Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Random Musings: Leadership lessons for women

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile will know about 12 months ago I suddenly lost my job when the organisation I worked for was de-funded in the federal budget. Since then I have been lucky enough to secure a position with a great organisation that not only does excellent work for the health sector, it is highly supportive of its staff and our professional development.

It was due to that support, that three of us attended the "She Leads" conference on 19 May. She Leads is put on by the YWCA Canberra as part of their activities to support women on their journey to leadership roles. It was a fantastic day, with many wonderful and inspiring speakers. I said to a colleague that while I didn't find anything truly revelatory during the day, there were lots of reminders about how to find opportunities,

I thought I might share just a few of those lessons and reminders and hope that they help you too.

Making the rules
Too often we don't think we can make our own rules, that we have to stick to a societal expectation of how work works. Kate Carnell, former Chief Minister of the ACT and now CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce spoke about how as Chief Minister she put rules in place that she didn't do breakfasts. She had young children at the time and it was her priority to be there in the mornings and do the school run. She was a highly successful Chief Minister and did it all while getting the kids to school. This example reminded me that we can make our own rules, that we do have the right to say no and that if we are clear about our needs, people will (hopefully) respect them.

Make the most of opportunity
Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, made the point that women tend to wait till they have certainty of outcome before they try something rather than face the risk of failure. Not only is failure a really important learning tool, it means that women wait longer to try for promotion, pay rise, new ventures etc. Kate Carnell made the point that the time is never right so we have to take the opportunity as it arises. It was a good reminder to me of something that I have always thought which is that we must always be open to opportunity and there is always a way to make something work.

Work/life balance is a myth
Clare Bowditch made the point that we all secretly believe that someone else is managing find the magical work/life balance point when the reality is that there is no balance. Everyone feels guilty that they aren't doing enough, being enough, for their family, friends, work. We feel guilty that we don't get to the gym enough, that we don't make our own bread, about a million different things.  All the speakers agreed, the key was to acknowledge the guilt and just get on with it. The balance will sway over time between the various aspects of our lives, we just need to ride that wave of continuum.

It really was a great day. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many interesting women and hear from people who have achieved so much. It reminded me that while all our journeys are unique and individual, we can learn from others to help us along the path.

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