Written by Martyna Judd, Westpac Scholar, 2020 Future Leader
2020 will be a year etched in our memories forever. In January it was reasonable to think that the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia would be the most significant event of the year. Within two months, the coronavirus swept across the globe and it has fundamentally changed the world we live in forever. As each country has responded to the global crisis, the topic of leadership has been at the forefront of the news, social media and in zoom chats between colleagues, friends and families. We have witnessed exceptional leadership from the likes of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and the consequences of poor leadership in some other parts of the world. Never before has leadership been so instrumental to survival.
In between these two life-changing events, I attended the Westpac Future Leaders Leadership Development Program (LDP) as part of my scholarship. Going into the program, I wasn’t sure what new insights I would gain into leadership. I expected that the week-long LDP would address what we’ve all heard to some degree before - that leadership is not a badge, position or title. But despite knowing what leadership wasn’t, before the program I probably could not have given you a description or word for what it actually was.
It turns out that the word I was looking for was mindset.
Our mindset is the lens through which we process external information and events, and it affects how we respond to them. A leadership mindset is one that embraces growth, continuous learning and having a flexible perspective.
During the week-long residential, two key insights about a leadership mindset resonated with me:
1. The importance of vulnerability and being willing to embrace weaknesses.
It became clear from listening to all the inspiring speakers at the workshop, that what allows them to achieve amazing things through social enterprises, business and research, is the way they have embraced their failures as learning opportunities rather than obstacles. Cindy Carpenter, chair of the Bread and Butter Project, also discussed how by addressing both your weaknesses and strengths, you can get the right people around you to action your ideas driving collaborative problem solving.
2. A leadership mindset looks outwards, and seeks to not just listen, but deeply understand others.
One of the most dynamic sessions of the LDP was an Impact and Presentation workshop, led by powerhouse presenter Jo O’Reilly. The key message of her workshop: - “it’s not about you”.
By this she meant that when you’re presenting a talk, pitch or performance, rather than becoming absorbed in self-judgement, focus on those to whom the presentation is directed – the audience. What can you do so that your message really leaves an impact on them? I was surprised how this simple mindset-shift made a difference to the effectiveness of the presentation, team dynamic, and how enjoyable the activity was.
Trying to see a problem from someone else’s frame of reference can be difficult especially if it’s an issue impacting core values. But going deep to understand another point of view helps construct empathetic communication, and thus strengthened relationships, team cooperation, and ultimately more effectively solving problems rather than creating new ones.
Reflecting on my own leadership mindset, I learnt a lot at the week-long leadership residential. But the real test comes when times are trying, and reflection, perspective and mindset can be difficult to shift amidst overwhelming confusion and change. Times like now amidst this global pandemic.
That said, I have been deeply encouraged by the response of our Government and the cooperation of my local and work communities to overcome the uncertainty. People’s willingness to adapt, support each other, exercise understanding, and see issues beyond themselves - this is what a leadership mindset is all about. And it is having a powerful ripple effect in the community networks we all live in.
Published 12 May 2020