HG is very honoured to work in sectors that are represented by so many impressive women. In this special feature, we recognise the significant contribution of female leaders by sharing some of their insights. Two simple but powerful questions;
- What is the best leadership advice you have ever been given?
- What did 2020 teach you about leadership?
This is what they told us.
Q1: People have been so generous over the years and I have a treasure chest full of great advice from a diverse range of people.
Every day the single thing I try to do is relentlessly pursue the purpose of the organisation even if this means turning down opportunities. As Alice in Wonderland said ‘If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.’ Purpose guides everything.
Q2:The lesson for us all is that in crisis it’s strong communities we need. Leaders are everywhere.
2020 reminded me of the individual and collective leadership that lies dormant at a neighbourhood and community level but becomes visible during events like Covid.
Q1: The leadership advice which has stayed with me most is: “Don’t clone yourself”.
A true strength of leadership is a test of team diversity where team members are united by a shared purpose. Great leaders sponsor differences in view, and great policy is shaped by rigorous examination of options.
Q2: 2020 reinforced for me that leadership is a job for teams.
The extraordinary circumstances brought by COVID-19 required an equally extraordinary response by government agencies. I witnessed teams of individuals come together across government to problem-solve, redesign and reprioritise services. 2020 was a year defined by courageous leadership, collaboration, resilience, agility and humanity.
Q1: I was appointed, in an acting capacity, to an Executive role many years ago. It was quite a step up the career ladder for me and I will be forever grateful for the person who saw leadership capability in me and felt confident to take a risk on a relatively untested leader.
I was given great advice which was as follows:
- Spend a lot of time listening at the start
- Take your time before making any changes until you feel that you are well enough informed to do so
- But once you decide, be decisive
- Be alert to the people who will be insistent about meeting with you in your first week as, often, they will want to re-prosecute previous issues and decisions
- Above all, listen to your gut. It will almost always be right.
Q2: 2020 has been, and continues to be, a fascinating leadership opportunity and challenge.
It has reinforced for me the importance of the way that we lead as individuals and Executive teams but also the absolute necessity and thirst there is for good leadership. This past year has reinforced for me a range of leadership aspects that we know work but the absolute prime one is communication – clarity of message, consistency of response and the ability to translate the ambiguous into simplicity. Additionally, I think this year provided a real opportunity to accept that good was better than perfect and the ability to continuously improve and adapt. Our collective challenge is retaining these learnings as we transition through the pandemic response.
Q1: There has been no one single piece of advice. I have collected very good advice along the way. But what comes to mind are these few simple things;
- Be authentic – be the same person whether I’m at work, at home or with friends
- Integrity cannot be compromised at any time.
- Surround yourself with the best possible talent because you’re only as effective as the team around you.
Q2: Apart from reminding people they were “on mute” I learnt a lot about trust.
In particular, 2020 taught me about trusting staff and letting go of my own preconceived ideas about the workplace; staff demonstrated their agility, collaboration, teamwork and productivity. It was a defining period in witnessing how people stood up and contributed to managing a once in a generation situation with both compassion and care. Clearly, remote working is the way of the future and thus trust is highly correlated to productivity.
Q1: The best advice is the importance of dialogue, listening to others and not expecting you can have all of the answers.
Q2: In an emergency, the community looks to Government for authentic and trusted leadership, and to achieve this we saw agility, and incredible collaboration.
Q1: In 2019 I was fortunate enough to study Advanced Management at INSEAD in France. There were a lot of good things that were said but for me, at the time, it was the Three Altitudes of Leadership, Professor Ian Woodward said that leaders must cultivate the seamless ability to mix forward vision thinking, tactical execution and self-awareness across the altitudes of leadership, These being 50,000 feet leaders see the big picture, concrete action happens at 50 feet and at 5 feet is the level of self.
Leaders need to be profoundly self-aware and grasp what they need to do to develop themselves. The key to a great leader is to be able to move between the different altitudes.
Q2: The importance of Team, Covid demonstrated the importance of teamwork.
Particularly because I was the COO of the HHS at that time and the health lead for the Gold Coast. I had a team of people working with me that were both back of house and front-line staff. All were equally important in ensuring that we kept both our patients and staff safe but at the same time being positive.
Communication was key, we organised weekly virtual staff forums which also allowed for questions to be asked via the chat box. The attendance was huge, and to start with the meetings were well over an hour. Within a few months we were really slick! The staff had a lot of confidence in us and were very appreciative of the open and honest communication. The team also extended to include Police, ambulance, gold coast city council and NGOs.
I think the result speaks to how well we worked together, we were the first to have covid positive case admitted to hospital. They were managed so well that this also gave everyone confidence. We never had any issues with quarantine hotels, community transmission or issues with front line staff.
Q1: Be inclusive and humble and Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions
These two perspectives have played a large part in my approach when fulfilling leadership roles during my career.
I believe we all learn something new every day and harnessing diversity of thought can only give you a better outcome. In fact, there is plenty of research that shows that and the results diverse Boards and workplaces achieve. By showing self-awareness and acknowledging the perspectives of others and that it’s not possible to “know everything” it, in turn, projects authenticity, being truly humble and an appreciation of what can be achieved by being inclusive and truly engaging/learning from others.
My father and mother always instilled in me the importance of maintaining a strong work ethic and that while you may not be an expert in a particular area we all have the ability to include others and encourage a belief that we all have something to share. It’s why I am such an advocate of diversity, to bring about high performing teams.
To be a leader we need to be willing to make tough decisions based on evidence and integrity. We all have an ability to consider a situation and weigh up the pros and cons but ultimately someone then has to make a judgement call – it’s not always comfortable but is what’s needed in leadership. Leaders are often faced with decisions that will impact others and need to put their mind to what is right and what is wrong in some cases challenging their own values. I believe we all know deep down what right from wrong looks like but often leaders are either not equipped to, or don’t want to, be accountable and make a decision. Life is about choices and as leaders we are accountable to our shareholders who might be our community, government, investors or a combination of each of these and we have a responsibility to deliver certain outcomes which will, at times, mean we have to make hard decisions. By ensuring you have all the evidence, consider all stakeholders, have good self-awareness and make decisions with integrity, you really can’t go wrong.
Q2: 2020 will be remembered for many challenges and opportunities. For me, it highlighted the skills required to be flexible and agile.
Whether in your home life or work life we all had to adapt and recognise we could either keep moving forward flexing during the worldwide pandemic “standstill” and miss the many benefits and positives that could be gained.
In my case, I was already a person who happily works from home but the pandemic meant not only was I then doing that but I was also helping our two children navigate homeschooling alongside my husband who also then worked from home. My days became much busier and to be frank much noisier. Although it was my husband whose Executive colleagues and Board heard the majority of my son’s saxophone practice! It was however so enjoyable, given that as a family we were together in such close proximity, for the longest time since becoming a family and able to enjoy moments during each day that we would not normally experience.
From a Director perspective, it was refreshing to see how well we worked together to deal with the immediate issues, crisis and supply chain issues for example, to then stabilise our businesses and in the case of my Health role support our wonderful team to give them the confidence to deliver for our community. I am in awe of their strength and resilience and proud to be able to represent such a high performing organisation. True Heros. So, remembering to be flexible as a strength I continue to try and embrace the chaos given the positives that can come with being able to do so.
Q1: The best piece of advice I have been given I two-fold.
Firstly, taking risks and encourage others to innovate, while providing an environment that encourages different approaches and solutions. Supporting others to learn from those risks, celebrating the wins as well as the losses. By allowing staff to take a risk on ideas it can lead to new innovative models of care, system improvements and potentially becoming a lead in service delivery.
Secondly is to be able to create an achievable vision, communicating that vision but ensuring the communication is a two-way street.
Listening to your patients, staff, colleagues and stakeholders is part of that communication process to drive the direction of focusing on patient-centred care.
Q2: 2020 was a very challenging year for all leaders across the Nation during the COVID outbreak, from a local perspective it confirmed the importance of teamwork, clear direction and shared solutions. Collaboration amongst the teams was imperative and all staff rose to that occasion working together in unknown territory to achieve some amazing outcomes to make our community safe. Looking at 2020 across Australia it was refreshing to see at the beginning of the pandemic how all political parties worked collaboratively together to become a lead country in managing COVID.
2020 for me would be the year of unprecedented collaboration across all areas of the workforce to keep the health system functioning while learning during an evolving event.