7 episodes

Diversity in leadership strengthens business performance and drives economic growth. It simply makes sense. Activating leadership for women ultimately redefines our business landscape.

Join Host Shadé Zahrai as she unearths rich and relatable stories of leading women to unlock the tips, tools and practical advice to ignite your own leadership.

This podcast is for every woman in business to shift leadership from aspirational to actionable.

Leading Women Commonwealth Bank Women in Focus

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    • 5.0 • 5 Ratings

Diversity in leadership strengthens business performance and drives economic growth. It simply makes sense. Activating leadership for women ultimately redefines our business landscape.

Join Host Shadé Zahrai as she unearths rich and relatable stories of leading women to unlock the tips, tools and practical advice to ignite your own leadership.

This podcast is for every woman in business to shift leadership from aspirational to actionable.

    Sian Lewis on career sequencing, the power of transferable skills and making brave calls.

    Sian Lewis on career sequencing, the power of transferable skills and making brave calls.

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Sian Lewis. Sian is the Group Executive Human Resources of Commonwealth Bank. She was also the Founding Director of Way Forward, General Manager of Westpac, Director of Atos Consulting, Director of Change and Program Management of KPMG and UK Service Manager of Bupa.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (02:11) What are Sian’s thoughts on the death of the office and the next normal when it comes to our environment at work?
    Sian thinks the death of the office has been a little exaggerated. She thinks that we have to remember that we didn't organise work this way because we didn't like it. It’s been a long time since the Industrial Revolution that we all had to gather around big machines. And yet we have chosen to work in office spaces and in places where we can join with each other. As we look forward to the types of work that human beings are going to be doing, a lot of the kind of more menial, more repetitive tasks are going to be automated, digitised, and we won't have to do them. The things that human beings are going to need to focus on are really complex problems. They're bringing their knowledge and their skills together, but no one person has the answer. The office will change in the way that we've perceived it. It isn't going to be a place to go so that your units of time can be measured and managed. It's actually going to be a place you go because you want to be with other people.
    (08:29) What are insider tips that Sian can share around navigating a new era where virtual meets physical environments and where flexible work is the norm?
    She thinks there's enough flexibility with remote working now. People are much more open to the
    fact that careers are not linear and you'll have multiple different experiences to really think about what's right for you now.
    (14:08) What can guidance does Sian have, especially for women who might be earlier on in their journey, who are in a rush to move as fast as they can?
    Take a deep breath. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You're going to be working for a very long time.
    There is no ideal path.
    (17:51) What are Sian’s views on why women tend to advance in industries like HR and marketing?
    The starting place has got to be these industries have been gendered by happenstance, not because
    there are any innate abilities in men or women that make them particularly suited. Sian says that because of this gendering that we've had, women have tended to see themselves as more creative, more empathetic, using those softer skills and therefore HR, marketing, PR, those kinds of careers have seemed to fit the skills that we are stereotypically given.
    Key Learnings
    They've done a lot of research as we've gone through the pandemic about Zoom and you get the same kind of anxiety and performance nerves that you get if you're going to a meeting face-to-face, but you don't get any of the endorphins that you get from being with other people.
    Most innovations occur because someone goes, oh, that's really interesting, let's go and explore that. And that can happen as you meet each other in an office kitchen or you're working together on collaboration and something sparked the interests of one or two or three people. So I think connection, collaboration, innovation will mean that the office is still a very important part of all of our working lives
    Sian added gratitude to the Leadership Toolbox. By counting her lucky stars on a pretty regular basis, it actually makes her quite resilient.
    Quotable Quotes
    “I think people have to think very carefully about their own personal need for connection. Where do they get their energy from and how do they make sure that they keep that energy level topped up because working at home can be a very isolating experience.” – Sian Lewis
    “Certainly my career has not been linear. I've taken sideways moves

    • 27 min
    Mary Hamilton on embracing transitions and tenacity in leadership

    Mary Hamilton on embracing transitions and tenacity in leadership

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Mary Hamilton. Mary is the CEO of Hugh Hamilton Wines, Australia’s oldest wine family. She is also a Board Member of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association and Board Member of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation. She was also the Worldwide Business Director of McCann Erickson.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (01:26) What is the story of Mary’s leadership journey?
    Mary’s journey started as a little girl. She was always dressing up and pulling out pages of gorgeous Vogue magazines and holding all the ads together in special folders. This led her where she went because she went to school and she did work experience with a very specific goal in mind. She has been on quite a journey. Some of those things weren't intended and some were and everything had its purpose along the way.
    (12:15) What was Mary’s main drive when she was early on in her career?
    She was just really grateful to be able to learn so much from good people and to see wonderful, important brands and important campaigns just coming to fruition. She shares a story that one day, the chief executive put out a call and said, is there anybody in this business that knows anything about wine? Mary comes from a wine family, she has been around wine her whole life. The CEO was establishing a pitch team and asked her to join the team, she said yes, sure but she has got one condition. If they win the pitch, she wants to run the account.
    (22:17) What important career advice did Mary receive, which was pivotal for her?
    The vice chancellor of the university gave Mary career advice. She was finishing and going to be out
    in the big wide world. Mary asked him for some advice on how to tackle leaving uni and going out and starting her career. And the vice chancellor asked her a really fundamental question, do you want to be organisational or do you want to be entrepreneurial?
    Key Learnings
    It’s a female thing that we often feel as though we've got to be really well rehearsed to go for stuff. It's maybe a little bit of a female curse. And it's because we've got great emotional intelligence often that we feel as though we really should be the real deal. But Mary thinks that can also be a handicap, because sometimes you get passed over because you just didn't jump into the void.
    Mary added a fifth P to the 4Ps of marketing to the Leadership Toolbox. Aside from the 4Ps of marketing, promotion, product, price and place, Mary added people as being a fifth and important part of marketing. People is about knowing who you are, who you appeal to, what your purpose is and what you offer.
    Quotable Quotes
    “Some of those things weren't intended and some were. And everything's kind of, I think, had its purpose along the way.” – Mary Hamilton
    “And it just made me think you don't always have to be ready to ship to be able to ship. You know, you can sometimes say, I think I've got it and I'll just go for it.” – Mary Hamilton
    Important Resources and Links
    If you would like to gain knowledge in governance, and develop as a director in your industry or field, visit https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/.
    If you would like to learn more about how CommBank is ensuring women are advancing their growth in business, visit https://www.commbank.com.au/women-in-focus.html.
    Host of the Leading Women podcast, Shadé Zahrai helps women hack their careers to advance faster, overcome their limiting beliefs and confidently create the life they deserve. She is featured in Forbes, the New York Times, TED, Daily Mail and other media. If you’re interested in learning more about Shadé and the issues she’s currently discussing, visit https://www.shadezahrai.com
    If you’re interested in connecting with Mary Hamilton or viewing her professional portfolios and achievements, visit her LinkedIn vi

    • 29 min
    Louise Adams on the power of visibility for leading in a new era

    Louise Adams on the power of visibility for leading in a new era

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Louise Adams, Chief Executive – Australia and New Zealand of Aurecon. She is also a Mentor of the Minerva Network, National Advisory Board Member of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Member of Chief Executive Women and Board Director of Aurecon Australasia.
    She was named 2020 CEO of the Year by The CEO Magazine, a 2018 Scholar by the Chief Executive Women and received a High Commendation as one of the Champions of Change Female Leadership Award by Consult Australia.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (01:21) What is the story of Louise’s leadership journey?
    Louise felt that her leadership journey started out quite accidentally. Her passion was to travel and she wanted to link her career with her ability to travel, having some opportunities to travel with the work. One of the directors of Aurecon wanted to open an office in Western Australia and offered Louise the job of leading the office there. As the office grew, she grew with it. She continued to jump at opportunities that took her overseas. She headed overseas to the UK, the UAE until she was offered another role back in Australia.
    (05:16) What is the “what next” moment for Louise?
    When Louise was starting her career, whenever an opportunity was given to her, she would
    jump in without really knowing where it was heading. Now, she is at a point in her career where she can visualise where she wants to be next, what she aspires to become and where she wants to be in 10 or 15 years. This is her "what next" moment. She has built herself a bank of experience, connections, networks and professional reputation that rather than just taking in the opportunities as they come to her, she can now start to design opportunities and create opportunities for herself in areas that she wanted them to be to put her on the right path for her planned future endeavours.
    (16:02) What are her thoughts on young people who are really driven, ambitious and want to keep moving and growing but without really thinking about, where they are now and how they can demonstrate that they can deliver here and now?
    A CV is a reflection of the experiences that you have in your career and a CV is like a report card
    that can open opportunities for you. You've got to really appreciate that the depth of the CV comes from actually making the most of opportunities. Louise advises young people that she mentors to sort of hasten slowly and prove themselves in their roles.
    (24:46) With all of Louise’s leadership experience, nothing could have prepared her for 2020, what was 2020 like for her and what wisdom did she gain from that year?
    For her, 2020 is going to go down as the most challenging year in most people's professional
    careers, if not personal lives. What really resonated with her was that every time she faced thousands of people who are looking to her for leadership during times of crisis, she emphasised the importance of authenticity and the willingness to be quite open about that she won't always have the answers.
    Key Learnings
    Leaders have perhaps tended to hold expectations of themselves or perhaps other people held expectations of leaders that leaders naturally know the answers to everything. We live in such a fast changing, evolving world that can be disrupted and is constantly disrupted, be it by technology or by the circumstances the world finds itself in 2020. Leaders need to be able to show vulnerability, to show that it really is impossible for one person to have the answers to everything.
    Decades ago, a typical army approach to leadership may have worked, where leaders can say I know what you need to do because I've been there and I've done that before. Nowadays, with the size and complexity of organisations and often the multidisciplinary nature of organisations, it's very rare for you to have a leader that actually can look at eve

    • 32 min
    Caitlin Figueiredo on the importance of emerging leadership

    Caitlin Figueiredo on the importance of emerging leadership

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Caitlin Figueiredo, Founder and CEO of Jasiri Australia. She is also an Australian Youth Development Index Expert Panelist of the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Board Member and Vice Chair of Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and Ambassador of Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
    She was named Young Leader of the 100 Women of Influence in Australia, an Obama White House Changemaker and a Queens Young Leader.
    Some of her other past roles include, Head of Technology and Data for the Australian Red Cross, Task Force Member for the UN Women, Representative to the UN Annual Youth Assembly, Australian Director for The Global Resolutions Project, Founder and State Director of World Vision ACT.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (01:26) What is the story of Caitlin’s leadership journey and what is her experience of leadership at such a young age?
    For Caitlin, leadership is not defined by age. She started pretty young, and that was mainly because of her grandparents and parents who taught her from a young age that leadership and supporting your community has to start from the time that one is young. So it's always been very natural for her to be a leader. When her family came to Australia from Kenya, a couple of years after the White Australia Policy ended, they found it really difficult in the beginning to fit in. They faced cultural prejudice and racial discrimination. When Caitlin was little, they learnt that the whole part of themselves was to give back to their community, to serve their community and to leave where they live better than they found it.
    (04:10) What is Caitlin’s main program, Girls Takeover Parliament?
    Jasiri Australia, the organisation founded by Caitlin, runs the Girls Takeover Parliament programme.
    Essentially, it's an experiential education initiative to create pathways to politics for young women both across Australia and around the world. The whole purpose of Girls Takeover Parliament is to open the closed doors to young women everywhere so that they can be shapers of democracy, so that they can see that even though they're not represented, they can be and that's why Caitlin and Jasiri Australia partner young women with politicians. They’ve recently had one of their first alumni actually run for office. The program has young women who work in the most senior ministerial offices in the country. They also have alumni go on to create similar programmes in India. The programme aims to create the next generation of politicians and what Caitlin likes to say, creating the next generation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
    (09:14) Has Caitlin ever experienced imposter syndrome?
    One example where she experienced imposter syndrome was when she had just won the Young
    Leader category of the 100 Women of Influence in Australia. She had just turned twenty-one. She thought to herself that she had barely done anything in her life to win and deserve the award. She remembered just absolutely shaking, not having any courage, but she knew that she had to use that moment to overcome imposter syndrome.
    (22:43) What does Caitlin’s mantra, everywhere is an opportunity, mean?
    There are infinite possibilities in life and that it's up to us to not only find them, but to use it. So what I'd like to tell young women everywhere is that if they have an idea and people tell them no, just keep working until you get a yes. If you don't get that, yes, straight away, find a back door and persist because there is always a way to overcome a problem and make your idea become a reality.
    Key Learnings
    For women who hold back from speaking up in meetings, from applying for roles to moving into politics, Caitlin’s advice is simple, to just do it, to just start. Don't wait until you think you have the finances or if you are at a certain age in life, if you see that you have the passion behi

    • 27 min
    Julie Drago on relationship based leadership

    Julie Drago on relationship based leadership

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Julie Drago, CEO of Hero Properties, Non-Executive Director of Mendolia Seafoods and Director of Fairbridge Investments. Julie is a Member of the WA Divisional Council and Chair of WA Land and Infrastructure Committee of the Property Council of Australia. She is also a Committee Member of the City of Kalamunda.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (01:25) What is the story of Julie’s leadership journey?
    Julie’s parents immigrated from Italy in the 60s. Her father established a large fabrication business. From a very young age she was very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to work in the facility. This is where she developed her passion for fabrication and workshops in that industry. She built the business up and tackled huge projects all around WA. In the early 2000s, the family decided to concentrate more on developing industrial property, close and lease out the fabrication business. Over the next 20 years, Julie built large workshops and leased them out to mining, oil, and gas multinational companies. In 2019, she was appointed the CEO.
    (03:08) What were the barriers that Julie faced and practical ways she navigated her way through male-dominated industry and environments?
    Growing up in a male-dominated industry, Julie did not really work with a lot of women, apart from the administration roles. The biggest thing she learnt was that she needed to step up and back herself. Going into these environments, she would often be the only woman in the room. She had to learn to believe in what she was doing and what she was saying, so she could make her own voice that people would listen to.
    (04:09) Why does Julie feel that it is so important for women to embrace and amplify their natural skills?
    Julie thinks that women are naturally more empathetic. When women look at problems, they look at the problem from both sides of the argument and sometimes people can get caught up on trying to win an argument but being more open and understanding about where the other person is coming from enables women to be really good negotiators and that's how Julie tackle things all the time.
    (18:20) How does Julie use networking as a strategy for building relationships?
    The biggest thing is do your research before you go to an event like apart from get involved, go to events and find out where you can have some input. Use LinkedIn, get to know them and figure out who they are and then actively go up to them and say, look, I'm really interested in what you've done here and here and have that conversation. Don't try to be so random about it.
    Key Learnings
    Julie learned that she had to stop questioning herself. She struggled to put herself out there and really speak up. Women need to ask themselves, what can go wrong? Once women get over that hurdle, they will realise that they have got a voice, that they can use it and that it is very powerful.
    Some people can be so focused on the short-term gain, instead Julie shares that people need to think about a longer-term gain because relationships, trust, and rapport take years to build. When COVID first came and her tenants went to her for rent relief, she did not need the government to mandate it because they were already doing it.
    Anna added involvement to your respective industry body to the Leadership Toolbox. Start going to their events, participants and try to get onto some of their committees. Being part of that body enables you to lobby the government and figure out ways to try and make your business easier.
    Quotable Quotes
    “I've got a voice and I can use this and it's very powerful.” – Julie Drago
    “You can't literally win every deal. You know, they're going to win one. You'll win one that's it and that's life. You know, and if you think like that, you'll have a lot better relationship with your competitors.”– Ju

    • 24 min
    Anna Marsden on leadership for purpose

    Anna Marsden on leadership for purpose

    This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Anna Marsden, Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Anna was previously the CEO of the Queensland Ballet, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and General Manager of the Institute of Modern Art.
    Valuable Discussion Points
    (01:39) What is Anna’s leadership journey?
    Anna started her leadership journey in the industry of her passion - the arts. As a teenager, Anna’s dream was to be on stage, however she decided that her personality and interests were also suited towards arts management so she began pursuing this as a career. For the first 14 years of her career, Anna worked in art galleries that took her around the world and unlocked a passion for connecting great brands, great work and great people with fundraising and investment. After a stint in corporate communications and consultancy, Anna became the CEO of the Queensland Ballet where she remained for seven years. Today, Anna is the Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
    (03:39) How does Anna see women activating leadership in male dominated industries and environments?
    Whilst Anna has worked with a lot of powerful women throughout her career, she still sits at many top leadership tables as the only woman which is something she believes has to change. Anna recalls one moment, around 15 years ago, when she was attending a women's lunch with some amazing guest speakers who broke various glass ceilings in Australia. One of the speakers commented that once you have children, you start climbing the ladder and progressing up. This spurred Anna on later in her career after having children herself to work harder and continuing progressing her career as a working mother as she strongly believes there is no more productive, empathetic, powerful or purposeful creature on this planet than a working mother. Anna comments on the importance of women being able to quieten the voice in the back of our heads that evokes a feeling of guilt or uncertainty as a working mother, particularly when holding a leadership position.
    (09:04) What are Anna’s insights into people generally being more aware and focused on their purpose?
    In 2020, we faced bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic and various other challenges. Not only did the the world stopped but it was completely disrupted. People had to confront the fragility of life. Anna believes what it did do is to make people realise they only have one life and one community so it’s important to understand how we can be purposeful and make it count. Anna states that we are currently in a transition where people are trying to find a more purposeful life in a more purposeful vocation.
    (25:27) What is on the horizon for the Great Barrier Reef?
    Anna strongly believes that when we talk about collective impact, one of the big aha's and oversights for all of us is to truly understand the role and the necessity of this bio culture stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef and its protection and that can only be done with deep, authentic relationships with the First Nations people. Through some incredible investment from the Australian Government, and working closely with the traditional ownership communities, Anna is excited and proud of the work being carried out to manage, protect and love these beautiful ecosystems forever.
    Key Learnings
    Some women have a tendency to listen to the voice in their head that tells them to feel guilty about being in leadership roles. Anna suggests that women disregard this voice because it can hold them back at critical times and make them think they are not good enough.
    Anna added Dual Psychology to the Leadership Toolbox. She uses this to stay authentic to herself, and be positive and optimistic. This thinking has been picked up and applied to COVID to look at how business leaders and community leaders

    • 29 min

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