Empowering leadership

I have spent much time lately contemplating what makes a quality leader.

I was recently awarded a scholarship from Woman & Leadership Australia to undertake the eight-month Executive Ready program. This course comprises 25 percent of the Master of Leadership at Monash University. The program starts in May and I’m super excited about it.

As my friends know, I’ve been considering a plethora of postgraduate courses recently – everything from psychology to counselling to leadership. But there’s nothing like a scholarship to make a woman’s decision!

It is such a wonderful privilege to be selected, supported and developed as a female leader. I’m hoping this program will enable me to contribute more value to my team.

Across the globe right now, it seems the future is, indeed, female. There are incredible women who inspire me every day. Emma Gonzáles, Penny Wong, Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama, Rosie Batty, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Oprah, my mum… to name but a few. I’ve admired Ita Buttrose for many years and was thrilled to meet her in 2011.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Sheryl Sandberg

But the most influential leader in my professional world is Shirley Leitch. In my experience, quality managers are rare in the corporate life, but Shirley is brilliant. She remains the best leader and manager I’ve experienced my entire career.

I worked for Shirley as a PR Executive at Swinburne University seven years ago. We’re still friends today. Shirley developed me through trust, fairness and integrity. She supported, encouraged and empowered me. I try to lead people in the same way. Despite being a Professor of Communications – far more qualified than me – Shirley genuinely respected my expertise. As a result, she valued my advice and was willing to take risks. And because she trusted me, and believed in me, I worked extra hard to ensure her success.

Empowered women empower women.

Shirley supported me to attend the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam, which took my career to the next level. She even dedicated an academic book to me – after asking me to contribute a section, which I never did – a lovely gesture that touched me beyond words. Shirley is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. But her gentle presence is powerful and commands respect. I am grateful to have experienced what quality leadership feels like as a team member.

In my scholarship application, I was asked to respond to this question: What does effective leadership mean to you, and why is it so important in organisations today? This was my answer:

Effective leaders inspire people to follow their path and come on the journey. They are egalitarian, respectful and empowering. They lead by example. Great leaders come from love, not fear. They treat people fairly and equally, regardless of position or title. Good leaders command respect, rather than demand it. They create and enable a high performing team by bringing out the best in people. Effective leadership is important today because research shows employees leave managers, rather than companies. Poor management can have a negative impact on overall performance, team morale and employee wellbeing. Quality leadership enables higher team performance, job satisfaction and personal fulfilment.

All this I learned from you, Shirley. Thank you. And I hope to do you proud.

2 thoughts on “Empowering leadership”

  1. I absolutely love this. There’s several strong women in considerably important leadership roles but I still believe that women are under represented when it comes to taking charge and leading from the front in big leadership roles. Coming from a man, it empowers me to see a woman with all the qualities of an effective leader and inspiring her team to get the job done, what ever it may require. I thoroughly loved this article Summer and from the looks of it, you’ll be mentioned by other women and men alike when they mention leaders that they look up to for guidance as a role model. This was beautifully written by the way. Peace and love to you!

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