7 March 2019

Leadership and International Women’s Day 2019

Leadership Victoria’s vision is “Leading for swifter, better progress on complex issues.”

International Women’s Day particularly shines the spotlight on the need for leadership on gender equity. And Leadership Victoria proudly works in partnership with a range of organisations to support and deliver initiatives to raise the profile of gender equity; and to develop leadership capability to tackle gender issues.

Since International Women's Day this time last year, hundreds of people have attended events we've run in partnership with Not In My Workplace and The 100Percent Project. 

We've run the LV Women's Leadership Program, and provided scholarships to enable multiple women from diverse backgrounds and life circumstances to participate.

We've partnered with the Islamic Council of Victoria in the Muslim Women's Leadership Initiative, developing and empowering Muslim women to exercise leadership in their organisations and the community.  We've delivered leadership and governance programs to young and emerging women leaders from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds; and matched many of them with senior women leaders as  mentors from the LV network to help build their networks, role models and leadership capability to advance gender equity.

Building on the earlier work of Ruth McGowan and others, we've supported the Honour a Woman initiative and the Recognition Matters campaign which aim to increase gender equity in the Australian Honours.  A number of women LV alumni have been recognised in the Australian Honours List, including Bronwyn King AO and Stephanie Woollard OAM, and a number of LV alumni have been recognised as extraordinary women leaders and role models in the Victorian Women's Honour Roll. 

In addition, the majority of participants in LV's senior flagship programs (the Williamson and Folio Community Leadership Programs) are women: a trend which has continued for many years and which - along with many other LV activities - is helping shape leadership by women in the world.

IWD 2019 is a time to both celebrate the progress that has been made on gender equity, while continuing to acknowledge that so much more needs to be done. 

Let’s keep working hard together to show leadership and build a gender-balanced world. #BalanceforBetter


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8 February 2019 By Liz Bishop

 I remember the first time I sat at a Board table: I was excited to be there, I was motivated to contribute and to help the organisation have impact …. and I was terrified to ask any questions! 

I had so many questions I wanted to, and in hind sight should have, asked.  Many Board roles later, I have learned many lessons. I have also gained the confidence to fulfil my obligations as a Board member by asking questions.

NFP Board members everywhere play a vital leadership role in ensuring the organisations they govern fulfil their mission, remain financially viable and comply with legislation and regulation.  And fulfilling this responsibility is not possible without asking questions of your Board colleagues, the CEO, staff, clients and other stakeholders. In essence, to be an effective Board member you must overcome the fear of asking the stupid question - and ask it.

Asking questions in your new Board role comes in three stages:Listening and Learning: for example, how is our Mission fulfilled? How are we funded?Diagnosing and challenging assumptions: why do we do this or that, this way? Who are our competitors and collaborators?And then Contributing: how do we measure our performance and impact? or could we……?

Asking questions requires a certain level of confidence, and your confidence will be boosted with knowledge and information.  Make sure you are clear about your board role. What do you need to know as a Board member? - good governance practice, financial and legal responsibilities, risk management, developing and monitoring strategy. Then think about how you will take up your role: what is the leadership required, how will you prepare for and contribute to discussions and decision making, what are the questions you need to ask around the board table?

What I have learned through my board experience is that Board members who are confident in their role and make a valued contribution to the mission of their organisation make sure they are informed - knowing that the stupid question is the one that is not asked.

Liz Bishop (WCLP '02) has served on 6 NFP and Peak Body Boards, reported to 3 NFP Boards and is currently a Director of St Mary’s House of Welcome. Liz facilitates our Leading on Boards program.

Are you ready to start leading on boards? Our acclaimed two-day program Leading on Boards, 1 and 2 March 2019, provides an overview of the technical and leadership skills, and builds confidence in board leadership for those who are considering or new to a board role; and current board members who have not previously undertaken board development.


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19 December 2018 By Richard Dent OAM, FAICD

There is no doubt that “accountability governance” is absolutely essential for successful boards - boards must know how the financials work; they must understand and monitor risk and compliance; they must set policies; and they must set vision, mission and strategy. Indeed, a board without those skills is like a restaurant without good hygiene or food handling practices: sooner or later something will go horribly wrong.

However, a board with good accountability governance but lacking good leadership governance is like a restaurant with great hygiene yet a lousy dining experience: the authorities won’t actually close it down, but few people will want to have anything to do with it, and its potential will go unfulfilled.

Leadership governance is often a missing factor on boards, and one that some board members don’t often think about.

Leading on Boards means exercising leadership, both around the board table and in progressing the organisation’s mission. This means holding board members to purpose, managing conflict and contested ideas, ensuring the board gets “on the strategic balcony” rather than stuck in the “operational weeds”.  And so much more.

Good governance is a critical factor in any NFP’s success. Australia is littered with the sad memories of community organisations that represented great ideas, a great cause, an enthusiastic team … and governance practice that destroyed the whole purpose.

Australia also benefits from the many organisations whose governance is excellent and who go from strength to strength. High performing boards need board members who lead. 

How do you take up your board role?Richard Dent OAM, FAICD, Chief Executive at Leadership Victoria, has held Chair and board roles across a range of community service organisations over the past 20 years. Richard is a guest contributor to Leadership Victoria’s governance programs.

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14 June 2018 By Stephen Duns, Senior Facilitator, Leadership Victoria

There are all sorts of expectations of people who go to a leadership development program. There are also all sorts of expectations of those of us who run leadership development programs.

Jeffrey Pfeiffer, in his book Leadership BS [1], berates the leadership development industry for putting on inspiring but ineffective leadership development events and programs. My own experience suggests that there is an expectation that a leadership development program is at least inspirational and, even better, transformational. Unless that (unreasonably?) high bar is reached the program has not been a success. If the program lacks inspiration the facilitators usually blame the participants and the participants blame the facilitators. Often facilitators will blame themselves too.

For some time I have held a different view. There are three core types of value that can be gained from a leadership development program and each has its value, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive. The three levels are transactional, transitional and transformational.

Transactional value is best described as learning new knowledge and skills that support better leadership. This can be skills such as coaching, how to have a difficult conversation, systems thinking, how to diagnose a challenge as technical or adaptive, just to name a few. It can also be knowledge or even insight into self, such as a psychometric assessment that offers information about how we are in the world and some suggestion of how to improve. Too often this type of learning is regarded as “less than” but in my experience it can be just what some people need and how they judge the program to be of benefit. Whenever I start a program with an expectations exchange some people will say that what they want out of a program is new skills.

Transitional value is achieved when a program allows someone to move from one place to another. One of the most difficult transitions in leadership is from expert to achieving through others. It is often the case that someone has demonstrated some sort of mastery in a technical sphere, such as sales, policy or a professional discipline, and as a result are promoted into a position of authority over others. Even though their technical expertise has not prepared them in any way for leadership responsibility they are suddenly expected to be leaders. A leadership program can offer guidance and support to assist that sort of transition. Other transitions might be life stage, for example adolescence into adulthood, worker to supervisor, supervisor to manager, manager to executive and adult to elder. These, and many other stages, require different types of leadership and a leadership program can support that transition.

Transformational value is achieved when a new and improved state of being or understanding is achieved. Deep insights might result in a shift in values, the ability to expand perception and see the world in a new way. Using the framework of Rooke and Torbet, Seven Transformations of Leadership [2], a program might support the shift from one set of action logics to another, or the transition from conventional to post-conventional thinking. This is a powerful experience and not always comfortable.

Sometimes people are not ready or able to receive the value that is being offered, sometimes they have already moved beyond what is being offered. I know in my personal experience there have been times when I’ve soaked up a new idea, only to come to believe some time later that it’s helpful but maybe a little simplistic. I’m also sure that there have been times when I’ve been offered an opportunity to learn that I was just not ready for and it passed me by. The critical thing is for participants to be open to the different types of value. Going into a leadership program just wanting skills might be a mistake. Being open to the possibility of all three types of value allows participants to get maximum value from the program. It’s equally important that the program is designed to allow participants to access all types of value and not assume that all people need is an inspirational experience to make it worthwhile.

It's a mistake to believe that any one of these types of value is better than another. They all contribute to growth and development and good programs will provide the opportunity for all three. That’s how investment in leadership development can get the maximum return.

[1] Pfeiffer, Jeffrey (2015) Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, Harper Business,

[2] Rooke, David and Torbet, William, (2005) Seven Transformations of Leadership, Harvard Business Review

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17 May 2018

On Tuesday 8 May, we held a Disability Leadership Program Participatory Forum with more than 80 emerging and established leaders either with a disability, working in the sector or caring for someone with a disability.

Throughout the day, participants were asked to think about their civic participation, their leadership in the future and their fondest aspirations. There was a lot of experience and wisdom in the room, with many powerful new connections established throughout the day.

A common theme of the day was that “advocacy will lead to a point where we will mobilise as a collective to drive positive changes that can improve the lives of people with disability”.

Together, we can:

Build new pathways for civic participation and expand our leadership opportunities, for those in the room and for other people with disabilities Remind each other that leadership is an activity, not a position. Anyone can lead, anywhere, anytime Drive the change outside these forums i.e. using social media or forming advocacy groups Prove people wrong! It's better to do something than do nothing at all. Things may be done differently by people with a disability, but they are still achieving Establish support teams. And stop seeking approval and idolising the able-bodied life Educate leaders to change their mindsets and unconcious bias Take risks. Get into uncomfortable leadership territory to advocate change Create a better world through exceptional leadership

We thank our guest speakers who openly shared their own leadership challenges, successes and learnings:

Dean Barton-Smith AM, Olympian, Chief Executive, Advocate Phil Hayes-Brown (WCLP’16), CEO, Wallara  Colleen Furlanetto (WCLP’15), Chair, Victorian Disability Advisory Council  Amanda Lawrie-Jones, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Accessibility Action  Llewellyn Prain (WCLP’17), Director, Eye and Ear Hospital  Peter van Vliet, ‎Executive, Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria  Matthew Wright (WCLP’13), Branch Manager, Design and Inclusion, NDIA MC - Scott Harris, Disability Leadership Program Participant

Leadership Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government and Disability Leadership Institute

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10 May 2018 By Stephen Duns

“Command and Control is so last century!” Or that’s what we hear in so many leadership programs, although the reality is often somewhat different. I have asked hundreds, indeed probably thousands, of people “Who likes to be in control?”. Invariably the vast majority of people put up their hands and say they like to be in control. In control of their diary, their money, their team, their life. When I then ask the follow-up question “Who likes to be controlled?” we get the opposite result. There are usually a couple of people who are honest enough to say that they don’t mind relinquishing control every now and then to relieve themselves of the burden of responsibility. The answers to the questions reveal an underlying tension in any human system where most people want to be in control but all the others do not want to be controlled.

How would you respond? Do you like to be in control? Do you like to be controlled?

In those two simple questions are some interesting features of complex adaptive systems that teach us something about leadership.

Emeritus Professor George Rzevski[i] has refined the construct of a complex adaptive system to seven key features. One of those features of self-organisation. People will naturally self-organise and that self-organisation can be directed towards what leadership is proposing, or against it.

After the first two questions I usually ask “What do you do when someone tries to control you?”. The answers are always some variant of “resist, push back, fight or sometimes give in, acquiesce, become resigned to it”. So we have two fundamental responses – resist or apathy. Neither are what is wanted or required to productively promote change. (Or achieve “Emergence”, another key feature of complex adaptive systems that achieves a new and improved state of being or understanding, which is fundamentally a goal of leadership.)

So the more we try to control, the more people will self-organise against our control and the less control we have. A paradox for leadership. The more a solution is imposed onto a system the more that system will self-organise against that solution.

What is the way through this paradox? The answer lies in another feature of complex adaptive systems – “a system will only accept a solution it is part of creating”. The solution is to use some sort of participatory process that allows the collective intelligence of the system to create its own solution. There are many participatory processes that have been proved to be effective, such as World Café, Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry, Circle Practice, Technology of Participation, Deep Democracy, Technology of Participation and Co Design.

This example illustrates the point. A power company had a major infrastructure program of installing many kilometres of new power lines. Their initial approach to the legislated consultation process was “decide and defend” – make the decision and defend it at community consultation sessions. The company was convinced to undertake genuine consultations. They went out and spoke with people who would be affected. They heard stories such as one man who said he went fishing with his grandfather and now takes his grandchildren fishing in one spot that would be devastated by power lines.

They then collated the data and came up with eight different options based on community concerns. All of the options were cheaper than the original option. So successful had the community consultations been that the new route did not require environmental assessments. When they went to formal planning stage there was not one objection. Farmers were willing to work with the power company to determine where the lines would go through their properties.

They saved millions of dollars, a great deal of time and developed positive relationships with the effected communities.

While it is tempting to try to control, and indeed it is even why we might have been given a role of authority, we need to resist that temptation and have the courage to allow and enable the system to come up with its own solution.


Stephen DunsSenior Facilitator, Leadership DevelopmentLeadership Victoria

10 May 2018

[i] Rzevsky, G. A Practical Methodology For Managing Complexity E:CO Issue Vol. 13 Nos. 1-2 2011

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6 April 2018 By LV Marketing

Do you have Board experience and a willingness to share skills, knowledge and expertise with other women? Can you act as a positive role model for others?

Do you have time for a coffee or a drink once a month?

At LV we believe that Mentors can play a really significant role in the learning development of our program participants.

Getting more Women on Boards has been identified as critical aspect of gender equality and ensuring we have more women in senior leadership positions.

Supporting this work by actively mentoring someone else to be a successful and valued Board member is a way you can help lift others up as we strive to ‘smash the glass ceiling’.

Ideally you can provide guidance and constructive feedback that will assist other women on their leadership journey. Overall good mentoring requires empowering the mentee to develop their own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes.

Why do we need Board mentors? What is the gap? 

·         Less than 1 in 10 Exec positions are held by women in  ASX500 companies

·         Today, only 7 of the top 200 companies have women CEO’s

·         56.5% of ASX 500 companies have NO women on their Boards at all

·         The gender pay gap has remained stuck at 17% for 30 years

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19 March 2018 By Richard Dent

Better leadership for Australia’s future

Working at a senior level, most of us are conscious of multiple complex challenges, issues that seem to reoccur. Change seems all-pervasive, leadership seems even harder.

Leading teams through change; working horizontally across large organisations amidst uncertainty; seeking system change at the macro level to ensure greater equity and access: all these can be immensely challenging quests. All involve shifting system dynamics to some degree, shifting people and often ‘shifts’ within ourselves. As leaders, how we show up, how we expand our understanding, how we intervene and how we hold to purpose are key.

Here at LV we are very excited to be hosting two of the world’s brilliant minds and practitioners in this space for one week in April (16-20). Marty Linsky, of Harvard and Adaptive Leadership fame as well as Ed O’Malley CEO of the Kansas Leadership Centre will be with us here in Australia. We are hosting these two as we believe that between them, they offer some essential truths which just might provide both practical and insightful opportunities for moving Australia forward on some of the larger business, government and social challenges we face.

Over the course of the week we are hosting a range of events and activities in Brisbane Adelaide and Melbourne – with a limited number of open program spaces for experienced people managers. Participants in these sessions will benefit from deep-dives into group dynamics, subconscious barriers and faction mapping, and uncover some of the reasons change is often difficult and how to face and overcome the risks which exercising leadership brings.

For open places in the following locations check these links:

Brisbane:  April, 18


April 16: Ed will be special host of Day 1 of our Finding your Leadership Edge Program

April 17: Join us for a sociable networking breakfast with Ed O’Malley

April 20: Senior Masterclass with Marty Linsky and Ed O’Malley - LIMITED PLACES APPLY NOW

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2 March 2018 By Chris Kotur

It’s easy to feel pessimistic about how far we still have to go before all women feel respected, valued, safe and free to make choices but this International Women's Day I’m celebrating how far my generation of women have come after sidestepping those childhood stories and images that created expectations of what a fulfilling life for a woman – our mothers - ought to be.

The stories of my childhood showed women in passive roles with a pathway toward marriage, children and full-time family responsibilities or the risk of feeling guilty about ambitions to pursue study, a career or expectations for real equality in our relationships.

There are more pathways now for women to lead fulfilling, guilt-free lives. The changes have been in the right direction. International Women's Day reminds us of how far we’ve come but also how hard we have to work to ensure gains are secured for women everywhere.

Chris Kotur (WCLP’14)March 2018

Women in Leadership - 3-Day Intensive 

Designed for C-suite, executive leaders, our Women's Leadership Program (May 2018) will take you out of your comfort zone and into a journey of self-discovery and development, exploring leadership across complex boundaries. Over three days, inspirational female leaders will come together to share their leadership experiences, their personal and professional stories and empower you to reach your full leadership potential. All in the setting of the iconic Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley.



CHRIS KOTUR (WCLP'94)Chris is Leadership Victoria's Leader in Residence, a role that is raising the profile and importance of emerging leadership issues and development across all sectors in Australia.

She has been an active and committed Williamson Community Leadership Program alumnus since 1994.

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2 March 2018 By Saara Sabbagh, Founder & CEO, Benevolence Australia

As an Australian Muslim woman, my leadership journey has not been mine to navigate or own. Rather it has been shaped by global events, political views, racism and prejudice that has framed my path. Adding onto it were my struggles within the Muslim community where the ongoing gender discourse continued. Misguided religious patriarchal systems which perpetuate inequality and thus injustice only reinforced the misconceptions that existed in the broader community. And like every other woman, I faced these challenges in the backdrop of a patriarchal world.

I traversed this path for many years embracing the challenges as opportunities which only solidified my convictions. Having a sense of purpose and knowing oneself was my foundation. I did not give permission for the outside world to define me, or to take away my power and agency.

It is this inner strength born of an unshakable foundation and built on ancient wisdom and tradition, that has made me the woman and leader I am today.

Saara Sabbagh (WCLP'17)Founder and CEOBenevolence Australia Saara is an alumnus of the 2017 Williamson Community Leadership Program

Women in Leadership - 3-Day Intensive 

Designed for C-suite, executive leaders, our Women's Leadership Program (May 2018) will take you out of your comfort zone and into a journey of self-discovery and development, exploring leadership across complex boundaries. Over three days, inspirational female leaders will come together to share their leadership experiences, their personal and professional stories and empower you to reach your full leadership potential. All in the setting of the iconic Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley.

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