IWD Spotlight: Women in Leadership

5th March 2020

IWD Spotlight: Women in Leadership

The lead up to IWD is always a time to reflect on the amazing women who’ve influenced me over the years. In 2020 I’m remembering one of the best times I’ve had in my career working at Optus alongside Karyn Baylis (now Karyn Baylis AM) or KB as she is affectionately known by those around her. KB has been Chief Executive of Jawun since 2009. Jawun is an Australian, non-profit organisation which manages secondments from the corporate and public sectors to a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners in urban, regional and remote communities across Australia. In her words, she really didn’t get a ‘moral compass’ until in her 40s.

She’s had a pretty stellar career in Australia and internationally, holding a range of senior management and C-suite executive roles in multinational businesses like IAG and Qantas. She’s also held Executive and Non-Executive Director roles in the insurance industry; the development and construction industries; and not-for-profit organisations. And while all this is impressive, the thing I remember most is her leadership much of which she credited from her mentorship under the late James Strong.

At the time, I was consuming any literature on leadership that I could get my hands on including the obvious hard copy tomes: Peter and Waterman, Collins, Kotter, Senge and Kouzes and Pousner. And there was KB, with a photocopied two-sided series of pages of James’ leadership philosophies, many of which she shared most generously.

For me personally, there were a few main themes that I’ll elaborate on further but the key idea is best summed up by the quote from Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” To this day, almost 15 years later, this still rings true of KB.

1. How you treat people and how you behave matters. Give people a go and try and ‘switch them on’ so they can excel. Even if things aren’t going to plan it’s better to offer support, guidance, coaching and some tough-love conversations to give every possible chance to get things back on track. And in the process you might actually get more out of them, and they might gain more from the experience than they ever thought possible.

2. Enabling leadership is powerful. Own the vision and be accountable for the change required but inspire people to shape their input and response to it. Let them take it and run with it their way. Meet them at their level. Inspire a movement and ‘ground up’ swell rather than a top down set of rules that if not owned diminish gradually overtime.

3. Ask a lot of your team; yet acknowledge them. James Strong once said, “it is all too easy” to underestimate the ability of people to gauge the sincerity, credibility and trustworthiness of their leaders. KB got this. Be grateful. Mean it. Relish in what your people do for you and your company. And make sure you tell them and you show them consistently.

I’m so glad I reflected on this because I’ve just reminded myself on a few things I need to tighten up on…thanks KB! The next tribute will be about your smarts, wit, jewellery and shoe collection – oh, and how I used to come into work to your steady stream of consciousness starting at 5am via email, much of which was written in airport code.

– Kellie Penridge, Head of Client Service & Strategy