How might we face society’s biggest challenges in a global pandemic?

In 6 different Clan* groups, current Williamson participants are delving into some of the biggest challenges facing our society in 2020:

Clan Group 1: Equity

How might we be active allies to Aboriginal communities to achieve greater equity?

Clan Group 2: Mental Health

How might we create space for mental health and wellbeing?

Clan Group 3: Climate Change

How might we influence LV and the 2020 WLCP cohort (then past and future cohorts) to take on a Climate Change challenge (big or small)?

Clan Group 4: Family Violence

“To stop duck shooting, you don’t go to the ducks” – How might we include the perspective of the male perpetrator of family violence to instigate change?

Clan Group 5: Opportunity

How might we gather people’s stories of the unusual events of 2020 to capture hope and resilience?

Clan Group 6: Gender Equality

How might we intervene and impact on critical moments, through empowerment, and make them count?

And these Clan groups need your help!

Join our free virtual #togetherweclan session which kicks off 6:30 pm Wednesday, 2 September.

It’s going to be fun, colorful and a great opportunity to connect with others in the Leadership Victoria community. You don’t need expertise in the topic areas. You do need enthusiasm, curiosity & an open mind.

 *CLANs (Collaborative Leadership in Action Network) are an opportunity to engage the different mindsets, skills, talents, and resources of the group on a societal challenge that requires exceptional leadership. The CLAN method puts into practice the adaptive leadership principles and competencies explored throughout the Williamson experience, to a broader lens of leadership challenges in our society.

A crisis is changing community leadership

By Chris Kotur (WCLP’94), LV’s Leader in Residence 

Let’s move from community service to community leadership

We’re living through a period of prolonged crises that is changing how we live and work in ways that we don’t yet fully understand and can’t fully prepare for.

We do however know that we’re all at some risk because the health and economic crisis won’t discriminate between us.

Right now we want our leaders to tell us what will actually happen, when we’ll get back to normal (as if ‘normal’ is out there just waiting for us to come back) and really, what we just want to hear is that at the end of the day (which will come soon, won’t it?), we’ll all be ok.

In other words, we want something from our leaders, experts and people in authority that they simply can’t deliver.

During these months of successive crises we’ve seen, there’s been numerous acts of community service and I’ve got a real sense that now is the time to capture and grow this sentiment into longer-lasting community leadership and act right now, while we’re feeling vulnerable, needy and open to finding ways to be more confident and hopeful about the future.

Where are some examples of community leadership?

Community leaders can be hard to spot because they don’t care about self-promotion, and right now they’re simply getting on with helping people stay resilient and put plans in place that will help their community recover.

You may or may not find them in an organisation, a business or a department because their authority doesn’t rely on a job title or senior position or the backing of a workplace. Some of these people don’t have jobs but are very ready and able to volunteer.

Their leadership can come about because of their own changed circumstances. They’ll be out there in country Victoria today talking with other locals about how the town, district or region can become more self-sufficient, how services can be more integrated, how visitors can be encouraged back and how limited resources can be shared.

You might find them out the back of the building, working on innovative ways to keep their social enterprise going as the recession begins to bite.

You’ll recognise them anywhere where people are not coping because they’ll be asking, “How can I be useful to you?” and later simply say, “… I saw what was needed and just did it!”

What matters to them?

These people are more motivated by their values and care for others than ego, vanity, training, recognition or money.

They can see a good future beyond current stresses and want others to join them in contributing to better times.

What are their services to community?

Put simply, they turn up. And they’re good at getting other good people to turn up (that’s called leadership) thereby improving the chances of making an even bigger and better difference to others.

I bet they’re in your neighbourhood right now running a WhatsApp group, taking turns to check in on lonely people or those not coping, picking up or delivering, volunteering to get community activities back up and running and helping those unfamiliar with technology to get online.

Lockdown restrictions meant closing the community market? Look for the Strathbogie drive-through market to see local innovation that ensures it will survive despite the lockdown.

Check out how a 16 year old high school student has shown how during the lockdown, his news podcast has become the main source of news in a region of 8,000 people after the local newspaper was shut down (ABC News post 22 April 2020).

He could have found a way to reinvent valuable community connections otherwise lost during the extinction of local newspapers.

What does it take to move from service to leadership?

Encourage a mindset that grows resilience and motivation.

The community leaders I admire most think there’s good in everyone, that despite the worst behaviours that emerge during stressful times – the nastiness, divisiveness, resentments and blame – that it’s possible to bring out the best in others, that something better is always possible.

They motivate others without sugar coating hard to hear facts while focussing on what they have left rather than what they feel has been lost. They think we all suffer but we don’t all need to become victims. They think ambition where others think pity.

They simply keep people engaged, especially when they feel lonely or isolated. And incidentally, there’s plenty of research that shows engagement with others and contributing to their wellbeing can help us with our own mental and emotional health.

They network. They’re ‘connectors and joiners’ – people who get involved and who seek out others to join them. They encourage young people to be leaders especially when they see the most vulnerable disengage from meaningful interaction with others.

The challenge now is to gain more scale and value from the myriad of small, dispersed acts of community service that we see and are part of every day.

Perhaps we need better coordination. We certainly need to try to be more impactful. The next challenge then is to maintain that powerful sentiment and effort over a long time, and not just while we’re in a state of crisis.

It remains true that it’s easier to work together across communities during a crisis than afterwards when the current crisis dies down and before the next one begins.

During interviews immediately after the Black Saturday Royal Commission, I often heard people who were trying to stay resilient say “we’re getting all the attention now, we’re on the news every night, but you’ll soon move on leaving us alone to make our own way…”

I believe it’s really possible to grow strong, resilient, long lasting community leadership by assembling and learning from the numerous acts of service we’re seeing and taking part in every day.

We were unprepared for a global health crisis and its attendant recession but that hasn’t stopped a groundswell of unbidden service to others.

If we can’t grow community leadership now we’ll see the quick return of the nastiness, divisiveness, resentments and blame that will weaken us all as members of a community.

For now, while we’re in the thick of changes we don’t want and don’t yet fully understand, I’ll keep backing community leadership – including accruing the lessons from all the small acts of kindness to strangers I see and join every day – to guide us toward a better, more confident and hopeful future.

I hope you will join Leadership Victoria (and me) with ideas and energy to help turn community service into long lasting, enduring community leadership.

 

Chris Kotur (WCLP’94)

Leader In Residence

Leadership Victoria

chris@chriskotur.com

 

An Open Letter to LV Alumni and Participants

By Chris Kotur (WCLP’94), LV’s Leader in Residence

Don’t stop learning about good leadership during crises…we need to draw on all we know to offer confidence and hope right now and afterwards…

Many thousands of Victorians have come through successive waves of trauma and crises, serial natural disasters and years of adapting to consequences of far too many compounding bad surprises. Victorians already know a lot about unwelcome events that permanently change lives and force people to attempt recovery afterwards…

The pandemic is another one of those events and it’s a major opportunity to share some of what Victorians can teach us about resilience.

Many in the Leadership Victoria community are at the forefront of leading the major adaptive changes we’re going through and I want to acknowledge and thank each one of you for working so hard to help us through really difficult change.

I also want to acknowledge and share the sadness of those who have lost jobs and I hope that doesn’t mean we’ve lost confidence in the future.

In crises it’s easy to forget what we as leaders already know and are able to do.

If you think its valuable I can share some of the insights I’ve gained from facilitating thousands of conversations and reviewing advice, ideas and suggestions from the many government inquiries, three Royal Commissions and countless consultations that I’ve been part of – learning so much from those who experienced crises, lost so much and yet came through the other side – so we can keep learning together.

Firstly, I predict we’ll be better at getting through this awful time than it seems right now as we try in real time, to understand and readjust to the consequences of a pandemic.

“After a while I learned that I had to give myself permission to pause, take in what had happened and readjust” (Black Saturday)

For Leadership Victoria participants and alumni its time to pause, get on the balcony and draw down every lesson, experience, story, idea and good advice you heard probably thinking you’d ‘come back to that later’. Come back to that knowledge now.

We’re all adapting, unwillingly, awkwardly, too quickly and with little control so remember all you know about adaptive leadership – the theory and practice is solid and it works. (If new to or need to refresh Adaptive Leadership check out the many resources by Marty Linsky, Ron Heifetz whose research and practice advice were developed for just these extraordinarily difficult times).

Reflect on every bit of inspiration and wisdom you’ve heard from presenters and from across your LV network. Every LV encounter is a miniature case study of what to do now and afterwards, when this awful time seems less awful.

We’ve got this. Afterwards people will need us more than ever and that means we can’t stop learning.

Secondly, consider what many Victorians said about maintaining resilience after Black Saturday and the Hazelwood Mine disaster.

“I learned to watch for signs of when I’d had enough and just couldn’t go on. It learned when to say no and just leave for a while, rest, eat, get a hug”

 “It was a really emotional time, we were overwhelmed by what we’d lost and grief stopped us from planning for later…It was so tough but I wish we’d been less sentimental and started to get ready for the future more quickly”

It’s not selfish to put yourself first under current circumstances. It’s essential. You won’t be able to hold others in distress if you’re not ok. You’ll need the energy, physical and mental strength that requires down time.

Thirdly, while events are changing quickly we listen (and then only selectively) to leaders whom we trust and who deliver information clearly, consistently, empathetically and with authority.

The amount of information we can take in reduces. We hear what we want to, misinterpret even simple messages and easily fall prey to speculation, scams and conspiracies. A message clear to you can sound like gibberish to someone else.

“I could only hear what people like me and who knew me were saying…(Heazlewood Mine disaster)

Its time to review style and content of communication especially while there’s an information glut and social media, while keeping us connected, adds confusion and noise.

Updates must be frequent, quick, clear and decisive.

Fourthly, nostalgia isn’t your friend.

“After Black Saturday I just wanted Friday back”

 “I simply decided to care for people I didn’t know and that meant being gentle with people who did stupid things”

 “I wanted my old life back but I had to change the way I think.” (Family Violence)

Your work, workplace culture and relationships with colleagues have already changed even if you don’t know it yet. Current strategic, corporate, business or council plans are now probably irrelevant. Plans for managing risk or emergencies may prove woefully inadequate.

Services, business models and policies are reshaping right now, by forces beyond our control.

The next term of political leadership has already begun because the aftermath of this crisis will continue for a long time. Small NFP’s without deep reserves have already become insolvent.

“After 15 years of daily violence at home I realised I had to stop hoping things would return to the way we were at the beginning and it was time to run…” (Family Violence)

There’s a danger that in dealing with the short, sharp daily emergencies we won’t make time to reflect and learn and plan properly for what comes later.

Try to reserve enough energy and clear thinking to apply foresight right now or ‘afterwards’.

There are so many more lessons, smart, practical ways to lead through to the other side of this crisis and I’ll help you do that if I can.

 

Chris Kotur (WCLP’94)

LV Leader In Residence

To My Pre-Williamson Self

Looking for some inspiration, and wondering about what to expect from the program experience? Here’s the advice a Williamson alumna would give her pre-Williamson self. 

 

Well hello over there

It’s me, the future you

Don’t worry, I won’t stay too long

I’ve got a job to do

 

I see you’re busy packing

Sprawling clothes all over your bed

Heading to Marysville in the morning

Would you pause a moment instead?

 

You see, I feel compelled

To let you know some things

To prepare you for the year ahead

And what the future brings

 

Don’t roll your eyes, I know I know

It’s more fun to just jump in

But here’s a handy tip or two

That might help before you begin

 

Get a decent backpack

A comfy pair of shoes

You’ll be walking A LOT

And sore feet bring the blues

 

Oh, and really get up to speed

On Zoom meetings too

Best not to faff about

Just before every session’s due

 

And really make the effort

To mingle and carpool and connect

The people are the bomb

Some of the best you’ve ever met

 

Now please listen to this bit

It’s something I’d love to change

Take a few days off work at the very end

You’ll be so utterly drained

 

In fact, try give yourself some time

All throughout the year

To reflect and think and wonder

At the experience you’ll soon hold dear

 

Oh, and how you’ll grapple

With the simplest thing ever

Simply putting up your hand

Amongst a group so confident and clever

 

But there’s going to be this moment

That you do, and oh my lord

It’s really something special

People will applaud

 

There’s really nothing like it

Facing nerves and fear front on

The adrenaline, the deep breathing

Believing you are strong

 

So you see, the thing is this

You gotta get brave

Keep saying it over and over

It’ll change the path you pave

 

Just like the people before you

And those that will soon follow

You’re now on the hook officially

To make a better tomorrow

 

So here I am, before you

The one year older you

A bit more confident, a bit more purposeful

Perhaps a bit more true

 

 

I’ll let you get back to packing

Here’s my farewell wave

Remember this, if nothing else

Now’s the time to get brave!

 

Start an application today and take your first steps towards purposeful leadership.

Belonging

In March, the 2020 Williamson cohort are exploring the theme of belonging and its different forms in the context of place, identity, community and work. They’ll be examining attitudes towards cultural diversity, inclusion and heritage and considering the challenges for community groups as well as organisations seeking to meet social need. What does it mean to belong? What does a socially cohesive society look and feel like? What voices are not being heard? And what is the experience of exclusion? As part of the Williamson program experience, participants will be visiting The Islamic Museum of Australia. Maryum Chaudhry, General Manager of the Islamic Museum of Australia shares her thoughts on belonging:

Belonging by Maryum Chaudhry (WCLP’14), General Manager, Islamic Museum of Australia

 

The Islamic Museum of Australia team

As I write this, the team here at the Islamic Museum of Australia is in the midst of developing an exciting new exhibition, highlighting the voices of ‘every day’ Muslims in the community.

It has been interesting to hear the voices of people, all of whom come from a minority group or groups: They’re all Muslim – some wear pieces of clothing that make them identifiably so – they are mostly non-Anglo, hailing from countries across Asia, the sub-continent, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Some have recently, or not so recently come from elsewhere: carving a place in a foreign country, learning a new language, culture and way of life, finding employment and embedding themselves and their families into their new country.

Others are the voices of first and second generation Australian-born Muslims: They’ve known no other country to be home, yet they’re pigeonholed by their religion, clothing or colour of their skin by others and considered to be from elsewhere.

It should come as no surprise then, that one of the underlying themes arising from the stories captured for the exhibition, is that of belonging.

The common thread that binds them is that a sense of belonging is often driven by self-acceptance and indeed, finding this is very much a journey for the individual.

This said, harnessing a healthy sense of belonging is not a one-way street. It begs the question: in the workplace, as in the wider community, what can others – specifically those in leadership roles -do to enhance the sense of belonging of others?

Empathy is critical, yes. But so too, is leaning in to the unknown, embracing the opportunity to learn something new, no matter how big or small.  Certainly in the case of Islam and Muslims, much of what is understood by others is limited to what they read and see in the media – this in itself is often the driver of negative narrative.

Personally, I find it’s far more productive to respond to sincere questions, than to laugh off the feigned pity and jokes about our inability to join the rest of the team in finishing the working week with a glass of wine. The latter only serves, perhaps unconsciously to draw a line between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and feeds into any self-doubt around belonging.

A handful of our ‘every day voices’ were quick to acknowledge they were perhaps more fortunate than most, applauding their employers for seemingly small but significant measures: the occasional pilates class instead of drinks at the pub; support during Ramadan including adjusted hours; the provision of a place to pray, twice a day for ten minutes at a time; or simply asking questions to better understand the religion.

What can be said with little or no argument, is that to not feel a sense of belonging, to feel excluded, is a lonely place. At work, this can translate to poor workplace culture, poor productivity and a lack of pride in one’s work.

Ignorance, indifference, fear and apathy are the best of friends to social incohesion, yet the solution in part is simple.

Lean in to what you don’t know and take affirmative action. More and more, minorities are occupying a greater space in the workplace and at the Boardroom table, where they belong. Commit yourself and your team to cultural awareness training (there are tremendous programs on offer, including one offered by the Islamic Museum), ask questions, engage and embrace.

 

Maryum Chaudhry (WCLP’14)

Maryum is the General Manager of the Islamic Museum of Australia. She is the President of Sanad Foundation and Vice Chair of Centre for Muslim Wellbeing. She was previously a Commissioner for the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Vice President of Islamic Council of Victoria (CV) and CARE With ME (foster care), Member of the Women’s Legal Service of Victoria, Alumni of the Williamson Leadership Program and an AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador. Read more about the Maryum and the Islamic Museum of Australia here. 

The Everyday Opportunity

The Everyday Opportunity

By Kipp Kaufmann (FCLP’17)

When was the last time you had a great opportunity just drop in your lap?

You may have been working towards a new challenge or opportunity that has come along or maybe you didn’t see it coming and suddenly there it was. Many of us are constantly focused on the ultimate goal and asking questions such as:

When will my next leadership opportunity come up?  What is the next ‘BIG’ thing I can do? What change can I lead?  Why hasn’t it come yet?”

Instead, we rarely focus and enjoy the process we take to get to our goal.

Every day presents an opportunity to rise to the leadership challenge. Instead of being so focused on the next big thing, we can gain so much by focusing on the individual moments of the leadership journey that make a difference. This doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, it could be as simple as finding time for someone when you don’t have any, chatting with someone you don’t know or do something that makes you uncomfortable.

For me this can be well summed up by looking at the sporting world.  It’s often assumed that a sports person only focuses on the major goal for the year – “we must win the Grand Final”, “I must get a gold at…” but every great team leader (coach, captain or athlete) is also focused on the moment and the current day practice. Reaching a goal and great performances are about delivering consistently.  It’s this consistency which develops trust, interest and success.  Great performances have been proven to be a summation of a series of moments that led to a great outcome.

It’s incredible to consider the ongoing moments we are offered and how they can develop our leadership capability.  Some days you might have particularly intense leadership challenges while others come easy. Whatever the opportunity that presents itself, it’s a chance to learn and improve. Leadership shouldn’t be defined by one major opportunity or achievement, instead it is a series of moments over a lifetime where you choose to lean in and take the leadership challenge.

The next time you think that you are doing something mundane think of how a change in this moment can link to a series of moments to demonstrate exceptional leadership.

 

Kipp Kaufmann (FCLP’17)

Kipp is currently the General Manager – Sport at Cycling Australia where he is responsible for international and national events, coaching and officiating.

He has previously held roles as CEO of Cycling Victoria and the Alberta Bicycle Association.

His journey in sport management began at McMaster University in fundraising, alumni development and the 2010 Commonwealth Games Bid for Hamilton.

Moving to Australia to pursue his Masters degree he had roles at Yachting Victoria, 2006 Commonwealth Games and Blind Sports Australia.

Kipp also has a Masters of Business (Sport Management) from Deakin University and a Hons. Bachelor of Kinesiology from McMaster University.

Kipp is a graduate of the Leadership Victoria Folio Program.

Leading for Impact

By Lyndon Galea, 2019 Williamson Leadership Program Alumnus

This year I have been incredibly fortunate to be a part of the Williamson Leadership Program. I say ‘fortunate’ because I have been unsuccessful on two previous occasions applying for the program. And I was only able to cover the program fee thanks to Westpac’s Social Change Fellowship.

For these reasons amongst others, I knew not to take the privilege of being in the 2019 cohort for granted.

The year has been one filled with exceptional peers, presenters and perspectives. The course content and the conversations that have stemmed from it have made for an expansive development experience. One that I’m certain will reverberate in the years to come for all of us who have taken part.

‘Leading with Purpose’ has been a consistent theme throughout. I’ve been asked to share on this topic, and why and how I lead.

Until Williamson commenced, I’d not considered these questions deeply, but I knew if I could learn to become a stronger leader I could better influence the positive outcomes and causes I’m passionate about – in my case, Eat Up, and our aspiration to provide free lunches to disadvantaged Australian school children who would otherwise go without.

With a cause such as feeding hungry kids, it is very easy to find and steadily refer to purpose. It is an issue that stirs me just as it does others to want to help. Leading Eat Up has not so much been me inspiring or instilling this purpose in others, but helping to provide an outlet where we can work together to collectively contribute – in our case making and delivering as many sandwiches as possible. It is a very powerful why!

How? How do I lead – well, this is a work in progress and one that I’m very much learning on the job. But for the most part it involves getting out of the way. Again, I’m lucky to lead an organisation where the outcomes drive people’s effort and involvement. Volunteers, supporters, and our staff are all immensely passionate about seeing that kids don’t miss out on food. They’re even more passionate about seeing that kids don’t go without in their local community. This is how we’ve grown. They love their hometowns just as I do Shepparton – my home, and where Eat Up started after I read an article in our local newspaper about kids who were often sent to school without lunch and would go hungry.

Leading Eat Up’s growth has been primarily putting in place the infrastructure in between people’s goodwill to lend a hand, and those who could use a hand. Eat Up, and I think my role, is acting as a conduit between these two demands. I’m constantly inspired and motivated by that connection and the outcomes that come with it.

Leadership doesn’t have to be complex, it can be, but it needn’t be. Keeping things simple is a strength. That lesson has been made clear throughout WCLP this year, and I hope it will also show in Eat Up’s albeit bittersweet growth to reach and feed more hungry kids in the future. Our goal is to help kids nationally. Williamson has helped that goal come closer into view.

Lyndon Galea

Why We Choose to Lead

By Michelle Crawford, 2019 Williamson Leadership Program Alumnus

To lead is a verb, it’s something you do.  It’s about the provision of guidance and direction, and is an intentional act.

As a noun, purpose relates to the reason for which something is done.

Inequality and injustice are an ongoing challenge for Australia and beyond. Against this backdrop, 2019 Williamson Leadership Program participants have been challenged to reflect on the act of leading.  We have been provided with privileged access to a diverse range of guests and experiences that have provided opportunities for growth, often through discomfort.

Leaders are in significant positions of power.  How we act, practice self-care, the decisions we make, the direction we provide and our purpose impacts others.

Williamson brings together leaders from diverse backgrounds and it has been clear throughout the year that there is one strong cord that binds us.  We all share a keen desire to master our craft as leaders so as to positively impact the complex world that is constantly changing.

While we seek to build on our experience, gifts, talents and innate ability to lead, we have accepted the challenge to constantly review the lens through which we look at things, and to seek out unusual voices as we lead.

A key ingredient to leading with purpose is understanding the WHY of why we choose to lead.

Exploring our own leadership through harthill.co.uk provided invaluable insight into the individual action logics which shape our actions and growth as leaders.  Exploring our immunity to change, applying adaptive leadership principles to complex challenges, along with the rich and diverse experiences throughout the year have contributed to a deeper exploration of purpose.

Throughout the year I have had cause to reflect on the leaders I have worked with and observed, along with the leader that I aspire to be.  The overwhelming insight has been – authentic.

Purpose cannot be contrived. I believe it is essential to find your passion – your raison d’être.    Throughout the year I have found that the feedback I have sought from trusted peers, colleagues and friends as contributions for the various exercises we have undertaken has been incredibly affirming, highlighting my passionate approach to leadership, while challenging me to step into the authority of leading – to own the privilege and continue on a path of purposefulness as a leader who is emotionally, intellectually and culturally relevant.

The Chinese character for LISTEN is a key marker of my desire to lead with purpose.

 

To seize a sense of determination as a leader takes us beyond an act and moves into measurable impact.

I’m intensely grateful for the Williamson 2019 year, and resolve to listen with my ear, eyes, heart and undivided attention as I lead with purpose.

Michelle pictured above with her Mum to whom she credits her understanding of living and leading a life of purpose.

Discovering our Purpose

By Jacqueline Salter, 2019 Women’s Leadership Program Graduate

Leadership…It’s something we may fall into, or something we feel we should be doing at certain times in our career or lives. But how many people stop to consider why they lead? How many people have a clear leadership vision?

To develop a clear leadership vision, we must discover our purpose, for it is purpose that nourishes our soul and keeps us energized. Research suggests that only about 20% of leaders can clearly and convincingly express their own individual purpose. And of those leaders with a purpose, very few have a plan for translating it into action. I am lucky that I have always been very clear about my passion, which is working to protect the environment. However, it’s taken me a long while to think of myself as a leader and consciously embrace purposeful leadership. In June this year, I undertook the Women’s Leadership Program with Leadership Victoria. At the time, I was working towards establishing a ‘Women in Conservation’ mentoring program and I hoped the program would give me some skills to do that. I was not disappointed! Whilst I was used to public speaking and was clear on what I was passionate about, I wasn’t prepared for the deep introspective journey of self-discovery we embarked upon.

There was a strong emphasis on understanding your strengths, values and passion. Understanding these three things is the key to leading with purpose. It is useful to reflect upon the pivotal moments of our past – the challenging and the rewarding – and how we draw upon our strengths in those times. Values are revealed by reflecting on what we turn to when making difficult decisions. Unearthing our passion can come from reflecting on when it is that we feel most fulfilled. Passion is what keeps us energized, powerful, and resilient during difficult times. It drives deep engagement with what we do.

Together, these reflections help us develop a clear purpose, and gives guidance in a complex and ever-changing world.  Our purpose energises us and gives us the confidence to make the right decisions. Our purpose doesn’t have to be grand or ostentatious. Having a clear purpose allows us to find meaning in what we do, every day.

Setting up the conservation mentoring program is an example of something that excites, engages and inspires me. It makes me feel like I can make a difference. If you are true to our values, and are leading with purpose, others will recognise the authenticity behind your words and actions. In this way, you can inspire others and bring them along on your journey.  Rather than focus on what I need to work on, playing to my strengths allows things to flow easily and makes the journey so much enjoyable! I hope that by encouraging the mentors in my program to focus on the strengths of their mentees, we will support the development of future leaders.

Checking in on Purpose

By Chris Kotur (WCLP’94), Leader in Residence, Leadership Victoria 

I’m guilty. I think I have my purpose all worked out and then let life get in the way of re-examining, and possibly updating, my reasons for working and acting for others as I do; and checking to see if I can make any improvements.

The end of a year is a good time to reflect and do just that.

I worked on becoming clear about my purpose some time ago. The Williamson Community Leadership Program sharpened my focus.  I was certain my purpose would involve applying my skills and energy to make a positive difference for other people.

Fast forward. By now I have facilitated consultations for all levels of government, for three Royal Commissions, numerous inquiries, boards and community groups; and I routinely get to help hundreds of people work through difficult, complex problems.

Here are some ways that I use as a facilitator to reflect on purpose.

Stories are universal

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Kazuo Ishiguro said, ‘Stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it feel this way for you?’

Stories show me how different people react to difficulties and unwelcome change and point to the direction of where I can improve connections between the right people, services and stakeholders.

I gain so many new insights and fresh ideas from people’s stories. Each story is an opportunity to examine, shape and communicate purpose.

Questions matter

The facilitator’s role has had me ask questions of people affected by trauma, violence, mental illness, suffering and sadness. Their answers suggest it’s sometimes best to avoid searching for absolutes, for right or wrong or good or bad.  I learn more about how I can make a difference to people by asking ‘what would better look like’, ‘what would it take to improve these circumstances’, ‘if we could do things differently to make this better, what would they be?’

Each answer reveals ways to improve their lives and for me, ways to strengthen purpose.

Feeling safe is important

Facilitators can offer people ways to have open conversations without being afraid – conversations deep enough for differences to emerge and the search for ways to improve lives to continue.  Looking for improvement might mean people setting aside previously comfortable routines and behaviours to learn from others and adapt.

Here is a test of purpose that requires examining if ego and attachment to particular views get in the way of adapting to new, often unwelcome circumstances. The result is often a tense situation but always worth the effort.

As a facilitator I get to learn from stories and explore options to improve people’s lives. By asking keen questions and offering a safe space to explore different perspectives, I get numerous opportunities to test and strengthen my sense of purpose.

After this timely reflection and after all these years, my early commitment seems to be holding up quite well.