Because of Her, We Can Ebook Female Leader, Kylee Fitzpatrick said, “Leadership is all about having a passion much bigger than ourselves, something that not only improves the quality of our own life, but simultaneously improves the quality of our relationships and our families, society, community and the world.”
You want women to be accepting of their story, and then share their story which gives them freedom and encourages other women. How did you come to this approach?
In 2012 I was hosting a mentoring circle – something that grew organically when I returned to work after my third child and, despite wanting to continue with my career, I became incredibly frustrated with the lack of flexibility for those of us in senior leadership roles.
Despite my own challenges, it was the conversations I was having with others that made me realise something needed to be done. Within two months the circle grew from 6 to 55 women – a diverse mix of women from different backgrounds all wanting to advance in their careers but struggling with the imbalance of women in leadership. Wanting greater flexibility, but struggling to find roles that were equitable, and wanting to maintain their roles as an executive, but struggling with taking care of their family while desperately wanting to make a difference and live a more meaningful life.
When you give people the opportunity to share authentically about their life, and you remove any concern they might have about being judged, ridiculed or ostracised for not having it all handled, then something miraculous happens. Their natural expression as leaders shows up.
Tell us about how your mother’s choices influenced your own life and shaped your values and decisions.
My mother is one of the most inspirational and resilient women I know. When she was only five years old, together with her three-year-old twin sisters, she was put in a home. At only 15 years old, the very same year she walked out of that home, she fell pregnant and was told that if she kept the child, she wasn’t welcome back home.
With adoption papers waiting to be signed, my mother made a brave decision to keep me. A tough decision for a 15 year old to move into housing commission in Redfern (a local Aboriginal community) by herself with a baby.
She insists “it was the best decision I ever made, it gave me strength and purpose.” She did whatever it took to make it work. From leaving school to studying a hairdressing course at TAFE, my mother is now an accomplished lecturer with a PhD, working on educating future leaders and improving business in Indigenous communities.
You bring together women from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences to share their story at TEAM Women Australia. What impact does this have on the women who attend?
We spend a lot of our life feeling no-one else really understands what we’re going through or what life is really like, so we keep working hard while feeling alone and disconnected from the world.
Women who attend these events have a life-changing breakthrough in self-compassion, accomplishment, confidence and the courage to stand up for themselves in pursuing what’s really important to them. They have an experience of being appreciated, and they get that their life story really matters. Finally, they get they’re not alone and that with the support of those around them, they have what it takes to make a real difference – to ignite their passion, grow their influence and amplify the impact they want to have in the world.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership, as we know it, is an illusion – some ideal we’ve created that suppresses our natural expression as leaders. We’ve been raised to believe that leadership is something you get when you have a title or a seat at the table. Look up the dictionary and you’ll see that we’re taught leadership is about governance, direction, control, supervision and leading a group of people or an organisation, and that completely disregards the value of all human beings’ potential to express themselves as leaders.
It’s this false idea that makes being a leader a bad idea! I know that’s a controversial thing to say, because it seems to defeat the opportunity of being a leader. But if we’re truly honest with ourselves, as individuals and a society, we’re bad at supporting leaders and demonstrating leadership.
When I launched TEAM Women Australia, it was no accident I called it TEAM – it’s the acronym for Together Everyone Achieves More.
I believe that leadership arises when we work together and the only way to impact change in our lifetime – and I’m talking about people living a more egalitarian life, women having equal pay, a balance of women in leadership, and flexible work – is for each and every one of us to stand up and express our own leadership.
I believe leadership is about unleashing the natural strengths within each and every one of us to be a player – to be someone who is in action and responsible for their life and everything in their life turning out. It’s about getting out of the grandstands and being an observer who judges the actions of others to be someone who says, “it’s up to me”.
Leadership is about having a passion much bigger than ourselves, something that not only improves the quality of our own life, but simultaneously improves the quality of our relationships and our families, society, community and the world.
It’s about being honourable with who we hold ourselves out to be, being authentic about our greatness as much as our failures and going beyond having ‘good intentions’ to contribute and be someone who actually does contribute. Someone who, despite their fear or concern about what others think, makes things happen.
The National Because of Her, We Can Ebook is a tribute to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Right across Australia there are endless examples of strong and successful Indigenous women leading the way. This Ebook shines a light on 12 of our country’s Indigenous women, including four Queenslanders, who are leading and succeeding in business. These women show the strength, resilience, hard work, creativity and intelligence that are crucial elements in business success. Their stories, journeys and the lessons learned are as diverse as they are, but all offer inspirational advice.
The Honourable Di Farmer MP
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
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