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She Leads: It’s all about you

Jessica Schumann

With just five sleeps until Canberra is overrun with empowered, energised and inspiring women, there are plenty of reasons why you should be booking your ticket to this year’s YWCA Canberra‘s She Leads conference. The fabulous Tracey Spicer will be emcee as she brings together a jam-packed program led and curated by some of Australia’s most fascinating and strong female leaders including Kate Carnell AO (CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Yamini Naidu (Director & Chief Storyteller, Yamini Naidu Consulting), Rebecca Skinner (Deputy Secretary, Defence People), Jessica May (Founder & CEO, Enabled Employment) and our very own HerCanberra writer, Nip Wijewickrema, (Founder, GG’s Flowers & Young Canberra Citizen of the Year)…just to name a few.

Watch the live stream here.

We asked the She Leads leading ladies just what it is that leadership means to them…

What does it mean to be leader? 

“To be a leader, I believe that leaders must embrace, demonstrate and lead diversity and inclusiveness. According to a Deloitte 2012 report titled Inclusive Leadership – will a hug do? inclusion is the new paradigm that defines leadership moving forward. That is not to say that other aspects of leadership such as great communication skills, teaming, courage, humility, ability to simplify and inspire are not important. They are. However, I believe that leaders must also be able to lead through a multifaceted environment where diversity of opinion, culture, gender and attitudes will prevail and be critical in the 21st century…” — Hala Batainah, Microsoft Federal Director and Canberra Branch Manager.

“To see something that needs doing and then stepping up to doing it. This can be as small and quiet as speaking less if you have trouble listening; or as big and visible as leaning into a project at work that will take all your courage. We are all already leaders – but to grow into your authentic power (to influence yourself, or others) is to touch the heart of your life. You know the joy of that: and you also know the pain of avoiding it.” — Jacqueline Jago, Executive Coach and writer (women’s leadership and peer circle methods).

“Courageous, strong, resilient and human. I think media can often trivialise leaders. You don’t have to be Prime Minister or a Principal of a school to be a leader. I think those leaders that see a gap, a worthy cause or lead for the betterment of society — they’re the true leaders. Leaders are an important addition to any society, community and organisation.  A leader has a vision, mission and hope – they want to change something for (hopefully) the better. Guiding and empowering those around you and genuinely caring about them – that’s the thing that sets a leader apart. I truly believe a leader is a dealer in hope — they’re the one’s that’ll believe in others and push others to be the best version of themselves.

To me personally, I’m really proud to be identified as a leader. I work hard in what I do (disability rights)—not because I have a disability—but because my beautiful sister has very special needs. I think she’s an incredible human and I don’t want anything in the world to set her back. So if I have to personally break down the barriers for the benefit of those with special needs — just watch me, I’ll do exactly that. That’s what happens when you’re passionate about something — you’ll do anything in your power to help.” — Nip Wijewickrema (She Leads panellist and 2014 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year)

How do we continue to encourage women that each of them can become leaders regardless of socio-economic status, education or employment status?

“Women are faced with multiple roles in their lives, and finding the energy to undertake all of them isn’t easy. As a mother, partner, businesswoman and employer, I find I need to be very clear about the boundaries around my time with my kids, and the time it takes to foster my business. If women can find the balance, it doesn’t matter what your education, financial status or location, age, or ability level is – balance and determination will see you through. Be organised, use your time wisely and be determined to succeed. You’re a woman, and we are powerful creatures when we put our minds to it with determination.” — Jessica May, (Founder of Enabled Employment)

“The single most important thing is for women to believe in themselves. Some of the most inspirational examples of leadership come from the most unexpected places.  Mothers, sisters and daughters raised in third world poverty who triumph against the odds to establish small businesses. Women subjected to domestic violence who walk away and create a new life. This is real leadership – and an inspiration for all the women and men who are empowered by the example they set.” — Stephanie Foster, (Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner).

“We need to be supportive of women and accept that there are many different styles of leadership—you don’t always having to be leading a charge from the front in a ‘take all or nothing’ approach. It’s also possible to lead quietly, through consensus building and negotiation. 

We need to remind our future women leaders that being yourself and being ‘authentic’ is the most important thing. If we all try to conform to traditional models of leadership, we limit potential and condemn our organisations to repeating the same mistakes because we never have the courage to try new models of leadership. 

Women are critical in showing the way forward, and leading in times of change. I think we often overlook the quieter qualities that women can offer in favour of the big, burly leader that conforms to our historical view of leader as hero. But those quieter, inclusive qualities are critical if, as a leader, you want to look after your people.” — Rebecca Skinner, (Deputy Secretary, Department of Defence).

What are three things women can do to better themselves along the journey to becoming a leader? 

“1. Live on the wind – contemplate & meditate.

2. Go sailing or doing anything relaxing a lot!

3. Follow a sacred spiritual path, let go – trust.” — Tjanara Goreng Goreng, (Adjunct Asst. Professor of Indigenous Studies, University of Canberra).

“1. Hang out with people you want to be more like.

2. Hang out with yourself, alone, while you figure about what really matters to you. Turn off all your gadgets, meditate, take a year out of the life you’ve scheduled and do something extraordinary and difficult that will help you understand what your unique gifts are and how you can offer them in service to the world.

3. A capacity to dust yourself off and keep going is like vitamins for growing into the greatness you were born with. If your life journey has ten steps, the best (most fruitful, spine- and muscle-building, inspiring, assumption-busting, gut-wrenching, freeing) nine will be failures – so learn to fail with grace. In your quietest moments, it will become clear that you are so much more than your failure — or your success.” — Jacqueline Jago.

“1. Have a go.  Don’t wait until you think you are perfectly qualified – men rarely do.

2. Be yourself, don’t try to be what you think the ideal leader looks like. There really isn’t one.

3. Give generously of yourself and take some risks.  Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will get hurt but most of the time you will achieve great things.” Stephanie Foster.

“1. Define what leadership looks like and feels like for YOU and your context.

2. Be true to your value system (if you don’t know your values or unclear, then clarify them).

3. Follow your gut instinct. If it feels right it is. If it feels wrong, it is.” — Hala Batainah.

The essentials
What: She Leads Conference
When: Tuesday 19 May 2015
Where: Hotel Realm, Barton
How much: From $149.60 (concession) to $550 (corporate)
Web: www.ywca-canberra.org.au

Follow the She Leads Conference across social media using the hashtag#SheLeads2015.

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Jessica Schumann

A 'rambling ranga' at heart, Jessica Schumann is a bubbly, creative social thinker who thrives on words, social media and an innate knack for sharing stories. When she finds the time to write, Jessica seeks out the beauty in change and the essence of human condition. Varied and diverse in nature, her writing delves into the enviable world of people, travel, food and culture. When you can't find her in a nook writing, just follow your nose and you’ll soon find Jessica indulging in her other passion – cooking – or curled up on the couch with a good book in hand. You can find her over at ramblingranga.com.au. More about the Author