Be authentically you to become a better leader

The qualities we admire in our leaders are the ones we should try to reflect in our own leadership style.

Brenda Parker, Deputy Director-General with the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, says we can all be leaders—regardless of whether we are personal leaders or positional leaders.

Brenda is a proud public servant who started her career in 1993 as an AO1 trainee in the Department of Education, after sitting the Public service exam (remember that?).

What advice does she give to those in the sector looking to be the best leader they can be?

  1. The most challenging experiences give you the best gifts. Even when you think you’re not up to a new job or new challenge, you’re probably wrong! Talk with those around you. Understand your strengths and say yes to new experiences and the opportunities that come your way. Doing so builds your capability and you never know where it will lead.
  2. Be the authentic you. It’s ok to wear your heart on your sleeve and show emotions. After all, we’re human. It’s great to get advice from those around you, but if they’re asking you to be someone you’re not—recognise this. Don’t be afraid to end mentoring relationships that don’t align with your values; don’t apologise for being yourself and stay true to who you are and who you are as a leader.
  3. Position people around you who will challenge you and be your sounding board. Always make time to network and be open to forming relationships. Talk to anyone and everyone regardless of their background, experience or level. Diversity of thought and being open to new ideas is immensely valuable.
  4. Remember your skills are always transferable–don’t put yourself in a box. Don’t limit yourself and don’t think that you have nothing to add—this is where diversity comes into play. You can always access others with technical knowledge that you don’t have in a role. Ask questions, access those around you and tap into the knowledge and experience you can bring to the challenge. Diversity is one of the most powerful things we have.
  5. Find a cause and champion it! It’s good to bring your passions to work. Work-life balance is really just life. It’s ok for your life to come to work and for work to follow you home (as long as you have balance!). Getting the mix right is the challenge we all have. We are not two separate people and nor should we be. It’s good for people to see what you’re passionate about.
  6. Never stop learning. It’s a life-long journey. Look for the development opportunities. Take advantage of what’s available in the sector and never be too busy to attend learning opportunities. It can be time consuming, but it is always worth the extra effort. Also, don’t be afraid of sideways moves to learn or develop more. These can be as beneficial as an upwards move. Don’t sit back and wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder—seek opportunities out yourselves.

Want to hear more from sector leaders? The 2019 Executive in conversations series is hosted by the Public Service Commission and sponsored by the Chief Executive Leadership Board. To find out about more leadership events like this one subscribe to updates from the Public Service Commission.


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