Leaders swap tales of life's lessons learned

18 March 2015 By By Bernard Kellerman

Leadership Victoria, celebrating 25 years of turning managers into leaders, is once again ready to take applications for its 2015 Folio Community Leadership Program.

But this is no paint-by-numbers, tick-all-the-boxes exercise. And there are no text books that you learn from; Folio is structured so that you learn from other program participants, the speakers and the shared, diverse experiences.

"The honesty and candour shared by the presenters on all topics gave me hope that leaders can put differences aside to solve the wicked issues we face," says Suzanne Miller, CEO of Nexus Primary Health, a recent participant and now an alumnus of the Folio program.

Her comments highlight a key part of the program, where established leaders talk to the group. "They share their life stories about what's worked well and what hasn't worked for them – and that's been a very powerful way of learning," explains Richard Dent, Leadership Victoria's chief executive.

This year's line-up of speakers promises to be equally inspiring across all "pillars" of change.

The economic change pillar will have guest speakers of the calibre of John Daley, chief executive officer of The Grattan Institute. With 20 years of expertise in law, finance, education and related fields, Daley is one of Australia’s leading public policy thinkers.

He recently spoke out on how and why uncoordinated economic policies have dragged down housing affordability, especially for anyone born after 1970.

The environmental change pillar of the Folio program has some equally impressive speakers, such as John Thwaites, former Deputy Premier of Victoria, who now chairs Monash University’s Sustainability Institute (MSI) and ClimateWorks Australia as well as a host of other sustainability advisory panels.

When Thwaites was in government, he led sustainability changes in areas such as water policy, giving the environment a legislative right to water for the first time, and adding major water infrastructure upgrades across the state.

His views may match those of Angela Rutter, director of engagement, at the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

Writing in an ACF blog last year, she posed these questions: "How did our natural world, with its weird and wonderful critters and fauna, come to find a soft spot in your heart?

"Cast your mind back to when you were a young adult, a teenager, a child. What was it that caused this love of our environment?"

With 89 per cent of Australia’s population living in urban areas and eight out of ten Australians already supportive of local government adding more green space to urban areas, our challenge and our opportunity is to nurture a new relationship with nature in our urban environments, Rutter asserts.

Likewise, the leadership for social change pillar will draw on the expertise and comments from Professor Andrew Markus, from the Faculty of Arts at Monash University, and from Professor Amanda Sinclair, at Melbourne Business School, and will be moderated by Chris Kotur, Leadership Victoria’s inaugural Leader in Residence.

Kotur, who's also an LV alumnus, has worked on many high-profile community projects, facilitating community consultations for the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission and the inquiries into the Victorian floods, the 2013 Harrietville bushfires and the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

Her blog discloses a diverse range of interests, from the way the next generation of community-minded and dot-com-savvy leaders connect people online, talking to each other over the heads of hierarchical leaders; or, as Kotur says in another blog: "Put more effort into engaging people rather than merely consulting them.

The diversity of speakers and range of topics will stretch senior leaders to move beyond their usual area of expertise and think about wicked environmental, economic and social issues and the future approach required to address these.

Above all, be prepared to toss out your old management textbooks and learn some leadership lessons.


Applications have opened for the 2015 Folio Community Leadership Program, which commences in May 2015. Participants can expect to have their leadership potential boosted, self-awareness expanded and their assumptions challenged.