Written by Georgina Lau, Westpac Scholar, 2020 Future Leader
In my interview for the Westpac Future Leaders scholarship I said that I wanted to be a bolder leader - that I aspired to be someone who wouldn’t hesitate to be assertive and take the lead when needed. However, during our time together in Sydney at the Westpac Future Leaders residential, many of us became frustrated at how leadership is often defined. Why is it that we commonly associate characteristics such as assertiveness and a commanding presence with leadership, but not traits such as empathy and the ability to read a room? While I certainly still aspire to be a bold leader, my time as a Westpac Future Leader has changed my perspective on what this might look like. Here are some of my key learnings from the week:
1. Forget about perfection.
The responsibility that comes with being a leader can be intimidating. It can be easy to fall into the trap of fixating on all the ways that we think we may be falling short as a leader. However, bold leaders are brave enough to admit that there is no such thing as a perfect leader. It is simply not possible for one person to encompass everything that a team could ever need. When we release ourselves from the mindset of having to be the single perfect leader of a group, it opens up room to share our journey with others through collaboration and inclusive leadership. Embracing imperfection gives us licence to acknowledge (but not emphasise) our weaknesses, which in turn enables us to focus and build on our strengths.
2. “Take the best route for you and take it fearlessly”
This year’s cohort of Future Leaders certainly demonstrates diverse forms of leadership. We each have different strengths, passions and personalities, as well as our own unique (but equally valid) definitions of what makes a good leader. As such, each of our journeys as a Future Leader will look different. The advice to “take the best route for you and take it fearlessly” was gifted to us by Cindy Carpenter, Chair of Sydney-based social enterprise The Bread and Butter Project. These words serve as an important reminder that sometimes being a bold leader means being daring enough to pave your own way, even if it is a little bit unconventional.
3. Be vulnerable.
Being a leader also means being part of a team, and with that comes the need to collaborate and trust that they too share your vision. Bold leaders aren’t afraid of surrounding themselves with people who are more experienced or skilled than they are. They have the humility to recognise their weaknesses, the self-awareness to know when it’s time to ask for help, and the resilience to reflect on challenging times as an opportunity for growth and learning.
The year so far has certainly presented us with a number of challenges. Now more than ever we need bold leaders who are more than just the loudest or most commanding presence in a room. We need people with the creativity and resilience to continue pursuing their vision, especially when doing so requires them to venture outside of their comfort zone. We need leaders with the courage to trust in their abilities while facing new challenges. Finally, in these trying times, we need leaders who are vulnerable enough to bring their authentic self to the table, to lead with humility, empathy and an open mind.
Published 1 April 2020