More and more I am being asked why I do what I do and what drives me. It feels really strange to share my story as I have always been preoccupied by understanding other people and exploring why we do what we do. But, I guess others are equally as intrigued so I ask myself, “Who am I not to share my story?”
In my mind I am just an ordinary girl. I say girl because in my head I am still 20 and see myself as pretty unremarkable. Yet the reality is that I am double that age and have 40 years of experience and a mountain of value and mistakes that have made me who I am today,
So I am an ordinary girl who grew up in a small country town. Life was idyllic in many senses as I didn’t suffer any huge crisis in comparison to many. My family all lived locally and my cousins all went to the same school. I felt very safe and secure growing up and so this isn’t a story of woe and hardship. In fact it is a story about how, given the right environment, anyone can achieve their potential.
The women in my family were strong, bold and opinionated, but filled with heart and family centred. The men and women around me were role models and most were self employed and ran their own building, plumbing or carpentry businesses. My Step Father was incredibly driven and successful, and rose to the board of a manufacturing company.
I was challenged intellectually and to question everything. This curiosity is a gift for which I am eternally grateful.
Growing up I was looked around and saw female role models everywhere. Madonna was top of the charts and breaking many social norms about the role of a woman. The Queen was head of state, Diana was queen of hearts and Margaret Thatcher was the Iron Lady. I recall being in awe of Kate Adie, a female news reporter who put herself in direct danger to share powerful stories from around the world. From my secure background is wasn’t difficult to find inspiration from these amazing and strong leaders. Wisdom, strength, sexuality, courage, duty and caring were on display and I never questioned why a woman couldn’t Lead.
I was made head girl at 16 and that was the first time I really encountered my inner imposter. I couldn’t understand why I had been selected and had to question the teachers decision. They explained that it was because I was confident, driven and ambitious, but equally I could empathise and connect with people across all social backgrounds, ages and authority. Wow, pretty cool, but I didn’t really believe it.
It was around this time that I started to form my beliefs about life, and to question what I would do to make a living. I remember with total clarity when a belief fell into my heart and has guided me ever since. I belief with all my being that everyone can achieve their full potential, if they have the right environment and someone else to believe in them, more than they believe in themselves.
I now know this central belief is what has guided me throughout my life. It is why I have written the chapter, “How to Grow Leaders” in the best selling book, Fit-For-Purpose-Leadership#3, why I became a coach and why I became a successful Leader myself.
On one had I was a bold, courageous, driven, strong woman with ideals on changing the world. On the other I was the good girl from a small rural town. This push-pull had quite an impact on me in my 20’s as I tried to have it all. Following my university days I got married pretty quick. I followed the traditional rule book of married at 22, bought a house by 23, mother by 26 and 30, great career in the energy industry. I was hitting the gym, seeing my friends, developing my self and maxing out on life. According to the external world I was living the dream.
But, it was all fake. I was in debt, I was tied down by a house and marriage, I had chosen security and was playing small. By 32 I had reached my THRISIS. I had settled for an ordinary life, not the life I thought I would have. My thirties was a decade of unravelling. I divorced, quit the corporate life, sold my house, I retrained and started again. Where I once was a leader of people by position, now I became the leader of my own life. That was terrifying and exciting.
My story wasn’t going the way I was planning. In my new world I knew no-one, had zero clients, and no idea how I would survive, other than pure grit and a whole load of determination and an amazing foundation of love and support.
I believe that anyone can achieve their full potential if only they have the right environment and support around them.
The next few years of my story were chaotic. I was in a new relationship which was amazing on many levels, but highly destructive for both of us too. In many ways I succeeded, but on a personal level I failed so much. The relationship ended a week before my 40th birthday and was so painful for everyone involved. I wanted to blame him for everything, but being the leader of my own life I knew I had to take responsibility for my part in the relationship. Holding a mirror up to myself was horrific, but necessary and ultimately transformative.
The key themes that I have learned throughout my life so far are simple and inform my story are:
My Story continues. Hopefully I am not even halfway through my life, but I am making a difference. Through the work I do with my clients, leaders and rising talent, I am able to make an impact and to develop leaders to reach their full potential.
I am working with clients from all around the world, and who want to create a positive leadership ripple effect, impacting peoples work, lives, communities and ultimately the world.
But I also know that I am only scratching the surface of my own development, and continue to learn and grow everyday. My children are my biggest teachers right now, and I am excited to help them to create a world that they feel proud of.
My wish for you reader is to
Be bold in your choices, be courageous in your actions and to be true to yourself and your people.