Sonia McDonald, CEO Leadership HQ is an entrepreneur, speaker and author of two leadership texts, with her second book “Just Rock It” out soon. Sonia’s business Leadership HQ started from a leadership blog she enjoyed writing, and the encouragement from others that she should start a business using her skill set in the area. Having worked as a leadership consultant in the human resources and organisational development fields across a range of industries for a number of years, she calls herself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. As well as authoring her own thought leadership, Sonia stays current with cutting edge research to empower herself and her clients, who are predominantly emerging and female leaders.
Sonia radiates confidence, passion, enthusiasm and her most compelling quality is her unvarnished honesty around the ups and downs of her entrepreneurial journey and how she came to it. As someone who has studied the fields of neuroscience as a basis for leadership development, Sonia harnesses the power of strengths based leadership. She is focussed on helping others to direct their own path, to take control of their mindset and is unflinching around her belief in her own vision and purpose.
How did you fall in love with leadership?
The thing that really captured me, heart and soul, was seeing and feeling the difference it makes when people begin to see themselves as leaders. It’s so powerful. And it’s not just in the difference it makes to the one person, either; it’s the ripple effect great leadership has on the people they lead. By helping one person discover their leadership talent and building their confidence to take on the role, I help change a whole organisation for the better.
Tell us about some of the most exciting moments in business when you were building it.
Other than watching new leaders bloom, I can point to dozens of truly exciting and quite emotional moments. I launched the Leadership HQ.Magazine so I could reach further and impact on more leadership talent. I’ve helped thousands of current and emerging leaders rock it as leaders. I’ve released my first book, “Leadership Attitude” and will soon publish my second book called “Just Rock It!” The feedback on everything has been amazing. My blog at LeadershipHQ was named as one of the Best 50 Leadership Blog Sites in 2015 and 2016, and I’ve been listed as one of Richtopia’s TOP 250 Powerful Women across the Globe. It tells me I’m onto something here, and what I do is important. There are so many exciting moments, big and small, and they all add up to keep me powering along. They let me keep rocking it!
How has technology changed and shaped your business over the last 9 years?
Without technology, my business would look totally different. Technology has helped us get our messages out to people globally thanks to social media. I’ve been able to build online leadership programs like Leadership Attitude Academy so people can access training no matter where in the world they are. Technology has given me the tools to produce and publish the quarterly LeadershipHQ magazine. It’s also allowed me to publish my videos and podcasts, sharing insights into leadership. Thanks to technology, I can even stay on top of my business as I travel. It’s thanks to the tools technology has given me that I’ve been able to achieve as much as I have over the last few years.
Has technology influenced your leadership advice and support or just how you work?
It certainly has. Apart from it giving me a global reach and helping us make a difference globally, it has changed the way leaders lead. Great leaders have to stay up to date and that includes incorporating technology into their work practices. When I work with leaders, I show them how technology can support them and their teams in their jobs. But in some ways, more importantly, I also help them learn to keep it under control. For example, email and social media keep team members in touch with each other when they are geographically divided, but it can also dominate your day if you let it. So yes, it has changed how I work as well as the advice I give to others.
How do you think Australian culture impacts Australians’ leadership style?
I’ve noticed that the Australian leadership style is quite laid back in most cases, which is a typically Aussie way of life. We don’t seem to like taking risks until we absolutely must. In some ways, that’s quite sensible. Why change things that are working well? But without some willingness to take a risk now and then, there would be no change, no innovation. However, when we do take a risk, Australians work it until it pays off. It’s a very positive attitude combined with a healthy sense of realism.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The hardest thing for me has been getting up after being knocked down. It’s hard to overcome the feeling of failure that comes when you’re being criticised. But that’s part of the job, isn’t it? If you’re going to change something, there’s always going to be a reaction. Sometimes it’s positive and others it’s not. I still struggle with it today but I am learning to stay focussed and positive, and keep striving to do the best I can.
What are you most proud of?
Without doubt, it would have to be the significance the business has had on leadership and leaders here in Australia and around the world. I’ve helped people grow and leaders evolve, and I’ve watched companies expand because of it. I’m proud to have been instrumental in the process.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
In two words – own it.
We lead in our own way. We have our own unique talents and leadership attitudes. We don’t need to be like anyone else. Be proud to be female and proud to be a leader. Take up the role and own it. It really is yours.