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Tony Nicholson’s Leadership Approach Essay

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Updated: Oct 18th, 2020


Tony Nicholson is the CEO of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. He has been taking this position since 2004. His previous occupations include the post of a CEO in Hanover Welfare Services, the post of a director in Media Team Australia, and the member of the Finance, Audit and Risk, Nomination and Remuneration Committees (The Australian Charities Fund, 2014). His current workplace, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, is an independent non-governmental organization that targets to reduce poverty in Australia.

The organization carries out numerous researches to improve the service and work out new programs aimed at raising the standards of life of low-income Australian residents (The Stewardship Principle: how Australia’s financial industry can better serve the needs of low-income and vulnerable consumers 2014).

Tony Nicholson has made a large contribution to social justice promotion. Hence, it is reported that the leader has spent thirty years of his life creating better conditions for low-income people. In 2008, he was appointed as Chair of the Federal Government’s Steering Committee to compose the White Paper on homelessness and shortly after that, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, invited the leader to Chair the PM’s Council on Homelessness.

In 2011, he was appointed to head the Federal Government’s National Place-Based Advisory Group. The same year, he was welcomed to join the Victorian Government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Homelessness. In addition, he is a member of the Victorian Government’s Metropolitan Planning Strategy Ministerial Advisory Council (Career Development Association of Australian National Conference, 2013). Most importantly, it should be realized that Tony Nicholson is a social leader; hence, he strives to perform an effective social reform rather than to seek profit for the organization.

Leadership Approach

In order to define Tony Nicholson’s leadership approach, it is essential to review the main approaches which are currently distinguished by the modern expert community. Sadler (2003, p.65) offers several classifications of leadership styles; one of them implies distinguishing between “autocratic, persuasive, consultative, and democratic leaders”. In the framework of this classification, leaders are differentiated on the basis of the role they play in the decision-making process. Hence, autocratic leaders tend to impose their decisions on the team without consulting it (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt 2001).

Persuasive leaders prefer to provide a rationale for the proposed projects and convince the employees of the potential benefits (Carucci 2006). Consultative leaders, as it might be understood from the name, choose a common discussion, encouraging the team to share its views and make proposals (Vugt et al. 2004). Democratic leaders do not interfere in the decision-making process, playing the role of managers rather than leaders (Woods 2004). It should be noted that In Adeniyin’s (2007, p.45) interpretation, this classification is slightly broader; hence it also includes such styles as charismatic, bureaucratic, and permissive.

It needs to be noted that Tony Nicholson is the CEO of an independent non-profit organization, every member of which strives to solve a particular external problem. Thus, it is problematic to evaluate his leadership style within the Brotherhood. In the meantime, the style can be defined based on Nicholson’s public appeals. The review of his public speeches shows that the leader does not impose his opinion on the audience, nor does he want to adopt the so-called “laissez-faire” attitude.

It would also be unfair to state that Nicholson consults the audience or seeks its advice. His recent speech in the Luncheon in the Rotary Club of Melbourne shows that the speaker has a clear vision of the possible solution – according to the Club’s report, during the lunch, Nicholson explained the roots of the problems, pointed out the major concerning aspects and proposed a concise action plan (Rotary Club of Melbourne, 2014). Therefore, it is most rational to define his style of leadership as persuasive.

Sims and Quatro (2015, p. 137) note that the leaders of non-profit organizations are most commonly of persuasive type. This phenomenon is explained by the initial purpose of such organizations that resides in persuading authoritative parties to contribute to the improvement of certain social conditions (McMurray et al. 2010). In other words, persuasive leadership is most effective in such organizations as the Brotherhood of St. Laurence as it helps to engage the society in the target reforms.

It is also essential to consider the leadership style of Tony Nicholson through the lens of the transactional and transformational theories. Hence, these two types of leadership are not commonly included in the standard classification discussed above; yet, they comprise some important characteristics that might be valuable to compose a complex portrait of a particular leader. According to Bertocci (2009, p.48), a transactional leader “identifies the types of rewards followers want” and assists them in achieving the relevant performance that ensures these rewards, while a transformational leader is mainly focused on inspiring and motivating followers “to achieve results greater than originally planned.”

As well as in the case discussed above, it might be assumed that the type of organization determines the choice of an effective leadership approach. It should be taken into account that Tony Nicholson is a member of a not-for-profit organization that targets positive social outcomes rather than rewards. As a result, he is more likely to belong to a transformational type of leader.

The assumption that a leadership type is determined largely by the character of the relevant organization, and non-profit organizations are most likely to be managed by transformational leaders is not ungrounded. Thus, Exantus (2012, p.87) describes the research that reveals that more than 90% of pastors follow a classic transformational approach. The author explains it by the fact that this approach implies the motivating and inspiring power that is essential for the efficient performance of non-profit organizations.

It might be assumed that Tony Nicholson, that is said to be constantly setting new objectives associated with improving the living conditions of the homeless, can be referred to as a transformational type (Career Development Association of Australian National Conference, 2013).


As a transformational leader, Tony Nicholson initially targets to inspire other leaders to perform a positive social change. One of the main challenges that he has faced is the skill to be persuasive enough to convince the Australian government in the need for such change. A fine example of the leader’s approach to challenges is his Youth Transition Program published in 2014. A brief overview of this program shows that Tony Nicholson employed his entire leadership potential to communicate the necessity for the programs’ implementation to the government. Hence, the leader provided an explicit rationale and explained the aims and the target outcomes.

Most importantly, he outlined the benefits the Australian government could potentially receive – the showed that well-educated youth was a reliable source of the economic growth (Investing in Our Future 2014). In addition, the leader made a series of public speeches in order to attract the attention of the Australian residents and the mass media, realizing that the society is a powerful tool that has an impact on the decision making of the target “leader,” the Australian government. As a result, the program has been successfully implemented so that it now helps thousands of young people to get employed.

Another challenge that Tony Nicholson has faced is engaging more volunteers to work for the Brotherhood. As the organization’s CEO, Nicholson has spent more than a decade creating a positive image of the Brotherhood. His main leadership tools were persuasion and motivation. Hence, numerous public speeches of the leader target to appeal to the social responsibility and inspire the Australian residents to make their contribution to building a better future. As a result, more than a thousand volunteers participate in the Brotherhood’s activity at present (Brotherhood of St. Laurence, 2016).

The overview of these challenges shows that Tony Nicholson is a fine example of a transformational leader. His main strength is the excellent communicative skills that allow him to inspire and motivate the affected parties to join the activity of the organization and to focus on the outcomes rather than on the profit (Bono 2008).


Most importantly, the analysis of Tony Nicholson’s leadership approach has revealed that there is a strong interconnection between a leader’s style and the character of the organization. Hence, it turned out that a non-profit organization requires a leader that will serve to be a strong motivator. Hence, the transformational type of leadership seems to be most applicable to managing such kind of organization.

The case review also illustrated the relativeness of different leadership styles. In other words, it might be seen that a successful leader employs the elements retrieved from various approaches to achieve a particular goal. Hence, in order to communicate the change to the target community, the inspirational method seems to be most effective. In case it is essential to inspire the company to set ambitious aims, the transactional approach is appropriate.

It might be concluded that a leadership approach plays the role of a strategic framework – it determines the methods and techniques that the leader will employ to achieve the target outcomes.

Reference List

Adeniyi, MA 2007, Effective Leadership Management: An Integration of Styles, Skills & Character for Today’s CEOs, Author House, Bloomington, Indiana.

Bertocci, DI 2009, Leadership in Organizations: There is a Difference Between Leaders and Managers, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland.

Bono, JE 2008, ‘Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 89, no. 5, pp. 901-910.

Brotherhood of St. Laurence 2016, Volunteer with Us. Web.

Career Development Association of Australian National Conference 2013, . Web.

Carucci, RA 2006, Leadership Divided: What Emerging Leaders Need and What You Might Be Missing, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, California.

Eagly, AH & Johannesen-Schmidt, MC 2001, ‘The Leadership Styles of Women and Men’, Journal of Social Issues, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 781-787.

Exantus, R 2012, Pastoral Burnout And Leadership Styles: Factors Contributing to Stress and Ministerial Turnover, Author House, Bloomington, Indiana.

. 2014. Web.

McMurray, AJ, Pirola‐Merlo, A, Sarros, JC & Islam, MM 2010, ‘Leadership, climate, psychological capital, commitment, and wellbeing in a non‐profit organization’, Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 436-457.

Rotary Club of Melbourne 2014, . Web.

Sadler, P 2003, Leadership, Kogan Page Publishers, Sterling, Virginia.

Sims, RR & Quatro, SA 2015, Leadership: Succeeding in the Private, Public, and Not-for-profit Sectors, Routledge, New York, New York.

The Australian Charities Fund 2014, The Brotherhood of St Laurence. Web.

The Stewardship Principle: how Australia’s financial industry can better serve the needs of low-income and vulnerable consumers. 2014. Web.

But, MV, Jepson, SF, Hart, CM & Cremer, DD 2004, ‘ Autocratic leadership in social dilemmas: A threat to group stability’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 1-13.

Woods, PA 2004, ‘Democratic leadership: drawing distinctions with distributed leadership’, International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 3-26.

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