Authors Professor John Kane and Professor Haig Patapan will deliver the School of Government and International Relations’ inaugural Distinguished Lecture prior to Kevin Rudd’s attendance to launch The Democratic Leader, a world-first publication on the theory of democratic leadership.

Their presentation at the Queensland College of Art will break with traditional format, using an often entertaining and always insightful slide show to explore the main themes of their book.

“Our aim is to establish the Distinguished Lecture as an important annual event that addresses and confronts a core problem in contemporary politics,” Professor Patapan said.

“The theme of the inaugural lecture is not only timely but one that must be faced and discussed in Australia now.”

As opinion poll after opinion poll struggles to make a case for one leader over another, Professors Kane and Patapan will attempt to answer the big question: What’s wrong with our leaders?

During the one-hour lecture at South Bank they will try to pick the locks of the Catch-22 shackles that have tested every political leader from President Obama to Prime Minister Gillard.

The lecture will discuss the unique character and always fragile legitimacy of democratic leadership in order to explain why the voting public so frequently suspects political leaders of being less than honest.

“Democratic leadership is the most difficult of all forms of leadership, one that requires learning a very particular set of skills and sensitivities,” Professor Kane said.

“There is a constant desire for good leaders but democracies by their nature continually generate questions and challenges about leadership. An ongoing tug-o’-war exists between the sovereignty of the leader versus the sovereignty of the people. What is good for a democracy may not be good for its leadership.”

The establishment of the Distinguished Lecture sees the return to centre stage of a valuable and effective forum for key societal debate.

“We live in an age where the Twitter-sphere and world-wide web provide a second-hand and generally superficial commentary on important issues,” Professor Patapan said.

“Advocates of social media merely respond to this content, digesting and rapidly disseminating their thoughts and feelings in a form that limits audience thought and reflection. But at best this is commentary rather than original, insightful writing and research. Ironically, it is the place where politicians often source the information that shapes their public comment.

“A lecture such as this one takes the discussion backs to its most basic state, and this is vital when attempting to address important issues like the problem of political leadership.”

Head of School of Government and International Relations, Associate Professor Martin Griffiths, will introduce Thursday evening’s lecture. “The Distinguished Lecture will draw on the wide-ranging depth of knowledge and expertise at our School,” he said. “I believe, with time, it will be compared with similar events like the renowned Massey Lectures in Canada.”

  • WHAT: Inaugural Distinguished Lecture: What’s wrong with our leaders?
  • WHEN: Thursday, November 22, 6.30pm
  • WHERE: Queensland College of Art, Lecture Theatre, South Bank
  • WHO: Professor John Kane, Professor Haig Patapan
  • FOLLOWED BY: The launch of The Democratic Leader by Kevin Rudd MP at the nearby Griffith University Gallery (7.30pm)