What is the essence of leadership? Richard Larkins, a major figure of Australian science, medicine, and university administration, provides a rare, candid account of a life lived in the public eye, and of the philosophy he has drawn upon to negotiate the personal and professional challenges this life has thrown up.
‘High above the hushed crowd, Rex tried to remain focused. Still, he couldn’t shake one nagging thought: he was an old dog and this was a new trick.’
These words lay beneath a Gary Larson cartoon showing a dog riding a unicycle on a tightrope in a circus bigtop while juggling balls with its front paws, swinging a hoop round its middle, balancing a jug on its head and holding a cat in its mouth. The card with the cartoon was sent to me by my long-time scientific colleague, Marjorie Dunlop, to mark my transition from Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne to Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash University in 2003. I had just turned 60 and this was indeed a new trick.
I started writing these reflections three days after I completed my term [as Vice Chancellor] at Monash University. I was entering the next phase of my life. It would be studded with a variety of interesting and challenging part-time activities. I thought it an appropriate time to reflect on the tricks I have learnt both as a young dog and an old dog and the experiences I have had in an adult life time spent in medicine, research, health policy and higher education.
(From the Foreword.)