With the recent news of Michelle Guthrie’s sack as managing director of ABC, I’ve come to question the term ‘leadership’ and what it entails for me.
Michelle Guthrie was the first female and Asian-Australian to be appointed the managing director of ABC. After two and half years into her five-year contract, the ABC Board decided to terminate her employment because they felt they needed a different leadership style.
Apparently, Ms Guthrie was seen to be too ‘low-key, laid back and friendly’.
Now, this news resonates with me. For throughout my early teenage years, I have had work colleagues and close friends tell me – in light hearted and casual conversations – that I am unfit to be a leader.
I know they mean no harm when they say, “you’re just too nice to manage people” or “you’re just so shy!”
These assumptions, I must say, are not entirely out of proportion. I know these people have formed their judgements based on their interactions with me. I can say at times, I do notice that I am not the most vocal person in the room. Especially in new social settings, I do come off shy and timid.
This of course has led me to believe that my personality type was just not suited for a leadership role.
Instead I became a follower, reluctant to overstep my foot over the boundaries.
However, as I got older I stopped thinking this way and instead asked myself, am I courageous enough to step out of my shell?
The answer is yes.
While my ‘niceness’ and ‘shyness’ does not fit with the traditional set of leadership qualities, I know that I am capable of it because it takes more than just confidence and a hard front to become a leader.
I believe that leadership also requires honesty, commitment, empathy, creativity and much more.
In Ms Guthrie’s case, she had the confidence to lead the ABC but her diverse background and new leadership approach opposed the traditional ways of the ABC.
Although, I believe that great leaders should be courageous enough to abandon the past and take new steps in order to adapt to a world that is, or that is coming.
Ms Guthrie, despite being seen as ‘friendly’ and ‘laid-back’, dared to be different. She championed for diversity and inclusion, which is under represented in the ABC. Those labels should not have overshadowed her abilities as a leader.
For if I had let myself believe that I did not possess any leadership traits, I would not have had the courage to apply for the internship position here, at DAWN network.
After stumbling across DAWN through my university, I was quickly inspired by their avid support for diversity and inclusion. Here at DAWN, there are opportunities for growth and that is why, I am able to write and share my story to you today.
I know I still have a long way to go, especially since there is always room for improvement. Yet I will continue to push myself and explore my opportunities in order to develop my skills and confidence. At least I know now that personal attributes do not define whether a person is or is not, capable to lead.
For in the end, there is no right or wrong, there are many paths and different styles to successful leadership.