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Women at Work: Zoe Routh

Jodi Morrell

“There has always been a need for leaders who have cool heads, warm hearts and steady hands,” says Zoe Routh of Inner Compass.

Zoe believes that centred leadership has become even more important now because of the nature of our environment. The modern political, commercial and economic environments are all very volatile. The rate of change in the world has become exponential rather than linear across all sectors in society.

To explain just how quickly the rate of change is occurring in today’s world, Zoe uses the example of the wheel. First invented ten thousand years ago, it took five thousand years before we invented the hand-pulled cart. It took another four thousand years before we invented the car. Once the car was invented, it was only two hundred years before the first licence for a driverless car was issued in 2012.

In addition to exponential and radical change, we are also bombarded with information. Today’s society has access to information from a wide array of mediums, from traditional information mediums such as education to modern platforms like television, radio and the internet; we are inundated by information.

“The ability to focus and be able to choose what’s important and be able to siphon that much information is incredible,” says Zoe when making this point. “We don’t siphon if we’re reactive. We need to be centred if we’re going to shift through to find the information that’s most important.”

In her new book, Composure, Zoe has created a handbook for becoming a centred leader. The book contains strategies and techniques for leaders to come to know themselves more deeply. When a leader has a deep knowledge of who they are then it’s possible to come from a better place of understanding and interact more clearly with others. It’s possible to connect on a deeper level.

Zoe has designed the book to help leaders discover their purpose, intention, authenticity and how they want to live their values as a leader.

It also provides a guide in how to lead other people and be their ‘crucible’. A crucible is a container that, when heated to extreme temperatures, maintains its shape but allows the contents to be transformed. “A leader can be like a crucible for their team. They can hold the space for others to go through incredible experiences and still remain calm and centred within their core.” says Zoe.

Zoe points out that there are three main things that we risk without composure in our leadership.

The first is reputation. We all know how quickly reputation can get disrupted or dismantled – we’ve seen many examples from political leadership. Leading with fear – by being volatile, or losing your temper – is an indication that your leadership is reactive – people will run from a reactive leader.

“We want leaders that we can turn to, not run from. That’s pretty critical. There’s too much going on, too much at stake in today’s world in terms of volatility. We need leadership that is calm and composed.” says Zoe, explaining the importance of reputation in our leadership.

“The second major thing that leaders who lack composure risk is the relationships around them. When we are in a reactive state, things come out of our mouths that destroy relationships. These are those moments where we know what we’ve just said is causing a negative impact around us.”

“I call them pooh bombs because you kind of feel splattered and so does everyone around you.” Zoe says before explaining further. “Pooh bombs can crinkle and crack your relationships with the people around you. You can try to backtrack but the damage is done.” Zoe points out that the less of this negative impact we have in the world the better is it for creating harmony.

Finally, when we don’t have composure, we risk losing all influence from our leadership. If we are not centred we don’t have the outward focus and attention we need to lead people properly and well. Instead of having a team of people follow and support your leadership, without influence people begin actively work to take you down. “You can’t get people on your side if you don’t have influence with them.” says Zoe simply.

“Charisma is not enough, leading with fear is not enough. We need leaders who embrace us, to encourage us and who inspire us.”

Zoe bases her leadership theory on her own experience of not having composure and discovering the need for it. Zoe describes herself as being a very emotional, reactive, volatile and passionate person ten years ago. “In reality I was just an explosive volcano.” She says before explaining that she was reacting to a lot of the stress and pressure in her life. Everything came crumbling down when Zoe was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

Zoe believes her lack of composure and lack of ability to sit in chaos cost her health.

She explains that this was her personal compulsion to change the way she interacts and managed herself, and the way she managed other people. “Now the comment I get regularly from clients and colleagues is that they feel calmer after being in my presence.” Zoe says before mentioning that she feels this feedback is a strong testament to the fact that you can actually change the way you function as a leader.

If you’re interested in purchasing Zoe’s book, Composure, or would like to work with her to improve the leadership in your company or organisation, visit her website.


Jodi Morrell

Jodi Morrell recently abandoned her long-term public service career to pursue her passion for writing full time. She is passionate about politics, federal and local, and loves to explore and understand opposing political standpoints. Jodi loves travel, good food and wine, fitness and obstacle races (the muddier the better) and books. More about the Author