the leader.  As a minister or a spokes person you tend to delve very, very deep into the portfolio and into the issues, if you're into the job as I always was and most are, but when you rise to be leader you can't get into that level of detail across every issue so you have to have around you people in portfolios whom you can trust and expect them to bring to you the product which can then be considered and deliberated on.
In my role I'm involved with politics all the time.  It seems to me Helen that in recent times more and more politicians almost outsource their instinct to advisors.  No one ever thought a view wasn't yours when you were Prime Minister.  Do you think that's started to lean that way in politics?
I think one should never contract out one's thoughts to be refined by political advisors or by pollsters.  Pollsters are very focused of course on the swinging voter but you want to know what the swinging voter's interested in but you also need to know how the values and principles and policies you have might appeal to the swinging voter, not to just default to a knee jerk position of saying "they'll never accept that" and almost act as though you're fearful of the electorate.  You have to have the courage of your convictions to carry out change programs in my experience.  So we had political advisors.  I think that's really important that a minister has someone in their office who is supported but also expert and I want to underline the expert.  You don't want to bring someone in who really knows nothing and is only there for the political ride and who will really annoy the public servants.  You have to have someone who knows what the game's about, what the issues are and can add some value.
My pitch was this job needs a leader and I am that leader.
Welcome back to The Bottom Line with my guest Helen Clark.
So let's go to the United Nations which is where we are today in New York, and you've taken on this role really very quickly after your term as Prime Minister.  What was your pitch to the United Nations to accept the role as leader?
When I saw the position advertised my first reaction was "well maybe they're looking for someone who spent their life working in international development" and certainly the way these jobs are advertised you'd be put off if you didn't have that experience.  I think written by development experts for development experts.  But it seemed to me that what these top positions of the UN need is leadership.  Our organisation has so many people who are development experts and those who back them.  That's been their career and their life and it's a very important one.  But that has to be led, it has to be advocated for, it has to be communicated about and those are different sorts of skills often.  So my pitch was this job needs a leader and I am that leader.
I can imagine that happening and them saying "okay, you can have it".
Well I'm not sure if it was quite that easy but it obviously, the pitch worked.
The Millennium development goals which I would I guess class as a wish list of what you want for emerging economies.  How is that progressing?  It's such a huge role and so much work to do with some 8,000 staff.
Eight thousand staff and many, many more on short term or medium term contracts.  It's a very, very big staff because we are a people business, we're not a grant making body, we're not a bank, we're not a charity, we are an organisation that builds the capacity of governments and societies to achieve their dreams.
So with the Millennium development goals I think we've added a lot of value, we've supported countries to write those goals into their national strategies, as many have, and many have a lot to show for it.  Not everyone's achieved everything, some haven't achieved any because of the state of war and conflict and very difficult challenges which might also come from many adverse events, lots of droughts or flooding.  There's a lot of things that can go wrong for countries.
But when we look at the Millennium development goal experience I've got no doubt that having a clear focus on a defined number of goals and targets did rally partners and governments around that agenda and got results and with respect, for example to the health goals, you can show that the trends in reduction in infant and child mortality, mother's mortality, HIV, Malaria, TB incidents of mortality, these trends are very positive and more positive than the trends before the MDGs were.
And it's wonderful work isn't it?  If you're in the field and you're seeing the difference it must be incredibly inspiring.
It is and sometimes you can go to a country which hasn't yet got every child at school.  When I went to Burkina Faso in West Africa around three years ago not every child was in school, it might have been 66% but compared with where the numbers had been at the start of the Millennium development goals it was a huge increase and so the quest is to support a country to get to 100% and I'm sure in the time that I've been there that number has already grown immensely.
There is plenty of talk at the moment that perhaps it's time for a female Secretary General of the UN and I know that's not the first time it's been asked of you.  What are your perspectives on that?
Well my perspective is firstly that there is an incumbent with three years to run and he has my total support and has had since the time the incumbent visited me when I was Prime Minister and he was Foreign Minister of Korea and we gave Ban Ki Moon our support for the position.  He appointed me to this position, or recommended me to the General Assembly and I'll always be very grateful for that because it's been a wonderfully satisfying position to have.
As for the future, I think member states have to think about what it is that they want in the position.  Traditionally the position has gone to a very seasoned diplomat.  I've come out of a different tradition of leadership style so people would have to think whether they're looking for the traditional diplomatic appointment or whether they're going to look around the range of people who have led countries.
Secondly, member states will need to ask the question "is it time for a woman" and if so who and that could lead to a range of answers.  And then thirdly there's always the issue of which regional group is it the turn of to have a Secretary General.
Well I have to say that is answered like a true diplomat Helen.  You're clearly getting used to this world.
Well you have to be a lot more diplomatic in this job than you ever had to be as a politician in New Zealand I can assure you.
I challenged a man for the job and I won.  That almost marks you out as some kind of tough woman.
Welcome back to The Bottom Line with my guest Helen Clark.
You were the second female Prime Minister in New Zealand and we've had recently, as you know, a female Prime Minister in Australia and there's much debate to this day from both genders about whether there were additionally personal attacks because Julia was female.  How did you deal with those issues in your early tenure and work through them?
Well I don't think it was an issue for me for most of the time I was Prime Minister.  Towards the end some of the sexist banter came out again.
It's interesting isn't it.
But for most of the time it wasn't an issue.  But where it was an issue was when I became leader of the opposition and I think there might be a factor in common here with Julia Gillard's experience in that I challenged a man for a job and I won.  That almost marks you out as some kind of tough woman.
What a terrible thing to do.
What a terrible thing.  So strength in women becomes toughness often and that then an electorate tends to reject a little so it takes a while to get over that.
I was leader of the opposition for six years.  I did lose an election before I won one.  So it was hard going particularly the first three years but after that I have to say I think I was well accepted as a woman leader and perhaps it helped that another woman had become Prime Minister two years before I did.  I was the first to lead a party to victory.  My predecessor had come out of a party room ballot as Prime Minister and good on her, she had a go, she thought she could do better than her predecessor and she got the job and in a sense that showed that both parties were going to throw up women leaders an women could do these jobs and I think New Zealand has been a bit of a leader on this.
Years before you became Prime Minister you had a popularity rating that was in single digit figures and from what I've read that was the one off time where you really thought "should I stay".  What were your friends telling you because you've always counted on that as being really good advice at the time?
Well things did get pretty bleak and I survived the Labor Party plunging to 14% in the opinion pole at one point and my own ratings were 2%.
And if you excluded your family that's a pretty …
Well yeah, it was starting to get down wasn't it?  So it wasn't easy but yes I do remember consulting friends when it got to its worse point.
There was always party room rumbles as well that there would be some kind of leadership coo and I always steered those rumbles down.
But I had a very solid group of friends when one asked "well what to do" in this situation they said "well there's no one else who can do any better so you've just got to stand there and have the confidence in yourself that you can do the job'.
One of the homilies I've often offered young people, high school students, others that I've addressed about leadership is if you don't believe in yourself you can't expect anybody else to believe in you and I think I applied that principle to my own life.
Emotionally how did you deal with losing the election having been the leader for that long because there must be, in spite of how professional you are on all fronts, just the emotion of that.  What did that feel like?
I think there's a couple of points about that.  The first thing is never expect gratitude in politics.  It's almost like you've delivered one policy, there's a whole lot of set of improvements and people say "well thanks but what's next".  So politics is dynamic and you can't bank too much credit for too long.
Secondly, going into that last election that I contested as Prime Minister, the truth is the poles hadn't been promising for over a long time so I was prepared to stand and fight, again because the general view was no one else could do it any better, but it was a bit of a long shot.  By the time you've had nine years in office people are getting a little tired of you, it doesn't matter how good a job you've done, they're getting a bit tired, they're looking for something new.
I think it's a bit regrettable that politics has become a bit like a consumer commodity where you change the brand of toothpaste, you change the brand of government without giving too much thought to how it tastes or what it might do.  But look that's life, you run with it.
I had a great political career, I enjoyed the nine years at the top but I was able to shut the door and walk away.
But it isn't necessary for everybody to have children and I strongly uphold women's rights, couples' rights to make that choice for themselves.
Welcome back to The Bottom Line with my guest Helen Clark.
You're a cross country skier, a mountain climber to the point that Sir Edmond Hiller has often said that he thinks it's wonderful that you do such things, and that you've been married for 33 years.  I mean there's a range of activities there that indicate that it's not just politics?
Well I've packed a lot into my life and that's part of keeping it interesting and I do love the outdoors but I'm also a great fan of arts and culture so New York is the perfect city for me and the skiing is not too far away either.
But this concept, I've heard you state and I've seen you in print refer to the fact that fear doesn't hold much for you although you have quoted that bungy jumping is very good for New Zealand but you're not going to do it.  So there is some fear.
I've watched it and I advocate for it and I've opened bungy domes and looked at people plunge off and it is good for New Zealand, it's been a great money earner to have that adventure tourism characterising New Zealand and great appeal to young people.  But no, by and large nothing much has any fear anymore.  I think I've conquered most fears.
You made a decision early on not to have kids with your husband Peter and that's a pretty definitive decision for a family to make.  How have you reflected on that and what advice to others in the future?
I often say I never chose to have children, it just wasn't something that was on my agenda, I had other things I wanted to do with my life and I think it's important to state that clearly because it's not everybody's destiny to have children, it is a choice and you can make that choice and obviously most people make a choice to have children and that's important for the survival of the species but it isn't necessary for everybody to have children and I strongly uphold women's rights, couple's rights to make that choice for themselves.
And you've spoken about families talking about various ambitions and how that might work because it does come down to how everyone works together as a unit.
Yes, and if both people in a couple are going to want to have a career there's got to be a lot of organisation around that.  What I think is great is to see with younger couples now when the baby comes along increasingly you see the young guy taking the break from work as well as the female partner and of course there's many diverse relationships as well but where you see people sharing truly the care of children there could be a lot more of it but there are some great role models out there of couples who have made it work.
So your 92 year old dad is sitting back watching this stellar career unfold.  How often do you speak with him?
I endeavour to phone my father every night of the week.
Wow.
I'm very well versed in everything he's doing.  His 92nd birthday is on International Women's Day so I can never forget it and I think I've added to the interest in his life with the things I do and the places I go to, which he follows on the atlas.  He still has an atlas where a lot of the countries are coloured in red for the British Empire.  It's a little out of date so sometimes the names have changed but he follows it closely.
Helen, you've been quoted as saying is "if I'm a girl who made a difference I'll have done well".  Not only have you over achieved but I think there's much more to come so we wish you good health and great success into the future.  Thank you.
Thank you.
Today, Helen Clark revealed that she was not necessarily an expert on development but that her capacity to lead those who are was integral to the success of the entire program.  This is a topic we'll be taking online.  Is it more important to be a leader or an expert?  To have your say head to our website or engage with us on social media.
Last week we asked you whether you can train yourself to bounce back from hardship.  This is what you had to say.
That's all for this week and our conversation with Helen Clark.  I'm Vanessa Stoykov and I look forward to seeing you next time on The Bottom Line.

Thanks to Bottom Line TV Australia.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The disgraced Prince, Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Charles Edward













Royal
ROYAL DISGRACE: Charles Edward was stripped of his royal titles after siding with Germany in WWI.

Nobody embodied the disastrous state of British and German relations quite like Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
His father, Prince Leopold, was the eighth child and youngest son of Queen Victoria. Charles never had the opportunity to meet his his father; Leopold, who suffered from haemophilia and died when a minor fall caused a severe hemorrhage in his brain.
Charles was born just three months later.
Charles had an idyllic childhood. Known around the palace as 'Charlie', he was Queen Victoria's favourite grandchild. His best friend was his sister, Princess Alice; the two were known affectionately among their family as the 'Siamese Twins'.
But his pleasant life shortly fell into a tailspin. At the age of 15 he inherited the title Duke of Saxe-Coburg from his recently deceased uncle, Prince Alfred.
Charles was the victim of a battle of succession: his uncle and his cousin both renounced any claim to the title, choosing to keep their comfortable positions in the British royal family.
His cousin, who attended the same school as Charles, reportedly bullied him into accepting the dukedom.
In the end, Charles' family made his choice for him. The 16-year-old was shipped off to Coburg, a tiny town in Germany, where he embarked on a miserable life separated from the family he adored.
When the first world war broke out, Charles was caught at a crossroads. Torn between siding with his ancestral home, Britain, and the country he now ruled a small part of, he made the fateful decision to side with Germany - a decision that led the British royal family to brand him a traitor and strip him of all royal titles and peerages.
The strife didn't end there. In 1918 Charles was deposed during the short-lived German Revolution, relinquishing all rights to his royal titles. Now a private citizen, the hapless Charles was held in disgrace by both the German and British public.
Lost and demoralised, Charles found solace in his work with a variety of right-wing political groups. He became particularly fond of a young, political upstart named Adolf Hitler, whose strong leadership attracted the alienated Charles.
He became the first aristocrat to endorse the future Fuhrer; doing so ushered him into Hitler's inner circle, where he remained until the end of World War II.
Hitler was keenly aware of Charles' former royal status, and sent him to Britain as President of the Anglo-German Friendship society. Charles thrived in Britain, where he worked to increase German sentiment among the top-tier of the British hierarchy. He attended the funeral of his cousin, King George V. Because his British ceremonial robes had been confiscated, Charles arrived at the funeral in full Nazi regalia.

Hitler appointed Charles head of the German Red Cross, a group that was under the control of the Nazis. Doctors who worked for the organisation were implicated in the mass euthanisation of handicapped Germans, which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of people. Charles later denied all knowledge of this - some of his underlings, however, were imprisoned.
Perched in his Coburg palace as the war blazed around him, Charles was eventually arrested by American troops. His beloved sister, Alice, flew to Germany to request his release. When she arrived, she found him scavenging through a rubbish dump for food.
Charles faced a tribunal. He was found guilty of being an "important Nazi" - his ill-health saved him from a prison sentence.
The Prince had become a pauper. Old and sick, he made his way to a movie theatre in Coburg, where he watched his cousin's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, receive her crown. His beloved sister, who represented the life he had always pined for, could be seen on the big screen, smiling and waving with her family.
Charles Edward died alone in his flat in 1954.
With deep appreciation to stuff.co.nz for permission to use this article.