My favourite subject in the MBA I completed over 20 years ago with UNSW Australian Graduate School of Management was “Managing People”. Loretta O’Donnell, the course convenor, was a specialist in what was a developing field at that time and now commonly referred to as Change Management. Loretta applied her broad and deep knowledge (as well as a gentle sense of humour) in bringing the course work to life. A great introduction to the world of “grey” for a professional engineer, far more experienced in solving technical problems! As an additional fun fact – not especially relevant to the story – she has spent the last decade as Vice Provost, Academic Affairs at Nazarbayev University in (of all places) Kazakhstan.

I vividly recall the first lecture in which she began with the following principle:

“Effective management and leadership of others is underpinned by strong self-management.”

AGSM MBA, Managing People,1996

The words I typically use when expressing this concept would never have been uttered by the ever-polite Loretta:

“To manage and lead, you need to get your own s**t together!”

The message contained in both statements is simple: Effective leadership stems from a place of self-responsibility.

Resilience, or successful adaption to difficult circumstances, starts with showing up.

In my experience, when things get tough most people look for someone else – anyone else – to take the lead.

Resilient leaders look inside themselves and show up. Whether they’re the designated boss or not. Regardless of whether they’re feeling sad or glad, mad or bad.

Because there are other people about who need to rely on them.

Peter Wilkinson – Director, Sam Wilko Advisory

Author of “The Steel Ceiling: Achieving Sustainable Growth in Engineering and Construction” Wiley, 2023