News that the Morrison government paid A$190,000 last year for advice on how to empathise with the Australian people was met with ridicule.
Yet it might be worth the money.
In late January, Morrison was continually criticised for appearing to lack compassion over the bushfires.
He himself said, “there are things I could have handed on the ground much better”.
There are signs he has taken that to heart during the coronavirus outbreak.
Read more: Mr Morrison, I lost my home to bushfire. Your thoughts and prayers are not enough
He has acknowledged unknowns and people’s fear of the unknown, and used inclusive language along the lines of, “together we will get through this”.
It’s been more than getting the narrative right. We’ve seen capable and compassionate leadership, even “servant leadership”.
Problems, not projects, make leaders. Real leaders faced with real problems put their followers before themselves.
Servant leadership works
Research shows that “servant leaders” make good leaders.
Their stories explain the success of many of the Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, including Zappos.com, Marriot International, and TDIndustries.
In a recently published state-of-the-art review of servant leadership, we argue that servant leadership makes sense empirically, financially and psychologically.
Our review of 285 studies on servant leadership in 39 countries finds the approach creates better leader-follower relationships, in turn boosting performance metrics including employee satisfaction and well being, commitment, and innovation.
It can help in the polls
It is probably why we react positively in the polls when our political leaders show compassion.
The latest Newspoll suggests his approach to the coronavirus has done him no harm.
Financially, servant leadership is a worthwhile investment because it is correlated with individual, team, and organisational performance better than other forms of leadership.
Psychologically, it helps individuals shift from a concern for themselves towards a concern for others, creating a culture of service.
Servant leadership is made up of six dimensions that can be applied on a daily basis:
It is a common misconception that in times of crisis we need leaders with a command-and-control and domineering approach, and those who demonstrate compassion will be seen as weak.
Compassion needs genuine strength
The truth is that being compassionate does not signal weakness, inferiority, or a lack of self-respect.
On the contrary, only those with a secure sense of self, strength of character, and psychological maturity are able to put aside themselves and instead serve others in times of crisis.
Being compassionate isn’t easy, as Morrison knows.
But it’s never too late to start.
Read more: Grattan on Friday: Morrison looks to his messaging on coronavirus and climate