I AM writing this column on Diwali, the Indian Christmas and Festival of Light, the morning after a visit to Newcastle Business Club by co-host of Channel Nine’s Today Show and editor at large of the Huffington Post Australia, Lisa Wilkinson.
When the opportunity arose to be the major sponsor of this event I jumped at it.
As a business owner who is passionate about Hunter business success I was keen to help bring such a high-profile woman to our city for the first time.
She has graced morning TV for nine years but started in print media.
The girl from Western Sydney who had no connections, a not-so-great HCS mark and a diploma from secretarial college, loved magazines.
She was particularly fond of Dolly as a teen. Lisa beat several hundred applicants for a “girl Friday” position with the magazine.
Two years later she was editor. She tripled its circulation.
At the late Kerry Packer’s request she became editor at Cleo, shut down its famous male centrefold, and increased its circulation by 50 per cent.
Here are five lessons I took away from her address.
1. You can’t have it all. I’m glad she addressed this myth that’s often held up as the female holy grail.
2. Family is important and sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Before her second child was born, Lisa decided to leave her high-powered career to be a mum. Many questioned her decision and she struggled but it was right for her. Back at work, her fame has caused her kids some issues. She said she was sorry but it is who she is and then helped them get through it.
3. Surround yourself with talent. Lisa admitted she always employed the best and brightest, encouraged think tank sessions and listened.
4. Bring other talent through. Lisa has mentored and given breaks to a number of men and women who’ve gone on to great careers. Nicole Kidman is one. I see many instances where great talent leaves a business early because a leader is threatened.
5. Be opinionated, not a try hard. Leaders must have their own ideas and work very hard to make them a reality as Lisa has done. She is genuine, not calculating. She says she’s been lucky but I see someone who has seized opportunities to make her own luck. She did the jobs no one wanted to do at Dolly initially.
Lisa’s story is of a woman who is not afraid of hard work and determined to not let naysayers bring her down.
She’s broken some rules, jumped in at the deep end and relished getting out of her comfort zone. Most importantly, Lisa is clearly passionate about what she does.
You may not think of her as a traditional business leader but she displays all the hallmarks of one.
Shivani Gupta is the founder of Passionate People Institute and an author, speaker and leadership mentor