Alumni Profile: Lisa Bowman (WCLP '07)

14 February 2011 By Leadership

Lisa Bowman
Lisa Bowman

Lisa Bowman (WCLP ’07) is a director of  PLUM Communication, a communication and stakeholder engagement company. She is the founder of a charity based in St Petersburg, Russia helping single mothers in need and is on two not-for-profit boards; Travellers Aid and ReConnexion.

What makes a good leader?
 A touch of maverick, an understanding of history, a great imagination and the ability to empathise.

Leadership is usually attributed to CEOs and people in government, can you tell us about an ‘every day’ leader whom you admire?
Through Leadership Victoria I became a volunteer for Doin’ Time, a business program to assist first time male offenders aged 17 to 25 in Port Phillip Prison.

These inmates are considered at risk, many have mental health and drug issues and some have had an unbelievably difficult unbringing.
There are two inmates called Adam and Bass who work as mentors to these first time offenders. The issues and problems they deal with among this group are extraordinary and often difficult and complex to resolve. I’ve watched these two guys gain respect and trust with the other inmates and work incredibly professionally to help where they can.

What do you like about your job?
On a personal level I like my job because my business partner is a mum as well so we both understand the importance of work-life balance which means that when there’s a crisis on the home front I don’t have to worry explaining it to someone whose just going to freak out that I’m not coming to work. We have a lot of respect for working mums and where ever possible we try to employ part time or full time mums and provide the flexibility they need to manage their family and work.

On a professional level I like my job because I get to work on numerous projects, so there is variety and a constant learning of new industries and issues. In this type of consulting you meet some really interesting people and develop some close friendships which are rewarding.

What do you love?
Poetry, designing my own jewellery, discovering new things to do in Melbourne, playing basketball and of course my family!

What attracted you to Leadership Victoria and what did you gain from your experience?
I was attracted to Leadership Victoria because it offered a broad focus on leadership and truly engaged with many different types of leaders.  My experience doing the Williamson Community Leadership program was terrific. Probably the stand out features were the insight it gave to the structures of government, community and business and the complexity of issues within all of these levels. It also facilitated an opportunity to make friends with an extraordinary variety of people – something that we all like to do but often don’t get a chance to once life is full of work and other commitments.

How has your leadership style evolved? What lessons have you learnt?
I think I’ve learnt that as a leader you can adapt your style to suit different people and different situations. I have a much greater understanding of skills that contribute to good leadership and am more aware of how much leadership is respected and required. We do a lot of workplace surveys and leadership is without a doubt the thing staff most commonly point to as key to their satisfaction and engagement.  Leadership is also more closely scrutinised by staff and there are high expectations. This is a generalisation but I’ve also noticed that there is an expectation female leaders will listen more and have higher levels of empathy than their male counterparts.

How are the skills you developed through the program transferred to other areas of your life?
The Williamson Community Leadership Program provided some great skills in presenting in public and engaging with speakers, teaching you to research and consider issues. These skills have definitely been useful.

It’s often said that there is a ‘magic’ about LV programs, can you define that magic for us?
I think the magic is that the people participating in the programs and events have an ability to influence the content and the overall experience so their is a uniqueness. I’ve attended other leadership events and programs and they feel a lot more structured and content driven rather than participant driven.

Did you make any lasting connections with others in the program?
Yes I made some great connections.  Our group still regularly catches up.

Are you still involved in the community, what are you doing now?
Yes I am involved in community activities. My focus has been in the area of prisons and rehabilitation of offenders. Through Leadership Victoria I’ve worked for VACRO, the organisation that assists with the resettlement of offenders and also worked for a year as a business mentor at Port Phillip Prison with the first time offenders. The work has been rewarding but it is frustrating that there it is law and order working with many of our offenders instead of health workers as many of the issues are health related – addiction, mental illness etc. I hope that in the next couple of decades we get a shift away from building more prisons and put the money into early intervention and health treatment.