Leading Women
Leading Women
Mar 14, 2021
Louise Adams, Chief Operating Officer – Australia and New Zealand of Aurecon on the power of visibility for leading in a new era
Play • 32 min

This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Louise Adams, Chief Operating Officer – Australia and New Zealand of Aurecon. She is also a Mentor of the Minerva Network, National Advisory Board Member of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Member of Chief Executive Women and Board Director of Aurecon Australasia.

She was named 2020 CEO of the Year by The CEO Magazine, a 2018 Scholar by the Chief Executive Women and received a High Commendation as one of the Champions of Change Female Leadership Award by Consult Australia.


Valuable Discussion Points

(01:21) What is the story of Louise’s leadership journey?

Louise felt that her leadership journey started out quite accidentally. Her passion was to travel and she wanted to link her career with her ability to travel, having some opportunities to travel with the work. One of the directors of Aurecon wanted to open an office in Western Australia and offered Louise the job of leading the office there. As the office grew, she grew with it. She continued to jump at opportunities that took her overseas. She headed overseas to the UK, the UAE until she was offered another role back in Australia.


(05:16) What is the “what next” moment for Louise?

When Louise was starting her career, whenever an opportunity was given to her, she would jump in without really knowing where it was heading. Now, she is at a point in her career where she can visualise where she wants to be next, what she aspires to become and where she wants to be in 10 or 15 years. This is her "what next" moment. She has built herself a bank of experience, connections, networks and professional reputation that rather than just taking in the opportunities as they come to her, she can now start to design opportunities and create opportunities for herself in areas that she wanted them to be to put her on the right path for her planned future endeavours.


(16:02) What are her thoughts on young people who are really driven, ambitious and want to keep moving and growing but without really thinking about, where they are now and how they can demonstrate that they can deliver here and now?


A CV is a reflection of the experiences that you have in your career and a CV is like a report card that can open opportunities for you. You've got to really appreciate that the depth of the CV comes from actually making the most of opportunities. Louise advises young people that she mentors to sort of hasten slowly and prove themselves in their roles.


(24:46) With all of Louise’s leadership experience, nothing could have prepared her for 2020, what was 2020 like for her and what wisdom did she gain from that year?


For her, 2020 is going to go down as the most challenging year in most people's professional careers, if not personal lives. What really resonated with her was that every time she faced thousands of people who are looking to her for leadership during times of crisis, she emphasised the importance of authenticity and the willingness to be quite open about that she won't always have the answers.


Key Learnings

  • Leaders have perhaps tended to hold expectations of themselves or perhaps other people held expectations of leaders that leaders naturally know the answers to everything. We live in such a fast changing, evolving world that can be disrupted and is constantly disrupted, be it by technology or by the circumstances the world finds itself in 2020. Leaders need to be able to show vulnerability, to show that it really is impossible for one person to have the answers to everything.
  • Decades ago, a typical army approach to leadership may have worked, where leaders can say I know what you need to do because I've been there and I've done that before. Nowadays, with the size and complexity of organisations and often the multidisciplinary nature of organisations, it's very rare for you to have a leader that actually can look at everybody in the organisation and say, I've done what you've done. Add to that the fact that you're introducing technology at such a rate, you're often as a leader, going to be asking people to do things that you really haven't had to do yourself.
  • Louise added being specific about where one wanted to go in their leadership journey to the Leadership Toolbox. Where do you want to be in 10 years? What sort of CV would you need to have to get that job that you want in 10 years? And then comparing it with your CV on the day with the CV that you needed in 10 years and looking for the gaps. Ask yourself, what are the career opportunities that I need to go and create for myself to make the ideal CV that I'm going to put on the table in 10 years to get that ultimate outcome that I want.


Quotable Quotes

“You don't suddenly wake up at a point in your career and say, I'm a leader, and therefore I have all of the suite of tools and experiences and skills to be a leader that leadership in and of itself is this ongoing lifelong learning journey.” – Louise Adams


“You need to earn the right to be able to have people follow you.”– Louise Adams


“We were starting to see this ongoing trend where people and communities were standing up to corporations and saying, we expect you to stand for more than just profit. And I think, therefore, there's a lesson to be learnt for leaders that you really have to find. What is your passion?”– Louise Adams


Important Resources and Links

If you would like to learn more about how CommBank is ensuring women are advancing their growth in business, visit https://www.commbank.com.au/women-in-focus.html.

Host of the Leading Women podcast, Shadé Zahrai helps women hack their careers to advance faster, overcome their limiting beliefs and confidently create the life they deserve. She is featured in Forbes, the New York Times, TED, Daily Mail and other media. If you’re interested in learning more about Shadé and the issues she’s currently discussing, visit https://www.shadezahrai.com

If you’re interested in connecting with Louise Adms or viewing her professional portfolios and achievements, visit her LinkedIn via https://www.linkedin.com/in/louiseadamsaurecon

The Leading Women podcast is produced by Nicole Hatherly, recorded at RadioHub Studios with post production by Cooper Silk and Iain Wilson.

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