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Future leadership must embrace diversity of thought

September 22, 2020
By Ioni Doherty

The 2020 Inclusive Leadership mentorship is more than halfway through its course and for two of this year’s participants, it looks to be transformative.

Anita Holdsworth, Brewery Manager, Cascade, is looking to develop the leadership skills of her team and let their individual talents shine. Whereas Sam Sullivan, a commercial finance manager at Bacardi-Martini Australia, is looking to broaden his leadership style.

Working with her mentor, Stuart MacAuley, Senior Director of Supply Chain, Campari, Anita said, “Working with Stuart is really about leaning into the question of, ‘How do we as leaders create inclusive environments that suit the style of our teams, rather than creating environments suited to our personal leadership style?’

“I have the right team to be doing this with at the moment…They’re all established and they’re all very successful. The challenge for me is: could I make this a better experience for the team and get better or equal results?

“It is about learning to let other people shine. Relaxing into the background and showcasing the talent of the team,” she says.

This is exactly how Bianca Havas, Director at Serendis Leadership envisions the future of corporate leadership. She sees it as a style that fosters diversity of thought, and creates environments that invite, seek out and systematically value adverse opinions.

In May of this year, she said: “…Inclusion is a consultative, agile and mindful approach to idea generation and contribution of perspectives.”

Anita learned she had been offered a position for the Serendis Inclusive Leadership Mentorship when the COVID crisis first erupted. It took a little time to give herself permission to take up the opportunity, and then again to relax into her mentorship journey.

Two and a half years ago when she was appointed the first female head of brewery in more than 180 years at Cascade, Anita brought an entirely new style to the workplace. She set about creating a tone where collaboration is prioritised and for which the foundation is, of course, trust.

Where she previously may have entered a meeting with a planned outcome or result in mind, Anita arrives now mindful of maintaining an open mind, ready to listen to the diverse thoughts that her team may offer.

For Sam Sullivan, the mentorship is an opportunity to broaden his perspective on what leadership looks like, inviting him to consider the benefits of inclusive leadership.

“It is interesting to learn how diversity has evolved and continues to evolve in business over time. Having that view of what makes a successful team and how to get the best results out of a diverse team through your people, their empowerment and psychological safety…it’s the first time I have deeply considered those elements from a leadership perspective,” he says.

“One of the beautiful things about the program is that it is quite liberating to have that external sounding board with no judgement. Literally, your mentor’s only goal is to help you to achieve yours…But you have to be open and honest…then you are going to get the most out of it,” he said.

His mentor, Annette Tseung, Head of Sales at Taylors Wines concurs, “Sam’s been successful on his journey during this program as he recognises it’s ultimately up to him just how much he will get out of it – he has intentionally carved out time for his own development. That’s something that easily gets pushed to the side when we’re all busy with the day to day.”

After seven years working at Lion prior to commencing at Bacardi, Sam was not shaken when it came to the 360-degree review that forms a part of the program. He is open to learning about his blind spots and to considering how to leverage his strengths.

“He always comes with an open mind, takes on feedback, is flexible in his approach to find a better way and actively takes the time to reflect upon his actions,” Annette said.

Annette and Sam meet every three weeks and it is proving to be a learning experience for both of them.

For Annette, it’s an opportunity to slow down, consider her leadership style and promotes time to think about how her team can work more effectively.

“It’s been great working with Sam, an opportunity to hone in on my coaching skills and try different approaches, especially as I have no vested interest in the outcome,” she said.

This is the second year the mentorship has been open to male and female mentees. The sessions are facilitated by Serendis and twelve companies are participating in the 2020 program: ALM, Australian Vintage, Bacardi Martini, Brown Forman, Campari, Casella, Carlton & United Breweries, Lion, Moët Hennessy, Pernod Ricard, Taylors Wines and Treasury Wine Estates.

Applications for the sought after 2021 leadership program open in February next year.