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Big Love

07 March 2011

There were some really good lists this year to mark the end of the century's first decade and the beginning of the second. There were lists of those we have farewelled from Walter Cronkite and Corazon Aquino to Richard Pratt, Michael Jackson, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Bud Tingwell. There were lists of business highlights: the strength of the Australian dollar, property booms, and lowlights: Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Bros, and Fanny Mac. There were lists of the films, books, restaurants and Arts experiences we should have seen, and those we must not fail to see in the future.

[Prepare yourself for the new trend in novel reading: literary-horror \"mash-ups\". Coined by the critics, Seth Grahame-Smith's \"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies\" (Quirk Books), is the best example. Other booming areas continue along the \"Salt\", \"Cod\", \"Tulip\" line: the genre where economic theories are used to illuminate unexpected historical and social trends and vice versa. Peter T Leeson's (not so easy to find) \"The Invisible Hook\", on the Jolly Roger era of sea piracy, made a big impression here.]

The thing I didn't notice was lists of women who had reached top leadership positions and celebrations of women's achievements: unless you count \"The Economist\" issue on women now making up more than half the workforce? (Something already touched on in ruby in December 2009 with Maria Shriver's \"The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything\"). Nor have we seen much on the state of women's Super in Australia. For the next 10 years these things and the issues surrounding them will be high on the list of priorities for business, finance and society, and, by rights, should make interesting \"list\" reading in 2020.


Some years are all about one and some about two. But this year seems to be consolidating into being about threes. \"Big Love\", the American sit drama, is back on TV and that led me to thinking about power and leadership struggles in 'threesomes'. How hard is it to lead in a Triumvirate? Is the balance of power ever evenly distributed and what happens when one player feels unnoticed, diminished, left out?

There are some very famous Triumvirates with some interesting outcomes: Ancient Rome's Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus, and Marcus Crassus; Modern Israel's Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni; the Commonwealth nations of Queen Elizabeth II represented by a resident Governor General (in this case Quentin Bryce) who is a sort of de-facto head of state and whose actions are almost always under the rule of the national Prime Minister - the head of government and the person who actually exercises the real powers of the crown. And for the \"Star War\" fans among us, the Imperial and Sith Triumvirates.

But, what of Australian political leadership in 2010?

There's the Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan body; the Abbott, Bishop (which one is the question) and Hockey team and, in NSW state politics, the much talked about but yet to be proved alliance of Kristina Keneally, Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid.

Interestingly, there's at least a woman leader in each. Hopefully, the dynamics of diversity and the range of thought will make a fascinating start to the decade.

Networking & friends

Not all conversations and networking are about markets and opportunities. You have to pick your times (try to leave Christmas Day in the middle of lunch preparations alone), and your marks (audience applicability), because stepping the fine line - especially online - between getting the message out and finding you have \"eroded trust for personal gain\" can be really difficult to do, as this experience by friends of mine proved.

I was away locally for a summer break - good for me, and the nation's finances. (I actually watched local economies change in front of my eyes as our party of 20 kids and adults stopped for lunch, snacks and unnecessary gift buying in small country towns.)

Road trips bring out the stories and one couple was telling us about the time they received an invitation to experience the refurbishment of a friend's hotel with dinner for two - with one dinner free. Admittedly, they had failed to read the fine print, but the host, after all, was a friend and it had all the appearances of a genuine invitation.

They duly arrived, ate what was a very lovely meal with good wines and were favourably impressed with the hotel's new look reception, restaurant and public spaces. The bill arrived - for two.

\"That can't be right. One meal was to be free,\" said the couple.

\"No, that is right,\" said the maitre d'. \"The free deal is only if you stay the night.\"

\"Ah. Well, we'll stay the night.\"

(Their understanding was the night was also free.)

So there they were without a toothbrush or pyjamas, in a hotel where the rooms were yet to be refurbished and the towels as thin as a supermodel in the middle of Fashion Week, knowing they had to be home before 7am to turn off the security for a tradesman due that next morning.

\"This hotel was on the corner of two main roads. It was like sleeping on the medium strip. Not restful. So we were up early, dressed in our evening clothes and ready to settle up our dinner bill,\" explained the couple.

\"But there's no such thing as a free lunch,\" continued the husband. \"We had to pay for the night and one dinner to get one dinner free.\"

Needless to say they've steered clear of the friend who sent the invitation and are quick to note that none of their other mutual friends took up the offer.

Sometimes the line between marketing and friendship can turn electric. And like an octopus you quickly learn not to make the same mistake twice.