Belinda Smith takes leadership in her stride, having proven herself to be capable, tenacious and passionate in all her endeavours.
Her past roles and accomplishments include being the first female to hold a senior management role at Mullane Maintenance when she was the General Manager, the 2005 Telstra Young Businesswomen of the Year and the 2011 Newcastle Woman of the Year.
She is now Manager of Commercial Business at Hunter TAFE, but also serves on many local advisory boards. Her most recent undertaking is the creation of The Equal Futures Project, which aims to raise funds for, and awareness of, local organisations working to support women in the Hunter region.
For a snapshot of our audio interview with Belinda Smith, please view the above video.
TO READ THE EDITED INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE SEE BELOW.
- You’ve clearly had a varied career, but in your ‘day job’ and in your volunteer pursuits, how do you manage conflicting priorities and your time?
Whilst I aim to be super organised, with everything in files and folders, that’s not always how it pans out. I have many competing priorities so what I have learned is that I really need to keep front of mind what my top priority areas are.
My top three priorities are very simple; it’s about having a balanced mind, body and soul. So most of what I do these days pretty loosely fits into one, two or all of those categories.
What that looks like in practice is scheduling some time out, as well as practicing saying ‘no’. That’s a really difficult thing for a lot of people to do, it’s much easier to say yes, but my experience has been that you get a lot more enjoyment and satisfaction out of life if you say no to the things don’t fit with your top priorities.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
I have a lot of respect both for the people that I work with at Hunter TAFE who do amazing work behind the scenes, but also there are the people out there who are the rule-breakers, the risk-takers in our community. They are the entrepreneurs, the people that are often doing things quietly behind the scenes to make a better life for people in our community. They’re the people that introduce really cool and innovative brands and products and services, into not just our region but also on a national or global scale.
If I had to pick, the work that Melissa Histon is doing with The Sista Code blog is really inspiring and amazing. I spent some time recently with Mel in Nepal on the Habitat for Humanity build. I got to learn a lot about what makes her tick. She’s taken some of her life experiences and shared them with people locally and globally. I have a lot of respect for what she’s doing in that space.
There’s also a lot of really amazing women leading some of our business chambers throughout the region. To see these women who have businesses of their own, families and other interests of their own pitching their efforts to support other businesses and the region is really fantastic.
- What leadership style do you use?
If I had to sum it up, I consult and collaborate with a diverse range of people. We agree on what we are setting out to do and we work together to achieve our objectives.
I am to make sure everyone at the end of that process is empowered, has grown and is a better person for having been involved.
- What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I believe the biggest challenge facing leaders is the need to create an equitable and dynamic workforce.
That’s not necessarily consisting of employees in the traditional sense. We’re rapidly moving towards a collaborative, outsourced model – where teams come together to achieve a distinct goal and then they move on to other things.
Our current models and constructs for leadership don’t necessarily support that shift.
The individuals and organisations in leadership roles that can shape that approach, around this reality, will be those who stand out from the crowd and don’t just survive, but who really thrive.
- How do you define the difference between a Manager and a Leader?
In my office I have a quote from Steve Jobs, which says that ‘innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower’. I love that quote because I think it’s simple and clearly it sums up how Steve Jobs became successful.
I watched a video this week called ‘Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy’. It doesn’t look like a normal leadership lesson, but what it highlights is the importance of the first follower.
A leader can have an amazing vision, can have this desire to create a movement, but leaders need to have a first follower. The first follower help sell that message and to provide the nurturing and the support mechanisms to the rest of the followers to make sure that the leader can be followed in a constructive and supported way.
I think the importance of these first followers ‚Äì or managers – will emerge as more critical. The leaders who will truly stand out head and shoulders above the rest are those that can pick the best first followers.
The Equal Futures Project raises awareness of gender inequality in workplaces, homes andthe community.It engages business leaders to create an inclusive culture where diversity is respected and valued, and women and men have an equal opportunity of success.