Laura McKenzie - a 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program reflection

30 April 2012 By Stefan Grun

Laura McKenzie
Laura McKenzie

The second session of the 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program (WCLP) was Australia's Economic Prosperity, hosted by LV's Partner ANZ at their impressive new Docklands offices.

The expert speakers covered the following topics:

  • Setting the Scene: An overview of the economic landscape and the role of business in sustaining an affluent Australia 
    • Dr Matthew Butlin, Chair, Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission
  • Creating and Maintaining A Strong Bank Sector
    • Mark Hand (WCLP '03), Managing Director Australia Retail Distribution, ANZ
  • Australia in the Asian Century: Engaging with China 
    • James Gathercole, Partner, Sheldon Harris; Victorian State Executive Committee Member, Australia China  Business Council
    • Robert Bell, Head of Super Regional Business Development, ANZ
  • Other Measures of Prosperity – who’s getting left behind?      
    • Stella Avramopoulos, CEO, Kildonan Uniting Care
    • Richard Dent (WCLP '04), Executive Director, Leadership Victoria
    • Scott Sheppard, Chief Executive, UnitingCare Community Options
  • Dealing with Complexity
    • Facilitated workshop with Wade Keenan (WCLP ’09), Acumen International 

Central to the discussion are the following points:

  • How are long term decisions made in a time of short-term-ism?
  • What type of leadership will be required in the coming decade?  

 We asked 2012 WCLP Participant Laura McKenzie to reflect on the experience.

Relationships and Contemplation

Dadirri. A special quality, a unique gift of the Aboriginal people, is inner deep listening and quiet still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us.  It is something like what you call contemplation…

A number of speakers at WCLP, using the power of storytelling, have spoken about pivotal moments in their leadership journey which have drawn on external relationships and internal contemplation:  

  1. invaluable advice they have received,
  2. “blink” moments; and
  3. stepping in the shoes of their team.

In dealing with complexity, autocratic leadership is so last century.  Leaders are getting better at assembling the right people around them: subordinates, mentors, peers, and not being afraid to ask for help.  If you’re ever lost snowboarding in Japan, remember to apologise to everyone individually for the inconvenience and stress you may have caused, rather than jump for joy in the office (even if you are feeling pretty ecstatic to be alive).  

Leadership is about IQ and EQ.  In order to distill the millions of complex data points we learnt that we are constantly processing to a more manageable number of 7 (+/-2), it’s clear that the logical and emotional parts of the brain need to be connected. I’m hoping our toolkit of frameworks, will make creating internal info-graphics a breeze, and enable me to make decisions in the blink of an eye. 

One speaker spoke of having peripheral vision and the capacity to engage with different types of people, another of trusting yourself to make the first step into the world of others.  Both were about building rapport and portrayed a vivid picture of meeting people in their space, whether it is by sharing a shopfloor worker’s  bowl of cereal to understand what a “win” feels like in their shoes, or cultivating a partnership between private and community sectors.

As an “E”, the WCLP sessions focusing on listening to either others, or my inner voice, were tough, but surprisingly valuable to me.  I’ve set myself a daily challenge of making time for some Dadirri.


Laura McKenzie is an investment analyst at Starfish, a venture capital manager that understands the challenges of building and managing high growth technology businesses from an Australian base.  Laura is also an Ambassador for Opportunity International, a microfinance organisation, and a presenter of 1.4 Billion Reasons for the Global Poverty Project.