Leadership Experts Critique Scott Morrison’s Crisis Management

Some of Australia’s leadership experts have weighed in on the PM’s performance during the coronavirus crisis, pointing out some missteps and his best moments of clarity.

Some have praised Scott Morrison for his regular public assurances and promises to help those in need financially.

But others have been left confused by his sometimes "inconsistent" approach, particularly in regards to the issue of schools and shutdowns.

Lisa Wilkinson


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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received a boost in recent popularity polls. Image: AAP

While it's impossible for a leader to please everyone, particularly one dealing with the enormity of steering a nation through an unprecedented virus crisis, critics have zoned in on Morrison's decision making, speech delivery and clarity.

The latest Newspoll found Australians have so far put their support behind the PM and his response to the crisis, propelling him ahead of Anthony Albanese as the preferred leader for the first time this year.



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So what do the experts think?

10 daily asked some of the country's leadership experts what they thought of the PM's performance during the COVID-19 crisis and the most common word used was "improving".

Senior leadership coach Michelle Sales said Morrison has had moments of clarity and conciseness but the nation needed to see more of them.

Leadership experts say Scott Morrison is 'improving'. Image: AAP.

"At the moment he seems to be appealing to our rational side, but he needs to do more than that," Sales told 10 daily.

"He's improving as he goes and I think the key challenge that he needs to do, and if you look at any of our political leaders at the moment, they need us as a nation to adapt quickly but that behavioural change is really hard."

'Too Much Grey'

Sales said one of Morrison's best moments during the crisis was when he told the nation to stop hoarding toilet paper and other household items during the peak of panic buying.

She said it was an example of him giving Australians a reason to pay attention.

"He needs to do that by getting rid of the grey, by being clear and firm in this direction."



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Body language and behaviour expert Dr Louise Mahler has trained multiple global leaders in her 30 years of experience.

Mahler said it's easy to see the "new and old ScoMo" in his recent responses.

Mahler said in his more recent press conferences, Morrison has delivered his addresses in a much more controlled manner.

"But the minute he is asked questions he flips back into the old ScoMo which has arrogance, contempt, disrespect," she said.

Mahler said she was shocked to see Morrison's "yelling" at the nation about hoarding.

"I thought ... 'I beg your pardon, how dare you speak to people like that'".

Dr Mahler says it's clear to see the 'new and old' Scott Morrison in his recent speeches and during questions. Image: AAP

Mahler said more global leaders were embracing a more "feminine" style of leadership, such as gentle gestures, neutrality in the face and -- most importantly -- addressing emotion in an empathetic way.

"It's not a matter of building rapport with people it's a matter of getting the message across by not annoying people with mannerisms that send negative messages," she said.

Both Sales and Mahler agreed that many people would be left frustrated by the lack of consistency in some of the virus-related decisions that have been made in the last few weeks -- especially regarding school closures and business shutdowns.

"For business owners, there is too much grey area about what they are doing, and in the midst of a crisis when there's massive uncertainty and real disruption we need leaders to be clearer and to be in touch," Sales said.

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'Out Of Touch'

Sales added that holding long press conferences at 9 or 10 pm at night meant some Australians were sleeping and others were left awake, struggling to sleep after.

"People are dealing with this in lots of different ways and trying to manage what is an emotional roller coaster," she said.

Running a press conference at that time of the night, you would ask the question if he was a little bit out of touch.

Sales and Mahler both noted that the state premiers and chief ministers appeared to be taking control and moving away from the PM's decisions in multiple areas recently, suggesting there were inconsistencies.



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"We need Morrison to be cutting out the noise and giving it to us straight, clear and firmly," Sales said.

'A Real Challenge'

While Mahler noted the PM can't afford to make a misstep during the crisis, she acknowledged that "the man must be exhausted doing this".

He's trying to do better and he is doing better.

Sales added that it was a real challenge to exercise leadership in times of crisis.

"This is unprecedented, we haven't seen it before, it's the ultimate in disruption and uncertainty and it's going to take every single person in this country to change our behaviour to get through this," she said.

"That is the focus for our political leaders to do that is really challenging and the only way they are going to do that is to provoke us into action."