By Mel White – Southern Volunteering SA Inc

Thanks to the support of the Community Business Bureau through a half scholarship, plus the support of the Southern Volunteering Board of Management and my own personal financial investment, I was delighted to be successful in obtaining a place to embark on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) in February 2019. GLF is an intensive leadership program run by the Leader’s Institute of South Australia, providing development to South Australian leaders across all sectors. Each year, CBB sponsors two half scholarship for not for profit leaders, in memory of one of CBB’s founding board members, Keith Fulton.

As the opening retreat grew closer I was feeling apprehensive and excited as to what the year would bring. The opening weekend was a fabulous start to the course ahead, with highlights being the immediate – and sometimes confronting – intense examination of yourself as a leader. I was very interested to explore my fears and what was potentially holding me back, and to see that everyone else in the room had fears, despite their career stature. It was exhausting but incredibly valuable. I was able to share my Leadership Circle profile with staff and Board at Southern Volunteering SA (SVSA), asking for their help to let me know when my areas for improvement were showing up – particularly my ‘courageous authenticity’. This early sharing led to a regular scheduled feedback after each month’s GLF, at the staff and Board meetings, whereby I could cascade my learning to everybody in the organisation, thus getting more ‘bang for the buck’ on the investment.

Applied learning examples

Redarc visit

A scheduled visit to Redarc, a large electronics company near our office, base had me thinking beforehand what on earth I would gain from the session. How wrong could I be! Anthony Kittel, the owner of the company, talked about values and planning in a way that resonated with me, running a small not for profit. Following the visit, I reached out to Redarc and asked if Anthony would address our Board and staff team in preparation for drafting SVSA’s new strategic plan for 2020. He obliged and the whole team benefited from looking at our own planning through a different lens, which I believe broadened everyone’s horizons and generated more ideas than previous planning ever has. In return we also held a session via one of our Board members on innovation and invited Redarc staff to attend. We have established our first corporate relationship with Redarc, with them offering use of their meeting room for us to host future volunteer training sessions.

Training for volunteer managers

I was able to incorporate learning on adaptive leadership into a workshop I delivered to local government volunteer managers. One of the main issues facing volunteer managers is leading volunteers through change. An insight into adaptive leadership and cascading this learning gave a different viewpoint as to how to deal with this. Particularly the insight that people do not fear change, they fear loss. Adaptive leadership is about assessing the potential losses the change may bring and working with people to address this.

Reconciliation session

This session has led to us planning new exercises to incorporate into cultural training we intend to deliver with future funding, in particular a ‘privilege walk’.

Shadow work session

This information was cascaded to staff to look at in their own time. I certainly felt the learning around the awareness of your own personal shadow was fundamental to understanding how to engage successfully with people you generally find it challenging to interact with.

Environmental sessions

This put a spotlight on our practices as an organisation and, although considerably environmentally conscious already, we have made further small changes.

Presentation skills session

A session on presentation skills also talked about values statements, learning which was brought back to the organisation and incorporated into our new strategic plan.

General summary

The Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program has given me the opportunity to interact with professionals from diverse backgrounds and sectors, giving me differing viewpoints on a range of issues. As a fairly new arrival to Adelaide, the presentations and visits have deepened my knowledge of the country and state I now call home, enabling me to understand the business, political and economic systems much better. What I have valued most of all, is the spotlight the program has put on my own leadership style and the opportunity to examine this and develop as a leader. I have also been able to cascade many of the learnings in my own organisation and out into the sector.

GLF learnings have enabled me to cope with some huge personal life changes in 2019, giving me clarity in decision making and a renewed sense of resilience. Most importantly it has given me a new network of 41 peers who I know I can rely on and with whom I share a very special bond now. I am particularly delighted to have connected with two other participants whom I now consider close friends.