Female Leader Conversations Feature Ann Messenger, CMgr, FIML, Board Chair Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand said, “The need for a new professional approach to leadership has never been greater; it’s time for leadership to be recognised as a profession.”
Ann Messenger CMgr FIML is the first international Board Chair of the Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand (IML ANZ), the peak body for professional managers and leaders and the organisation that offers the prestigious Chartered Manager designation.
Having joined as a student member in the 1980s, now gives back to the community that supported her as a young female leader in the male-dominated finance and banking industry as the Institute’s Chair. During the five years at its helm, Ann has advocated passionately for gender equality and diversity, and for the adoption of an international standard of management and leadership excellence.
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been leading the Board of IML ANZ through a period of unprecedented change. We have come from a focus on education and training in the leadership space, to a sharper focus on leadership development and accreditation.
It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the Institute throughout this period. When we launched the prestigious Chartered Manager designation in Australia in 2018 the hard work suddenly seemed worthwhile.
What are the most pressing challenges facing leaders and managers today?
Finding the right leadership inspiration has never been a greater challenge than it is today. How are we to learn to lead well when headlines often demonstrate the frequent abuse of power by our leaders? It’s a challenge that I think about often. The fact is that I’m incredibly fortunate to see first-hand examples of sound leadership almost daily.
Just last week I was in discussion with a group of leaders at a local business who are involved with the Institute’s Foundations leadership development program. Hearing the impact that it has had – and the change that has taken place within the group over a 12-week period – is incredibly heart-warming. If the news headlines about poor leadership and about unethical leadership practice in recent years have reinforced one thing in my mind, it’s this; great leadership isn’t easy. Sound leadership is about committing to personal and professional development and it’s about a journey of lifelong learning.
INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY
What can organisations do to achieve a culture of inclusion?
Firstly, we must ensure that our workplaces mirror the makeup of our society. Australia is an incredible kaleidoscope of people of all genders, races, cultures, religious beliefs, abilities and lifestyles. Truly diverse workplaces recognise and reflect this world of difference. Of course, this starts with leadership. In business, this is about examining how you hire, retain and promote people. It’s also about corporate culture and measuring your programs against your business goals. It’s about constantly reviewing, reworking and improving your processes and policies as well. True diversity is about embracing and meaningfully engaging in all things that make each of us “different”.
One of my favourite IML ANZ events is the International Women’s Day Great Debate. Hosted across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to 2,300 attendees, it’s one of the largest IWD celebrations around the country. Importantly, it not only champions women in leadership, but celebrates the differences between these women – it’s an opportunity for women of all cultures, sexualities, abilities and histories to share what makes them unique. It’s clear at these events that it’s not just about female diversity, it’s about promoting inclusion in all corners of our society.
THE FUTURE IS FEMALE
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
I’m going to steal from Eleanor Roosevelt here. She once said something along the lines of:
“Do what you know in your heart is the right thing to do because you’ll be criticised anyway!”
I guess that’s another way of saying believe in yourself and see it through but I’d caveat that by saying, always… ALWAYS listen to those who you know have your best interests at heart… AND THEN do what you think is right!