You only have to turn on the evening news or open a newspaper to realize that there seems to be an ever-growing mistrust of those in power.
Whatever you think of, or thought of the Occupy Movement, its core issue was that of not trusting big business. What you need to know is that, even though it may appear that the Occupy Movement has faded into oblivion, the damage done to the willingness to trust in big business remains strong. This mistrust rears its head all too often incorporate interviews, on social networking sites, and even on college message boards.
So, how do we as leaders regain the trust of the people, specifically those we lead? Because there’s absolutely no hope of them being loyal until we win their trust.
The Hawke Effect
Bob Hawke was first appointed to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and after a decade at ACTU, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Labor MP. I tell you this because I want you to have a view into not only the man but also the image. Bob Hawke was seen as, as the old adage goes, “a man’s man.” He was clearly in touch with the workingman. And although he was a bright, well educated, and articulate man, he always came across as a man of the people.
Bob Hawk and his wife Hazel had three children—Susan, Stephen, and the youngest daughter, Rosslyn. Rosslyn was an adorable toddler whom it appears was very close to her dad. In the blink of Australia’s history, she had grown up to be a quick-witted and pretty young lady who looked a lot like her mom had in her youth. In one newspaper report, Rosslyn had once said with great humor after having her hair and make-up done professionally for a party: “Don’t touch me! I’m a work of art!” It seemed that everyone doted on her and none more than her dad.
In the early 1970s in Australia, like most first-world countries at that time, a huge number of schoolchildren were experimenting with marijuana. Hazel, having discovered that both her daughters were smoking dope, approached the issue as a progressive parent, encouraging them to be open rather than secretive about it. Hawke disapproved of marijuana, which he had never tried. However, he had no moral high ground to stand on, as his own drinking was legendary. Pot and the use of it by the girls became another one of those family issues that would get pushed under an ever-growing carpet.
By the time Rosslyn had reached fifteen, she had left school and home for what was described as a gypsy life in the drug houses of Australia’s metropolis, Sydney. Hawke and his wife Hazel lived in total denial that Rosslyn was a troubled kid who was now living in an environment where the transition from pot to taking hard drugs was certainly no great moral leap.
However, as time passed, there came a point where there was no denying that their once quick-witted and pretty young daughter had become a ghostly waif. Hawke snuck under the radar; he went searching for and eventually found, Rosslyn in a squat house in a Sydney lane.
At that time, Bob Hawke, “the man’s man,” was arguably the most significant political figure in Australia. Therefore, it was decided that Rosslyn’s teen-aged indiscretions would become a family secret. She regained her lovely appearance, and married a young man from a respectable family and presented her parents with their first grandchild, a son. On August 1, 1984, she gave birth to a second son. The Hawke family image was intact—or was it?
In the meantime, Rosslyn’s elder sister, Sue, who was living in Japan at the time of the 1983 election, had returned to Australia and had become very active in left-wing political activism, and guess what? She had recently been convicted of possession of marijuana.
The issues with Sue may have taken the Hawke’s eyes off Rosslyn and her husband; however, it was obvious to everyone who knew them and partied with them that they liked to party hard. There was no doubt that they were using heroin. It seemed that everyone in their circle knew what was going on—everyone, that is, except her parents. Hawke and Hazel clung to the belief that their daughter was clean and did not use hard drugs. They clung to it more tightly than a shipwrecked guy clings to a life raft.
The call came and with it a reality check that would sever both illusion and denial from reality as swiftly as a guillotine separates a head from the body. The hospital said that Rosslyn, a new mother, was so completely wasted on heroin that she could soon be dead.
Here was Bob Hawke at the height of his political power, a man who had risen so high that he was parenting the direction of his country, who was now clearly a failed parent and guardian of his own children.
Hawke told only a few of his most intimate friends what was going on, and no one else on his staff. Nevertheless, most noticed that something was wrong; the usually vocal and charismatic prime minister was unusually quiet and was clearly distracted and nervous.
He began to sink deep within himself.
By the beginning of September 1984, a public storm about drugs was brewing; this would be the moment that would bring the convergence of Bob Hawke’s private life and the national public interest together in a head-on collision.
Although it wasn’t officially on the schedule, the general election was imminent . . .
Opposition leader Andrew Peacock had found, he believed, a site from which to launch an attack on the prime minister. He publicly accused Hawke of undermining the fight against the drug trade, of protecting “some of the most powerful criminals in Australia,” of being “a perverter of the law” who “associates with criminals and takes his orders from criminals.”
Hawke marched out of the chamber in fury. Little did Peacock know that, if anybody hated drug dealers, Hawke did. In response, Hawke threatened legal action if accused outside parliament of criminality The National Times had picked up and run a story that the prime minister’s elder daughter, Sue, had a drug conviction that by now had been overturned on appeal; this insinuated corruption of the legal process. Hawke was beginning to look like he was going down faster than a lead balloon.
At a press conference a week after Peacock’s censure motion, a journalist asked Hawke about the fact that he had threatened Andrew Peacock with legal action and questioned Hawke if he saw this as making a mockery of the political system.
With television cameras trained on him, the facade began to crack. Hawke replied, “In public life you cannot, it seems to me, entirely abandon the rights that you have, because it is not only a matter affecting yourself.” The eyes of this once hard-nosed “man’s man” became filled with tears as he continued. “You don’t cease to be a husband. You don’t cease to be a father. My children and my wife have a right to be protected in this matter.”
It felt like the Australian nation held its breath as tears began flowing down Bob Hawke’s cheeks. A reporter turned to him and asked if he was upset by The National Times article about Susan.
Now openly weeping, he replied, “Of course I was. Because like any father, I love my daughter. I trust her, and she was completely exonerated by the processes of the law. I had no contact with the judge or anyone involved in it, and yet you have this insinuation that affects her. Of course, I’m upset.”
The question had referred to the legal situation of his eldest daughter Susan, but for those who knew, there was little doubt that Hawke had answered thinking of his younger daughter, Rosslyn. He later said that he was thinking of her day and night. He was also deeply concerned about how to save her and his grandchildren, who could soon be motherless.
The press conference was the fuse that lit the dynamite of a full-blown crisis in the political office. Hawke, after a month of silent self-beratement, could no longer conceal the family secret. Nor could he function as a national leader.
He apparently went directly from this heart-wrenching interview to a meeting with Mahathir Mohamad, the man who was the Malaysian Prime Minister at the time.
Mahathir Mohamad had hanged people for possession of heroin, and Bob Hawke once again burst into tears, weeping in Mahathir’s arms as he told him the story.
When Hawke called his staff together to explain what was going on, they were more annoyed than compassionate. The prime minister had buckled; the man who had been a political rock was crumbling before their very eyes.
In a flash, Hawke’s personal and political lives were colliding, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Prime Minister Hawke’s office and staff were slow to realize that he had fallen into a deep dark depression. They had been so used to him being an impenetrable rock that nothing could shake that they were virtually blind to the reality of what was in front of them. How long his depression lasted is contested. However, what we do know is that Australia’s leader had, during this time, contemplated some pretty dire choices: resignation or suicide.
During this time, the intensity was not letting up; both of his elder children had become political, but not as their father might have preferred. Both were now strongly left-wing in their sympathies, especially Stephen, who had argued bitterly with his father over uranium and uranium mining during the ALP conference two months earlier.
By September 1984, the government called for an early election. At the end of the night of December 1, when the votes were counted, Bob Hawke and his government were still comfortably in power, with a sixteen-seat majority.
The breakdown that Andrew Peacock and so many others thought would destroy Bob Hawke certainly took him out of the realm of being a political god. Yet, I can clearly remember sitting in my living room watching one of those news shows where they go out on the street and get public opinion about a given issue.
This time, when the Australian people were asked why they voted for Bob Hawke after everything had been disclosed about the issues with his children, their drug use, and his depression, the answer was consistently in the realm of, “He’s one of us. We all have problems. He admitted it”.
The thing Bob Hawke and so many others thought would have brought him down was the very thing that won over a nation: Vulnerability!
Hawke led the Labor Party to victory for a total of three elections, in 1984, 1987 and 1990, thus making him the most successful Labor Leader in the history of Australia to date.
Again: Vulnerability is power and it drives loyalty!