Executive Leadership Summit 2019: What We Learnt

For those of you who attended our Executive Leadership Summit last month, I’m sure you’ll agree it was a very inspiring and practical experience, this was definitely the best event I have been to in 2019. Keynote speakers Mark Bouris and Todd Sampson were transparent and spoke from their real experiences from their personal journeys of showing up, facing fears and overcoming obstacles in leadership.

The Executive Leadership Summit is all about unleashing your leadership potential. What got you here, won’t get you there. To get there, you need not just the tools but the insight of seasoned executives.

This year, we had over 16 leaders of Australia’s most successful companies speak at the summit about their experiences from leadership, strategy and innovation to people and change management.

I would like to personally thank each and every leader who shared practical, experience-based keynotes and case studies. It was pure honesty, passion, real stories, big and small successes, facing fears and sharing the learnings from making mistakes.

It’s nice to know that some of the country’s best leaders make mistakes, because we all do.  But what really matters is how we grow and develop as a result. The lessons we learn make us who we are. Those who attended will agree we all walked away feeling motivated to take control of our leadership capability and take new actions with confidence.

Tim MacKinnon, Managing Director of eBay Australia and New Zealand opened the summit, speaking off the cuff about the mindset of an effective leader and his top 5 practical tips for executive leadership; it was raw and real. His talk was a highlight for many, reassuring “everyone no matter where they are, can be great leaders” and exploring how to build and balance authority and approachability, especially as you progress in seniority.

Adventurer, filmmaker, television presenter and businessman Todd Sampson showed us how you can boost your creativity and brain power in his VIP keynote, sharing the tools he has discovered while working on his acclaimed series REDESIGN MY BRAIN. He explained “it’s all in the power of the mind to overcome fears” and how you need to continually keep working your brain plasticity. Mental flexibility is absolutely important in business, as is visualisation and emotional regulation. If you have control of your mind, you have control of your life.

I really enjoyed the highly anticipated VIP leadership strategy keynote by Mark Bouris AM, one of the nation’s foremost business strategists. For me, it was a career highlight. Mark drew on his experience to explain the fundamentals of business strategy and its implementation, opening with “a leader … is someone who leads by example” and asked, “what are you doing in your business to hold everyone accountable?”

Mark shared his wisdom on how leaders must drive the discovery of purpose, be willing to take risks and be prepared to fail; “a leader in a business has to offer guidance on ethics”. He urged leaders to provide the structure for the business to execute and operate under, “you’ve got to build a team”. The structure should be revisited every month for continuous improvement.

Suzy Nicoletti, Managing Director of Twitter focused on understanding your people in order to lead them better. She reminded us that building a strong culture of high performance, transparency and trust within a team is absolutely important for talent attraction and retention. She shared unique insights from her five years at Twitter, and why honesty wins over the sugar-coat approach. People want to know you holistically, the real you.

If you missed out on joining us this year, don’t worry we’ll be back in 2020. We have a fantastic line up of events for 2020, kicking off the year with the Authentic Leadership Summit on 17-20 March.

Back for its fifth year, at this summit you’ll learn how to lead your organisation with greater purpose in the contemporary business climate. Key speakers include, Ita Buttrose AC, OBE, Roger Eaton, Katrina Troughton and Larry Marshall. See the full program, line-up and secure your seats here.

The Leadership Qualities That Matter

The Leadership Qualities That Matter

Our conversations with the country’s top CEOs and MDs suggest essential leadership traits for organisational success 

In the months leading up to our Executive Leadership Summit, we asked our speakers “what are the essential qualities that leaders should possess?”

Their answers ranged from characteristics and traits that they already have in their tool kit to qualities that they aim to cultivate in themselves and others within their teams.

A total of 20 speakers participated in the interview – all front-line CEOs and MDs from businesses of all shapes and sizes.

In summarising their responses, a list comprising of 10 leadership qualities were identified. The top 3 on the list suggest that these are essential to organisational success regardless of their size or industry.


The executives who participated in the interview have identified ‘communication’ as the most critical skill to have in your leadership tool kit. They emphasised the ability to articulate the company’s goals and vision, educate and inform as foundations to developing healthy relationships. They also underlined ‘active listening’ as the key component to communicating powerfully.

Other abilities related to communication were mentioned including – inspiring and motivating others, collaborating and promoting teamwork.


Closely tied at the top of the list is ‘authenticity’ which the participating executives defined as “leading in a manner that is true to oneself.” Authenticity has also been identified as critical to leadership success in terms of honest and transparent engagement with employees, partners and customers. Integrity, social and ethical responsibility were also mentioned as related characteristics to leading with authenticity.


Finally, our participants rank “courage” on the 3rd spot as a defining quality of good leadership, adding “the ability to confront risk and uncertainty is a quality that distinguishes great leaders from competent managers.” The ability for bold and decisive action, going against the norm, starting revolutionary change to inspire and energise the team are some of the qualities mentioned that define courageous leadership.

The Bottom-line

Different business situations demand different leadership styles. However, the interview responses of this small group of leaders all seem to point to common leadership qualities that remain relevant and essential in today’s business.

So, what’s the takeaway message in this? While this was a small, informal study, what we can take away is the need to focus on these core qualities when developing future business leaders.

Learn the leadership skills and qualities that drive performance of the country’s top executives. Sign up for The Authentic Leadership Summit 2020. 

Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 - March 17 to 20

What would I tell 22 year old me

The whole “Dear 22-year-old me” where you write a letter to your younger self is popular because it provides insight and wisdom from the best source possible: yourself!

If I picture myself as a 22-year-old, fresh faced young graduate full of enthusiasm, un-earned confidence in my abilities and ready to take on the world. The realities of the harsh world ‘out there’ not yet affecting my optimism or my bravado. When I think back, I think ‘you’re an idiot’ and, ‘oh sweet pea, some hard lessons are heading your way’.

If I could grab that idiot, shake her and tell her anything, this is what I would say:

  • Don’t waste your time on dead end jobs. Yes, I know there are gap years, and times in between jobs when you are genuinely finding yourself but spending time in a job where you know it is simply not for you and you are not happy is not worth the anxiety. Just remember to show gratitude and exit in a graceful, respectful manner when you resign, and fulfil your last days properly.
  • Invest in yourself – you are your #1 asset. This means do those courses, take the time to sharpen your skills and keep being the employable, engaged person you know yourself to be. And yes, we know this about you already. This is why you are reading this blog post to start with.
  • Be proud of who you are. Be really proud. If you don’t gel with every single person, it’s okay. I’m not saying you fly that freak flag high in a corporate environment, but don’t diminish who you are, either. You are you as a sum total of your life experiences, your values and your beliefs. Be proud you’ve weathered the storms, and here you are.
  • Save 20% of what you earn. This is a big one. You know you need to do this. I know you are “only young once”. But your older self is here to tell you that bills wait for nobody and you can never predict when you might need the cash. You might not want to give up smashed avo and lattes and you don’t have to completely. Just put some coin aside for the just-in-case. There is no self-respect in borrowing from the bank of mum and dad.
  • If you back yourself, you can achieve more than you think. If you dare to dream, you will likely shock yourself with just how much you can achieve. There are a million Instagram shots of sunsets with clichés on dreams and fulfilment. This is bullsh*t. Dreams don’t achieve results, smart calculated risks do, and they all start with backing yourself. Who knows what you can achieve!

Want to set your 22-year-old self, now residing in a (slightly!) older body on the right work and life path?

If you want your inner 22-year-old to get some advice from some amazing women whose life lessons will change your life, you need to register for the Empowered Woman 2020 is imperative. It’s a one-day experience to ignite your passion for business and success in all its forms – so your 22 (or 32, 42, 52…) year old self have the skills to achieve the dream career.

During this event you will be inspired by personal stories of success, learn from intimate tales of failure, harness your ambition to make it happen. As you know, purpose alone is not enough. Once you’ve found it, The Empowered Woman will give you the tools to realise your ambitions.

For more information, go here.

When Authenticity Goes Bad

When Authenticity Goes Bad

Being who you are and saying what you think is not always ideal in leadership


By now, we can all agree that when it comes to leadership qualities, authenticity is the gold standard.  


Authenticity is defined as “the degree to which one is true to one’s personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures”. A rigid understanding of authenticity, however, does not always equate with the complex and nuanced attributes of good leadership.   


How “Authentic” Should You Be?  


Leadership, or “the art of accomplishing goals through the effort of others”, can sometimes run in contrast with being true to yourself. Especially when being yourself means you are a blunt truth-teller with no regard for the feelings of others.   


When being tactless, uncompromising and critical is you at your most authentic, could also be you at your worst. How would you temper these authentic qualities and grow to lead and influence others?  


Being Yourself vs. Being Effective  


Convincing managers to change their behaviours and mindsets to become the best version of themselves is often met with resistance. It is normal for people to resist change, even when they know that change is the best way to move forward.  


Take this manager, for example, charged with leading a small back-office offshore team. She trained the team to implement a process that worked for her in the past. When asked to consider modifying the process to accommodate the needs of the group, she was dismissive. Long story short, it didn’t work out, and the manager was replaced with an offshore counterpart within a year.  


While she was true to what she believes will work, it did not move her team to perform happily and productively. Her firm stance can be justified as behaving authentically. But leadership demands some degree of artfulness and compromise to be effective.  


How to Win at Leadership without Losing Yourself  


1. Ask for feedback   

Being authentic also means being open to learning about yourself by how you seem to others. Walk up to your bosses, peers and direct reports and ask for feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly. Listen and take note without judging, justifying, defending or explaining.  


2. Reflect on yourself    

React to the feedback in two parts –   

Part 1 – Give your authentic self a voice and write down your innermost thoughts. Read them aloud and acknowledge how irrational you sound.   

Part 2 – Now that your emotions are out of the way, it’s time for objective self-analysis. Think about how you can use this feedback to become a better version of yourself.   


3. Commit to a plan   

Start listing your behaviours and attributes in three columns – (1) “stop doing” (2) “start doing” (3) “keep doing”. So that the next time you feel the urge to slide back into bad behaviour, you know what to do instead. 


Learn how to be your best and most authentic self so that you can empower your people to succeed! Reserve your spot today for
The Authentic Leadership Summit featuring Australia’s most trusted leaders.  


Authentic Leadership Summit 2020


4 Ways Conferences Elevate Learning and Development

Move beyond online learning and development and discover the value of network intelligence at conferences.


As the end of 2019 approaches on the not-so-distant horizon, we have discovered that a lot of leaders, managers and learning and development teams take this time of year to reflect on what went well this past year, but more importantly where improvement can be made. 


For many companies, upskilling their employees and teams is often a big area for improvement. 


The emergence of online LMS (Learning Management Systems) makes it convenient and affordable for staff and managers to learn. These are useful in some ways, particularly for learning specific technical skills.  


Staff members, for example, could do well with a purely online learning experience for tech skills such as coding. Managers, too, could take online learning courses for task-specific requirements such as project management. Certainly, this kind of online learning should continue to be part of the company’s L&D strategy. 


Truly successful leaders, however, learn differently – by tapping into the collective knowledge of their network of peers. And the best way to meet, connect and grow your community of like-minded people is through large events and conferences.  


Finding people at conferences who have gone through similar business situations as you have is one of the best ways to learn. All you need to do is walk up to them and ask. 


So what are the real benefits of attending events and conferences? Here are four reasons conferences need to be a part of your 2020 development strategy.  


Conferences are highly conducive for learning  

You break your routine when you go to conferences, especially when there’s travel involved. Taking in the fresh, new surroundings and meeting new people are welcome disruptions to your work routine. Now add these disruptions with the excitement around the content, conversation and community of a conference. It’s exhilarating! It’s no wonder that live events are one of the best ways to learn.  


Conferences are high-level conversations  

At conferences, you can take advantage of the opportunity for in-person interactions and lively discussions. It is also the chance to ask your burning questions to a room full of experts. Being part of the conversation with a larger group of people brings you closer to the answers you seek. A conference, after all, is a conversation at a larger scale.   


Conferences are a community of support  

Aside from great conversations, conferences provide a chance to build a community of like-minded and supportive peers. It’s commonly known as “networking”, but that word has gotten a bad rap lately to mean a “disingenuous way of meeting people to get a job or collect leads.” On the other hand, “community” is a two-way street – you’re there to get as much as you can give.  


The value of conferences and network intelligence  

It’s challenging to get management to buy into these learning events because they are a significant investment in time and money. The returns are also not obvious upfront.   

You may argue – what is the value of a great idea to the business? A difficult problem solved? Or a strategic business partnership? The value is enormous, but it could not be immediately quantified.  

Whether you get support or not, make learning a serious personal commitment in 2020 because the world needs good leaders who never stop searching, acquiring and sharing knowledge. 


4 Reasons Why Conferences Elevate Learning


Start building your network intelligence in 2020 by signing up to any of our Leadership Training and Events. Take advantage of learning opportunities at our conferences and take your executive education to the next level. 

view all our learning events and training courses

5 best things I’ve ever learnt

In line with the fast-paced world we live in, here are only 5 of the best things I’ve learned in business. A life compass on the mistakes I made so hopefully you don’t have to.

For me, this list represents the top 5 things I have learned which I now live and breathe, and they represent the keys to maintaining and ensuring success both professionally and personally.

Here we go… the 5 best things I’ve ever learnt:

  1. To read and interpret financial statements: If you’re not mathematically inclined and you have no financial training this is an easy thing to overlook. Given the Small Business Ombudsman just said, “Small business owners in financial trouble are leaving it too late to seek help,” reading the financials can mean the difference between being in business or not being in business.
  2. Face your fears and take risks: This correlation is intrinsic: one can’t happen without the other. If you have thought through and planned the hardest thing is taking the first step. Once you’ve done that everything else is easy. Risk isn’t reckless, it’s calculate and it does not equate to disaster. If you fail, that’s OK, you now have a lesson learned.
  3. Instincts are your experience reminding you of lessons learned:You know that gut instinct? It’s tapping into something you have already experienced or seen before. If you get that feeling, trust it. So many times, I have overruled my instincts because I wanted a different outcome and it has bitten me, even though I knew somewhere down deed the decision was wrong.
  4. Authenticity and vulnerability are strengths not weaknesses. Being vulnerable is hard, especially if you have built a work persona. It’s hard to be the captain in the storm when what you are actually feeling is hard, cold fear, or deep overwhelming sadness. But no one can cover who they are completely and if you’re doing so, you’re being genuine, authentic, relatable and human and that’s who and what people believe in.
  5. If you are clear about your expectations people will meet them. I have always hated micromanagement and as a result have avoided being a micromanager, to the point that I wasn’t clear on what I expected and how it was to be achieved. It took me a long time to learn that some people need more precise direction and linear targets. To quote Brené Brown, clear is kind, unclear is unkind.

These are my top 5. I don’t proclaim to be an expert, like the speakers at The Authentic Leadership Summit, but I have learned a few things in over a decade of management. In fact, I have had the privilege of picking the brains of some of our greatest thought leaders in the country at the Summit and some of this advice I have taken to heart.

Back for its fourth year, the Summit taps into case studies from the leaders of Australia’s most successful companies, with real stories in action. You’ll also learn some of the best titbits our best thought leaders have learnt on their own journeys and like me they can become your guiding post for openness and authenticity.

For more, go here.

What is the must-have leadership skill?

Australia’s top executives discuss why social influence is the most important skill for leaders 


Business smarts alone will only get you so far. 

You can be an extremely clever strategist, innovator or problem solver, but if you can’t inspire, motivate and influence others by communicating powerfully, you will not succeed as a leader.

You could certainly be an outstanding individual contributor with your technical brilliance. But to be a leader, you need to match that talent with excellent social influencing skills. Listening, collaborating, persuading, communicating – these are skills that drive success for leaders.

Leadership, after all, is the art of influencing others to accomplish a goal.

 top business leaders who took to the stage at our recent events, echo the importance of social influencing skills. 

Here is how they demonstrate social influence to be successful in their leadership roles. 



1. Ability to clearly and concisely articulate your vision to others. 

2. Commitment to both evaluate and celebrate as you and your team move towards that vision. 

3. Willingness to learn from all those around you and to share what you’ve learnt. 

4. Transparency and openness; Being open to feedback good and bad, and using it to grow stronger relationships.   



In leadership roles you often have to give very hard feedback to people. I have had to be very clear about what is going to work and not work.  

I try to listen to the other person with real curiosity to work out what is going on for them and give them feedback in a way that they will understand.  

It’s a question of being clear to be kind. Allowing someone to live on with expectations that can’t be achieved is not good leadership.   

Second is receiving challenging feedback. Early in my career I had a boss who assigned a mentorship coach for me to improve my managerial skills. Initially I was a bit shocked, but I put my shoulder to the wheel and worked hard to use the feedback in the best possible way.    



Connect the long term vision of the company with the everyday action of its people. Those that are motivated by the vision will perform, and those that are motivated by the pay cheque only, will be the ones who will ultimately check out anyway.  

Publicly reward behaviours within your team that you are trying to encourage across the company. 

Talk slightly in the future tense – as in, by speaking to stakeholders as if things have happened, they often do.   



Be open, honest and candid will always mean your foundations are secure and those around you know what to expect, rely on and trust. 

Being true to yourself is the baseline for establishing trust not only in you but those around you.   

Be humble: If you treat others the way you want your loved ones treated (a higher standard than the usual idea of treating others the way you expect to be treated) you will quickly learn that every person matters. 

And finally be helpful – pay forward what’s been shown to you. Gratitude is best recognised in helping someone else.  


Develop your must-have leadership skills – reserve your spot to any of our training courses and events. Never miss out on the chance to take your leadership skills to the next level and learn from the best. 

view all our learning events and training courses

Is Your Employee Experience Aligned with Your Customer Experience?

How an Authentic Organisational Culture Drives Customer Service Excellence


When you already have a healthy workplace culture, coupled with positive customer experience, then business should be awesome, right?  

Building a brand, however, is another story.  

For your business to reach its full potential, that of a trusted and well-loved brand, your company culture should consistently align with the promise of a grand experience for your customers. 

The Ritz Carlton, for example, is unquestionably the worldwide gold standard for customer service excellence. This success is inspired by their business’ philosophy to regard employees with the same importance and respect as the customers they serve.  

“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” — is the guiding mantra at The Ritz. What this looks like in actual practise is the company’s relentless focus on employee engagement to bring about the highest level of customer experience. 

This example of brand authenticity at The Ritz Carlton, where workplace culture and customer experience are correctly aligned, applies across all industries. Here is how you can shape an outstanding organisational culture, forge a strong bond with customers and elevate your brand.  


1. Identify the behaviours that need to change 

What most leaders get wrong is a fixed mindset around culture. It can and should move along with the shifting needs of the business. Culture is essentially a set of positive behaviours which can be reconfigured. For example, encouraging tighter camaraderie among multi-functional teams, where there was none before, to improve service delivery.  


2. Encourage everyone to be brand ambassadors 

First, instil confidence in your team by consistently appreciating them for their contribution to the overall business success. All this goodwill you’ve created with your employees will inspire them to make each encounter with your customer memorable and meaningful. 


3. Focus on employee engagement 

The Ritz Carlton’s success is primarily attributed to its investment in employee engagement and retention. Often, companies commoditise employees — if it doesn’t work out, they can easily be replaced. What they don’t see are the mounting costs of turnover, recruitment and training over time. On the other hand, investing in employee engagement energises organisational culture, which in turn drives performance and revenue. 


4. Reinforce culture with learning and development 

Design a training and development plan to address skill gaps and promote behaviours that support your organisation’s culture. Having a structured learning and development plan sends the message to employees that you are invested in their overall success.  


Learn how you can create a culture of high-performance and authenticity in your organisation from leaders who have done it already! Sign up for the Authentic Leadership Summit 2020 and meet Australia’s top CEOs and MDs to help you develop your leadership through authenticity, openness, and trust. 

Authentic Leadership Summit 17-20 March 2020

4 Female Leaders Reflect on the Concept of ‘Work-life Balance’

Female Leaders Reflect on the Concept of Work-life Balance

Work-life balance is predicated on the idea that for women to be happy, they must “have it all.” The unfair notion that is being sold to women is that – if only you can find a way to organise your work better, you can have a more fulfilling personal life. There are lots of women who spend most of their time at work but don’t necessarily trade off the quality of their home lifeand there are just as many women who could use some balance by working out of the home. 

The very idea of balance implies that a well-lived life must allocate equal time and energy between work and home. Work-life balance then is another impossible ideal for women to aspire to.   

The women leaders we talked to are successful at all fronts, and they unanimously agree that this notion of work-life balance does not apply to them. Here’s what they have to say — 


I take time where I can get it, but it’s not balanced in the way the lifestyle gurus try to sell you.”

“This whole idea of balance makes me laugh, and have you noticed how hard people work to sell you the idea it can be achieved! It’s the golden carrot hung in front of you to supposedly keep you motivated. I live in the real world; all I want is a happy productive life.” 

“Human life is a messy, crazy, happy, terrifying ride. You will have moments where you hit the sweet spot and sometimes those moments can last longer than expected, enjoy them. As they say, the only constant in life is change.” 


“‘Balance’ is an unhelpful word.”

“It conjures up life and work as two separate things we have placed on a set of scales that we’re constantly trying to keep in equilibrium. It doesn’t work like that. A more useful question is, are you being nourished as a person, not just as a worker, on a regular, long-term basis? If you are, then it’s possible to do anything.”


“There’s always more you can be doing or that seems to need your attention. 

“It is so easy to lose yourself and your connection to family and friends because often the loudest voice in the room is work. As a new CEO I don’t think I’ve struck that balance yet, but I am very aware of the mental health toll that sacrificing your relationships can have on you, your loved ones, and your work environment. So I’m working on it.”


“The fact is, we can’t have it all. It is an unfair expectation that is placed on women.”

“In the early years of my career, I was told that women could have it all, a successful and rewarding career, a loving marriage/partnership and family, and a working environment that encouraged this balance. This perception was accentuated by women who as leaders would portray themselves as being able to achieve this balance.” 

Like most things in life, it is about decisions we make, compromises and trade-offs, and as individuals, only we know what the right ones for us are. I have learnt that as women we place higher expectations on ourselves than our employers, colleagues or families do and just being more kind to ourselves means we are better employees, leaders, and family members. That said, giving yourself permission to dedicate attention to what’s important to you and your personal life is very important.” 

It’s never too early to start planning how to achieve your goals. If you want to learn from inspiring women on how you can create greater impact in your organisation through leadership, register for The Empowered Woman 2020. 

The Empowered Woman 2020



The importance of sharing success

Success is something that many of us shy away from promoting or sharing, or at least I do!

But today as we prepare for the My Business Awards 2019, where I am a finalist in the Businesswoman of the Year Award category, I feel like times are changing. Although this is an individual award, I wouldn’t be up for it without my team who have been through the highs and lows of running a business over the past nearly eight years.

Previously, awards dinners like these for me have been more of an excuse to bring the team together and let our hair down but tonight even if I don’t take out the win, I’m sharing it with my team, friends and family.

We all spend so much time chasing the dream, why not take a moment to actually enjoy when things have gone your way. I challenge you all to start sharing your successes – big or small. Enter awards that recognise your achievements outside of the four walls you sit in every day and promote it when they come through. You never know what it may bring. If anything, I hope by me sharing my award news here, it might encourage other women in business to enter next year.

So, how do you find out about relevant awards to your industry?

I’ve researched the main Australian business awards below, but make sure you do an online search for your specific industry and sign up for your association newsletter to ensure you don’t miss the deadlines. Good luck and I look forward to seeing your success stories in the near future!