Positivity and vision are critical to the success of a leader, according to outgoing Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA Chief Executive Officer Deidre Willmott.
Willmott was a fitting guest at CCI’s last Lighthouse Leadership luncheon for 2017 on Monday, regaling the crowd of 150 with stories from her extensive career and the lessons she has learned on her journey.
Since starting her career as an industrial relations lawyer in Perth, Willmott has worked with some impressive leaders in high profile roles. She was Senior Executive for Fortescue Chairman Andrew Forrest, and for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and Chief of Staff to WA Premiers Richard Court and Colin Barnett.
She says the most effective leaders she has seen had a clear vision that they were able to effectively communicate.
“The leaders I’ve seen have that vision which they totally believe is achievable, and they totally believe that it’s really important to everybody involved that it is achieved,” she says.
“Those leaders also inspire people to do things and reach targets they never believed they could.”
Willmott said she had seen the impact positivity had on the leaders she had worked with and had tried to implement that optimism throughout her own leadership roles.
“Some of the leaders I have worked with have confessed to me well after the event that they did have doubts, but at the time nobody saw them,” she said.
“I make an effort to be positive and optimistic. Some days you don’t feel particularly energetic but you need to find that energy.”
When asked how she found so much professional success, Willmott said her tactic was a simple one: “My approach has always just been doing your best every day and opportunities will come along.”
“I think my career shows that I’ve always been interested in new opportunities and I would say those opportunities have come because I’ve tried to work really hard to achieve things on the way.”
Gender equality is a passion for Willmott and she told the crowd that when she entered law, the balance was way off. But fortunately, she had always felt she had been able to progress her career.
“When I left university, there were more women in law school than men but within the profession there were no women partners, no women judges and no women on senior counsel,” she said.
She said something isn’t working in the current workforce and it needed to be addressed, which is why she joined the group CEOs for Gender Equity.
“I look around now and I say: ‘Where is everybody and why is the research telling us that women are still dropping out of law and engineering and various industries four or five years into their careers?’,” she said.
“Why does WA still have the worst pay gap in Australia? Individuals can tell a very positive story but the data shows something is still not working.”
Wilmott confirmed her last day at the helm of CCI would be 23 February 2018 and that she would focus on family and other board positions.