John Dalziel

As part of our monthly segment, Our Community Leaders - Great Australian Leaders in Focus which features the thoughts of some of Australia's great leaders, this month we feature John Dalziel.

John Dalziel OAM

John Dalziel, now retired, was the Salvation Army's Communications Director for 15 years, becoming a recognised face and voice because of his links to the Salvos. Formerly a director and partner in Grey Advertising, Mr Dalziel joined the Salvos in 1990, building relationships with government, media, community groups and other church leaders in tackling a wide variety of issues affecting marginalised families and individuals. Mr Dalziel represented the Salvation Army on a number of committees, including the Victorian Churches Gambling Taskforce and the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS). He was awarded the Salvation Army's highest international honour for distinguished service - the Order of the Founder.

Our Community: Who do you consider to be the three great leaders of our time? And why?

John Dalziel:

  1. Nelson Mandela. He showed over his lifetime a consistency of purpose but a variety of methods to reach his goal of equality before the law. When successful he showed compassion not revenge.
  2. General Eva Burrows. She showed that a single woman could lead The Salvation Army, first in Australia and then worldwide, so successfully her term was extended to the longest in living memory. She 'marched' the Salvos into Russia as soon as the borders opened despite a lack of funding and internal opposition. She led rather than administered and rejuvenated the worldwide mission of the Salvos as a social and religious force in the world.
  3. Richard Branson is an example of a man of vision who despite many setbacks triumphed in a number of worldwide businesses. He is a leader who brings creativity to every business he leads, yet relies heavily on his staff to implement their plans and strategies.

Our Community: What are the three attributes you would consider to be essential to a leader?

John Dalziel:
  1. The most important attribute is vision. A leader must understand the big picture and clearly enunciate the way it can be realised in terms that staff, clients and the world at large can identify with.
  2. A leader must be prepared to allow mistakes to be made in the pursuit of the shared vision. Encourage expansionist activity rather than 'safe' repetition of the 'known way'.
  3. Leadership also requires the development of staff to their full potential and recognition of those who have reached a level of expertise they are prepared to work at for the foreseeable future.

Our Community: What are the three greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?

John Dalziel:
  1. An insular approach that does not recognise that we can develop in Australia world best practice organisations.
  2. Our universities and schools are not teaching for personal development but for educational standards only. We do not reward scholars and teachers with resources and respect if they are concentrating on developing a spiritual being.
  3. The concentration on the accumulation of money as the key measure of success. We should encourage the recognition of community inclusiveness and involvement of the vulnerable in our organisations. This would reveal a new type of leader in Australia.

Our Community: What advice would you give to a potential leader to take them to the next stage?

John Dalziel:
  • Discover what excites you and then find people who inspire you and then lead an organisation that exceeds the best you have seen amongst those you respect.
  • Enjoy working, and if you don't, turn to something else.
  • Talk to people who inspire you or read about them. Travel to where they are to experience what makes them tick.
  • Don't assume you know all the answers. Get a team of like-minded people first as mentors then as partners.
  • Celebrate success and learn from failure

Our Community: Nature/nurture - are leaders born or bred?

John Dalziel:

Anyone can be a leader within their chosen field and that is based on a combination of inheritance and environment factors.

Our Community: What do you consider to be the three top leadership issues facing the nation?

John Dalziel:
  1. The growing gap between the haves and have-nots.
  2. The fear of terrorism.
  3. Lack of recognition of spiritual and social purpose as the prime motivators in life.

Our Community: What insights have you gained personally on your leadership journey?

John Dalziel:

Believe in yourself. Try hard to get others to come with you and when you can't, make the decision and stick with it. The media are the quickest way to change attitudes, politicians' views and achieve change of direction.

Our Community: Who have been your own leadership mentors and how did they assist in developing your own leadership style?

John Dalziel:

The leaders I mentioned previously and many like them - from their biographies and observation of their lives. My father and mother and peers who exhibited leadership skills I aspired to.

Published December 2005