1 March 2024

Leadership Matters: Stories and Insights for Leaders, Achievers and Visionaries

| Rama Gaind
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Leadership Matters: Stories and Insights for Leaders, Achievers and Visionaries by Peter Baines

Leadership Matters: Stories and Insights for Leaders, Achievers and Visionaries by Peter Baines is a praiseworthy account of leadership in challenging times. Photo: Supplied.

One of Australia’s foremost leadership experts, Peter Baines commendably shares in his new book the lessons that have stayed with him through his career with personal stories and insights about what it takes to lead in challenging times and how to use courage, compassion and integrity to accomplish the impossible.

Baines has road-tested leadership the hard way. After more than two decades with the NSW Police he led teams responding to acts of terrorism and natural disasters on a scale not previously experienced by Australian police. He was part of the leadership team that travelled to Bali in the aftermath of the bombings in 2002, and in early 2005 he was called to lead international teams in response to the Boxing Day tsunami in South-East Asia.

In this harrowing environment, his leadership theories were fully tested as he headed up multiple rotations into Thailand tasked with identifying those who had died. He doesn’t believe that we can have life experiences without the opportunity to learn from them, though much will depend on whether or not we are open to the learning.

“My experience is that the best learnings happen outside the classroom,” Baines said. “It is often when life gets messy, complicated, even a bit dirty, that we learn the most about ourselves and about those around us.”

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In Leadership Matters, he shares a collection of his own learnings from the “rich experiences he has been fortunate to enjoy”.

“It is the people I have shared those experiences with who have contributed most to my learnings,” Baines said. Many of these lessons were not obvious to me at the time; it is only when I have taken time to reflect that I have recognised the blessed life I have been offered.”

Broken into three parts, the focus is on ‘Leaders’, ‘Achievers’ and ‘Visionaries’. The first looks at how a range of courageous leaders, faced with difficult circumstances, have navigated those challenges. He examines the contexts and the unique solutions they applied.
When their progress runs up against overwhelming odds, sometimes against logic, it’s the achievers who get the job done. Reviewed is how they succeed, not because of the absence of challenge or fear, but because they are determined to overcome it. They keep going when others would quit. They’re not afraid to take risks or make mistakes because they understand that doing so is part of the learning process and of every success story.

In the third part, it’s the visionaries — the vanguard leaders — who meet the challenges of our times. They view life and leadership with fresh eyes, unconstrained by received wisdom and convention, actively challenging their own and others’ preconceived limitations. They understand the importance of self, of feeling our soul, and the value of meaningful shared experiences.

He documents not only the lessons learned, but importantly, the challenges of risk avoidance and its increasing prevalence in organisations. He also worked for Interpol in Lyon and the UN Office of Drug and Crime on counterterrorism and capacity building projects.

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A crisis and disaster management expert, Peter is the founder of Hands Across the Water, a charity he established to support children left without parents or family after the tsunami in Thailand. The charity has raised more than $30 million to support those in need.

“I have witnessed death and tragedy in my professional career on a scale that separates me from the overwhelming majority of the population,” Baines said. If there has been one gift from that exposure to the worst of humanity it has been to witness the best of humanity. I have also learned that we need to enjoy what we do or change what we do. To live a life with our greatest dreams unrealised is to settle for a lesser life than we owe ourselves and those we love.”

Leadership Matters: Stories and Insights for Leaders, Achievers and Visionaries, by Peter Baines, Wiley, $32.95

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