Smorgon tells Deakin audience of leadership qualities

Businessman and former Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon gave his take on leadership as keynote speaker at Deakin University’s alumni evening last night. 

Businessman and former Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon gave his take on leadership as keynote speaker at Deakin University’s alumni evening last night. 

TENACITY, initiative and hard work are key elements in David Smorgon’s leadership rule book — three things he believes are often overlooked in the era of instant celebrity.

The high-profile businessman was keynote speaker at last night’s Deakin University alumni evening, where he chatted about how his views on leadership were shaped at the family kitchen table and taken the football club corporate boardroom.

Mr Smorgon said his father George, cousin Graham Smorgon and late statesman Robert Menzies were all figures who helped shape his ideas of leadership in his formative years.

But the former Western Bulldogs club president added there was nothing like practical experience to test whether someone had the capacity to lead in business, sport or wider society.

“Too many people think they know what leadership is,” Mr Smorgon said last night.

“It’s a growing problem in the modern world. 

“They like the trappings of leadership — the titles, the nice car park close to the front door — but when it comes to the crunch, standing up for the people you lead and making the tough decisions, they’re all at sea.

“I call it the Humpty Dumpty disease, sitting on the fence and not really having a purpose.”

Mr Smorgon served for more than 15 years as Western Bulldogs president and witnessed how the game rapidly transformed in the space of a generation, from suburban Victorian games on a Saturday afternoon into the billion-dollar national business of today, with saturation media coverage.

He said while scrutiny from the sidelines had always been there, football players and officials now had to contend with the constant “white noise” of all types of media.

“No doubt — today every word is critiqued by the six or seven television shows, radio programs and on the internet,” Mr Smorgon said.

“But true leadership gets past that. Look at (late Richmond great) Tom Hafey. He was a true original, a bloke that just kept on working at what he believed in.”

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