Rudd does it a beta way

POLITICAL leaders are usually seen as alpha males: aggressive leaders of the pack who dominate everyone around them.

The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, flaunted his power credentials by posing shirtless with a rifle and saving a TV crew from a tiger by shooting it with a tranquilliser gun. When he was mayor of Neuilly in 1993, Nicolas Sarkozy, now the French President, negotiated the release of a classroom of children taken hostage.

The leader-of-the-pack image suits Tony Abbott, with his love of endurance fitness events and confrontations.

Kevin Rudd breaks the mould with a more bookish, attention-to-detail beta style more akin to the former British leader Gordon Brown - and look where that got him. But international leadership experts say Mr Rudd generally measures up well.

The bestselling author Ronald Heifetz arrives in Australia this month to present a lecture on adaptive leadership. He has spent months in Greece, advising the government on how to handle its debt crisis.

Professor Heifetz said Mr Rudd's declining approval rating comes down to a breakdown in policy communication, with the government's change in refugee policy, the proposed resources super profits tax and the abandoned emissions trading scheme as examples of where effective communication was critical.

''I think it is wonderful to have a prime minister who is an intellectual,'' Professor Heifetz said. ''But I think a politician who is an intellectual has an obligation to get to the simplicity on the other side of complexity. They must make sure they are accurate but also straightforward.''

An analysis of the qualities of successful Australian leaders by the researchers IbisWorld shows Mr Rudd fits eight of the 12 criteria, which include an assessment of background, profession and approach to the job.

The research shows 83 per cent had a middle- or working-class background. All had a loyal aide who supported the leader without complaint. They were ''tough, resolute and even ruthless when necessary but often lonely, aloof, moody or unsure''.

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It also listed the leaders who were most successful at building the country's wealth.

Roger Collins, emeritus professor at the University of NSW, said Mr Rudd must change his leadership style to remain in the top job. ''The thing that got Rudd into government was his ability to outsmart [John] Howard by ducking and weaving,'' Dr Collins said. ''Now that he's in there he must deal with different issues.''

A body language expert, Allan Pease, said Mr Rudd was a more effective communicator than the Opposition Leader: ''Kevin Rudd's gestures are smooth and project good confidence and experience. He uses his head, eyes and hands.''

Mr Pease criticised Mr Abbott for not looking at the camera during interviews.

An international leadership consultant, Greg Lourey, compared Mr Rudd with Barack Obama. Both had an ''ability to handle conflict, contradictions, polarities of view and to use the language of possibilities''.