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Leadership: Tim Costello



Tim Costello is the Chief Executive Officer of World Vision Australia. He is a Baptist minister and a key global leader on social justice issues, ethics and leadership. Tim has played a great role in public debates that involve substance abuse, gambling, urban poverty, reconciliation and homelessness. Tim has been influential in guaranteeing that issues linked to worldwide poverty are positioned on the national schema. According to Hughes and Cronshaw (2013), Tim Costello was born in 1955 and brought up in Blackburn. He attended the local Baptist church and studied at Carey Grammar School. Tim studied in Monash University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence, Bachelor of Law and a Diploma in Education. Tim is married to Merridie with whom they have three children. Tim and his wife travelled to Switzerland to study theology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity and later on a Master of Theology from Whitley College. He was ordained in 1987 as a Baptist minister. He has served as the President of the Baptist Union of Australia and a patron of Baptist World Aid Australia. Tim is also involved in other crucial social justice organisations such as the Inter-church Gambling Taskforce, the Australian Earth Charter Committee, the Community Council of Australia and Make Poverty History.

In addition, Tim has been instrumental in fighting substance abuse through the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation. In 2004, he was elected the CEO of the World Vision and has been awarded the Victorian of the Year award for his role in community and service. He has won other wards such the Australia Peace Prize. Tim is a brother to the former Australia and Federal Member for Higgins treasurer, Peter Costello. Tim was a son to Patrick Costello, a former politician. He is known for ability to integrate evangelical faith and social concern. As a result, Tim’s voice is widely sought by politicians and reporters, secular and religious leaders because he is viewed as a compassionate social reformer whose faith informs his advocacy and engagement.

Leadership Approach

Through his leadership approach, Tim Costello has been able to spearhead, World Vision Australia, Australia’s biggest international development Non-governmental organisation. His leadership style has made him the nation’s most documented voice on global poverty, ethics and social justice. Leadership is innate to some people. Some people develop leadership skills naturally while other require guidance and training to become productive leaders. With regard to Tim Costello, his leadership depicts qualities and skills of a charismatic leader. Charismatic leadership is a style of leadership that inspires high level of performance, enthusiasm and loyalty (Lussier 2008). Charismatic leaders have an idealised vision or goal, hold a powerful personal commitment to that goal, communicate the goal to others and exhibit self-confidence. Followers trust their leaders’ beliefs, adopt them, feel affection for the leader and establish emotional engagement with the goal, all of which instigate higher performance levels. Day (2008) defines a charismatic leader as a self-confident and enthusiastic person who is able to win the respect of his followers and support his/her vision of good things. Charismatic leaders demonstrate charisma that entails the capacity to influence followers depending on a type of supernatural gift and attractive powers. Followers enjoy being with a charismatic leader because they feel important, corrected and inspired. According to Swatos and Kivisto (1998), charismatic leadership is often linked to volatile and dynamic religious phenomena.

Charismatic leadership is non-institutionalised and personal leadership. Tim Costello is a charismatic leader because he is able to influence people through his characteristics and traits. He holds the ability to influence others through specialised abilities, skills and knowledge besides engagement in his role as CEO for World Vision and board and committee member in several other organisations. The World Vision Australia and other organisations led by Tim Costello have continued to make a mark in the society because of his leadership. Tim has created a vision for others and steps in during crisis particularly when dealing with poverty reduction and substance abuse. The fact that Tim strives to see a better world free of poverty and homelessness make him not only a charismatic leader but also a transformational leader. He is emotionally warm and expressive and has the interests of others at heart. With respect to the transformational leadership theory, leaders and followers become fused, establishing wholeness, unity and a collective purpose (Adair, 2013). Tim Costello desire is to reduce poverty, homelessness, gambling and use of substance abuse. Through application of transformational leadership theory, Tim has continued to push for a positive social change that satisfies his motives and needs and those of his followers or the society. Transformational leaders change followers with followers growing and developing because of the attainment of their needs (Day 2014). Tim leads by example; act optimistically and confidently; empowers people; encourages innovative and creative thinking and demonstrate a high level of moral and ethical conduct.

With respect to charismatic leadership, Time Costello demonstrated his powerful personal commitment to poverty reduction and social justice during the devastating Asia tsunami in 2004. He demonstrated his charismatic and transformational leadership through inspiring an exceptional expression of generosity from the Australians with the organisation that he leads raising over 100 million dollar for the tsunami (Bass & Riggio 2006). Secondly, Tim demonstrated both charismatic and transformational leadership through initiating the anti-gambling campaigns with the help of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce. Tim Costello aimed at promoting social justice through reducing gambling. Thirdly, Tim demonstrates both charismatic and transformational leadership through acts of kindness such as supporting the homeless through the Lissome soup kitchen where he has been a patron for twenty years. Through the soup kitchen, Tim Costello gives the homeless people an essential sense of belonging. He demonstrates an act of kindness that is key to charismatic leadership.

Leadership Challenges

Charismatic leaders often face the possibility of direct challenges to their charismatic status. These challenges emanate from different sources although they most often, charismatic leaders survive the challenges. Because challenges are not limited to the leadership ranks, Tim Costello has had a fair share of these challenges. One of the major challenges that Tim Costello faced is during the 2011 anti-gambling campaign. While Tim and his team needed to fight gambling in Australian clubs, he went unknowingly receive money from these clubs for charity purpose (Atkin 2011). Although the money received by the world Vision organisation through Tim leadership was aimed for helping people, people doubted his intentions. However, his colleague Father Chris Riley who demonstrated a conflict of interest dragged Tim into these skirmish. Tim Costello also faced another greater challenge in 2000 when the pubic criticised Church charity citing that the heads of these churches are in charity for money (ABC 2000). Although Tim was not among those involved in making religious charity a business, the public backlash affected him as a church leader. In the two cases, Tim Costello opened-up to the public and stated his position on the issues through an exchange with the media. With regard to the anti-gambling campaign, Tim Costello denied receiving money from Australian Clubs and with regard to the Church charity issue; he confirmed that he was not into church charity for money, but for service and sacrifice.

In order to be more effective, Tim Costello should have maintained calm and adopt an effective communication style. A leader must understand that his/her vision strongly affects the intellectual stimulation and inspiration of a follower. Through effective communication, Tim Costello would have ability to command respect and loyalty from people. This would have allowed him to win people’s confidence and continue to make personal sacrifices beyond and above the call of duty. Such actions would have helped in establishing positive impacts upon their followers and generate internal moral standards (Janet 2006). Charismatic leaders start by evaluating their situation thoroughly and pinpoint issues with their status quo. Dover, Hariharan and Cumming (2014) assert that leaders should develop a personality that stimulates the followers through expressive communication that can appeal emotionally to the followers.

Lessons Learnt

Drawing from the analysis of Tim Costello leadership, I have learnt that leadership comes with different styles. Every leader has his/her way of leadership that holds an impact on the followers. I have learnt that leadership is not easy and it involves an intricate task of bringing independent minded individuals to share a vision of a favourable future. Along the way leaders, encounter challenges that negatively affects their image. However, effective leaders must learn to overcome these challenges, work with restrained resources and handle competing agendas. Notwithstanding, a leaders effort, setbacks always set in. This is because leadership holds its vicissitudes thereby requiring a strong-minded individual. The resistance and dysfunctional behaviours that leaders face call for clear communication. Giving up is not an option. Instead, leaders should endeavour to overcome key obstacles that may hinder effective leadership and focus on modelling the behaviours of the followers. Drawing from the characters and traits of Tim Costello, leaders should not take resistance personally but should keep utilising effective leadership practices and persevere. I have learnt that besides skills and knowledge, leadership should be a call. Making a leadership a call makes leaders to be energetic and likeable, demonstrate the ability to listen and make people to listen not because you compel them to do so but because they want to. As such, the relationship of a leader with his followers is essential for effective leadership. Charisma is a quality treat from effective leaders. According to Barling (2014), Charismatic and transformational leaders are effective because of their ability to influence and persuade others. Charisma encompasses being a gifted leader; demonstrate ability to command respect and loyalty from others and popularity. Charismatic and transformational leaders generate highly devoted followers and make personal sacrifices beyond the call of duty.

Reference List

ABC 2000, Controversy over church charity head’s salary, ABC. Available from

Adair, J 2013, Develop your leadership skills, USA, Kogan Page Publishers.

Atkin, M 2011, Costello embroiled in gambling controversy, ABC. Available from

Barling, J 2014, The science of leadership: Lessons from research for organisational leaders, UK, Oxford University Press.

Bass, B & Riggio, R.2006,Transformational leadership, New York, Routledge.

Day, D 2014, The Oxford handbook of leadership and organisations, UK, Oxford University Press,

Hughes, P & Cronshaw, D 2013, Baptists in Australia-E-book: A church with a heritage and a future. AU, Christian Research Association.

Janet, M 2006, Effective leadership and management in the early years, UK, McGraw-Hill Education.

Lussier, R 2008, Management fundamentals: Concepts, applications, skill development, UK, Cengage learning. I refrain

Swatos, W & Kivisto, P 1998, Encyclopaedia of religion and society, UK, Rowman Altamira.