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Leading in challenging, changing times

13 March 2013

For me, there were three highlights in 2012: attending Harvard Business School in the US, publishing my latest book around how Australians lead in crises, and running in a game park in Africa to raise funds for Camp Quality. 

Early in the year I was invited to attend the Harvard Business School’s Global Leadership Best Practice program. Leaders from more than 30 industries and 20 countries attended, and I was proud to be among their number.
The school boasts lecturers of the calibre of John Kotter and Linda Hill, both of whom were amazing. John Kotter is widely regarded as the foremost speaker on the topics of Leadership and Change and is Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the school.

Australia was well represented in the program: six women, the highest number of women from one country, attended. 

At the farewell dinner I was one of three people selected by my classmates to speak.  For many reasons the whole experience was emotionally charging, especially when I considered that from the age of 21, ‘going to Harvard’ has been one of my “Big Dreams”.

Such an experience over, I quickly followed up with the elation and success of publishing my latest book: Leadership Revelations II How Australians Lead in Crises.

Launched by Professor Peter Shergold in May, the book considers that prior to the current global financial crises, leading in a time of economic prosperity was simpler.

Today, however, faced with financial and political instability, many people have become fearful, and many organisations have slashed budgets and jobs with devastating consequences. Great leaders understand the importance of engaging people to deliver better outcomes in tough times, and they do this through listening, communicating honestly; being courageous, authentic and resilient.
Through my interviews I found that great leaders know the importance of motivating and managing their people in times of change. They understand that if they take care of their people, their people will take care of their clients and profits will follow. I looked at what the best leaders do to take people on the change journey with them, and how to survive and even prosper in times of crisis. I am particularly proud of the fact that the book is one of the only leadership books at present where 50% of the contributors are women leaders.

Since its publication, my book’s been named one of the five “brain food books of 2012” by the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine.

Highlight number three: a half marathon in the Entabeni Game Reserve in Africa, which raised more than $16,000 for Camp Quality.

Running in the African bush in the company of 200 other runners from 29 countries, with zebras, giraffes, buffalos, elephants and many other animals, was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. It also reinforced that through hard work, resilience, a positive mind-set and confidence in yourself, you can do and achieve anything.

Tell yourself it’s possible, and it is possible.
I’ll leave you with this thought from the pages of Leadership Revelations II: “Yesterday Leaders –¬ commanded and controlled; Today Leaders – empower and coach; Tomorrow Leaders will collaborate, include and transform. The time has come for Tomorrow Leaders.”  

Are you ready to be a Tomorrow Leader?

Avril Henry is a keynote speaker, author, consultant and executive coach and the Managing Director of Avril Henry Pty Limited, a leadership and management consulting business. 
Contact: +61 414 862 527, or