Lessons on leadership 

July 4, 2024

UWA Fogarty Scholar and John Monash Scholars alum in conversation with South Australian Governor Frances Adamson AC 

Tom Williams, a UWA Fogarty Scholar alum from the 2008 cohort and a Woodside John Monash Scholar from the 2015 cohort, leveraged his experience and work in China to interview Her Excellency the Hon Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia. This interview was part of the John Monash Foundation’s Leadership Series. 

The interview highlighted a collection of leadership insights, summarised below.  

1. Understand people in their whole context. If you remember names, who and what matters to whom, and how each individual interacts with the world, you can better encourage others to feel a part of something larger and empowered to participate in making it grow.    

2. Give trust to gain trust. Do so as early as possible. Communicate to others what your standards and expectations are, and that beyond this you will trust them to go about their pursuits in the best way they see fit. Let specialists be specialists and practice their expertise. Still, pay attention to everything that is going on within a group, and ensure that the open environment is not being taken advantage of by bad actors. A well-protected culture of trust brings fulfilment and better results.   
3. Be as collaborative as possible. Life is long, and you will never know when you will see and work with others again. Focus on the positive aspects of relationships. Emphasise ways in which individuals can work together in the long run. In this way, you can foster understanding and cohesion in the moment and at unexpected crossroads in the future.   
4. Communicate impartiality and demonstrate that the decisions you make are part of a larger context. This helps de-personalise conflict, gives everyone a sense of proportion, and clears space for information sharing and idea exploration. This also extends to seeking sources of knowledge and innovation. Status doesn’t matter when it comes to expertise and creativity; good ideas and best practices must be sought out everywhere.   
5. Change with change. When not in a crisis, constantly seek feedback and input from all parts of an organisation. When in a crisis, take a firm hand to the tiller and set the direction until the storm subsides.    
6. Chip away over decades at a few particular skills, in a context that values those skills, and in which they can be deployed. A steady focus applied to the next best move on a day is a flywheel that delivers compounding results each year.   
7. When you are at work, be there. When you are at home, be there. Be where you are and if you feel you need to apologise for it, that’s a sign you are probably not in the right place.   
8. Finally, give glory to others. When something is achieved, make sure everyone stands in the limelight. 

Reproduced with permission of the John Monash Foundation, which provides Scholarships to postgraduate to support outstanding Australians to undertake studies anywhere in the world.   The Scholarship’s purpose is to foster Australian leadership, expertise and international networks for the long-term benefit of the country. The John Monash Scholarship is emblematic of our country’s academic talent, diversity and leadership excellence.    

Learn more about the John Monash Scholarship here! 

Share this article