Morry Schwartz

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, we chat, to Morry Schwartz.

Morry Schwartz

Morry is Chairman of Schwartz Publishing and the owner of Black Inc., and has helped to spur a resurgence in quality quarterlies, literary magazines and journals in Australia. In 2001, he launched the highly influential Quarterly Essay, a journal that has featured writers including David Malouf, Germaine Greer, Tim Flannery, John Button, Mungo McCallum, Don Watson and Robert Manne. Morry also launched the magazine of politics, society and the arts, The Monthly. He is is also the Chairman of Pan Urban, a major property developer.

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

Morry Schwartz:

I'll restrict this to Australian leaders - and my three choices are Paul Keating, Noel Pearson and Robert Manne.

These three people all created an agenda and had a clear vision for an ideal - a reality that didn't yet exist, rather than responding to the positions and realities of others.

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

Morry Schwartz:
  1. A vision for a better world.
  2. The gift of capturing attention, a forceful personality: Nothing happens without this.
  3. The drive and energy to create change: Without results, leadership is barren.

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

Morry Schwartz:
  1. The haves look after their own and don't desire change - they already live in the best of possible worlds.
  2. The power of the have-nots is diminishing - The historical pendulum is well and truly with the money.
  3. There are currently so few inspirational leaders - a vacuum of role models.

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

Morry Schwartz:

Identify and secure a platform from which change can be effected.

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

Morry Schwartz:

Both. The leadership gene, that is forcefulness of personality, I believe is inborn; the commitment to a cause cannot be inherited, it must be a response the world we live in.

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

Morry Schwartz:
  1. Productivity - Low productivity leads to national poverty. But not productivity at all costs. It must be through smart usage of our assets, rather than at the expense of the workforce.
  2. Sustainability - National wealth at the expense of the environment is short-term thinking; we mustn't enrich ourselves at the expense of future generations.
  3. Safety net - There will always be a disparity of wealth within a society, but a decent society must ensure that even the most disadvantaged have a good life; education,  healthcare, childcare etc.
Our Community: What insights have you gained personally on your leadership journey and how have they impacted on your style of leadership?

Morry Schwartz:

I don't consider myself a leader. To the extent that I have influence through my publishing activities, I consider the most important contribution that I can offer is to encourage an open society by creating platforms for vigorous debate.

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

Morry Schwartz:

Given that I don't consider myself to be a leader, the best answer I can offer here is to acknowledge my respect for parts of the ABC, particularly Radio National, being the best of the media in Australia.

Published April 2006