Julia Gillard’s tips for aspiring women leaders

Being a leader is challenging, being a woman leader has additional dimensions of difficulty, being a woman leader committed to the pursuit of gender equality is harder still.

If I had a secret sauce that somehow made it easier, I would be sharing the ingredients, I assure you. Unfortunately I don’t.

However, I do want to leave the women leaders and the women aspiring to be leaders with four key lessons from my own experience that I think matter if you want to be the best possible leader in today’s world.

  1. In this fast-moving quarrelsome contested age, it is vital to hone your own sense of purpose, what’s driving you, what are your values, what’s your vision, what are you striving to achieve. Write it down and reach for it on the toughest of days.
  2. Nurture a strong sense of self. Not every occupation is quite as exposed to the harsh critiques as being prime minister, but I suspect both directly and on social media you’ll find yourself the subject some free and not-friendly character assessments as you go about your work. Staying on course requires a clear sense of self. One that isn’t buffered by these kind of critiques. It also requires the ability to separate fair and constructive criticism from sniping. Here’s one tip that worked for me: if the jibe comes in after midnight on Twitter, then it’s fuelled by alcohol not acumen.
  3. Every day in human history has brought with it the struggle between getting the urgent done and finding time to do the important. Doing immediately what matters in this 15 minutes versus finding time to do today what will most matter in 5, 10 or 15 years time. This dilemma is ever increasing in the technology-fuelled world we now live in, but I advise you to aim big on the front of putting your time into the important. Find time for the important, it will pay dividends.
  4. Nobody gets there alone. Whatever you were aiming for, you will need people around you who are on your side. To love and nurture you as you do them. Surround yourself with people who support and care for you. And remember to make time to support and care for them in return.

Julia Gillard AC was the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, the first women to serve in that role.

This article is an extract of an address by Julia Gillard to the South Australian public sector, hosted by IPAA South Australia and the Office for the Public Sector in March 2017.