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More than ever we need to broaden what it means to lead. Leadership has a too limiting definition. It seems to relate to only the chosen few, and we need to challenge this perspective.

We can respond by starting to build in our organisations unlikely leadership. The founding principle of unlikely leadership is knowing that leadership is inherent in everyone if it is developed and empowered. There is so much untapped human potential hidden within every work place. Increased complexity and constant disruption means that organisations need as broad a leadership bench as possible. Developing unlikely leaders - unleashing leadership from unexpected people and places makes sense. 

If not me, who? If not now, when?
- Hillel the Elder

An unlikely leader is someone who can impact and influence, no matter their job title, age, or background. I was once an unlikely leader, and this is why I am so passionate about freeing our understanding around leadership. More than ever we need diverse voices, skills, world views, backgrounds and experiences contributing to the health of our organisations and institutions.

Some of the most incredible leaders I’ve ever met couldn’t read or write, relying on their thumbprint to sign their name. They faced harsh conditions, and huge obstacles. They were not anointed, but they lead.

Meet Kaya, a Bangladeshi woman not typically considered ‘leadership material.’ When I met her she was 18 – but she was married at 12 and had her first baby at 14. She’d never gone to school. Now it would be easy to write her off as a victim, but she had other ideas. She saw women being trained to lead and she wanted to be part of that. At 18, she ran a campaign to stop all other child marriages in her village. Now that’s leadership!

Kaya is not an anomaly. We all have the ability, as unlikely as we might be, to lead. In my experience unlikely leadership is a combination of the following:

  • Believe in yourself that you have what it takes. Don’t wait to be asked, or for approval from the masses. That you are alive and want to make a difference is enough. Start from there.
  • Cultivate a reason. It doesn’t have to be huge, but when you look at a leader you admire, they had a purpose and a reason. You need this because leading takes us out of our comfort zone. When you’re getting pushback and criticism, or you are confronted with just how indifferent the world is to you, your ‘why’ is your compass.
  • Personal responsibility. Nothing happens without this. Personal responsibility is a choice. You choose to act. You choose to impact. You make the issue you are confronting your responsibility. You can watch me share more on personal responsibility in this short video.

When we reframe who is a leader, and open up the concept of unlikely leadership, we are able to unlock and unleash talent, innovation and potential across a whole organisation. It’s how culture changes and how movements are started. 

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
- J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

A massive thank you to you both for all your assistance from selecting to co-ordinating the speakers for our annual ProLoan conference. Feedback was that this year’s speakers where the best they had EVER heard at ANY event. So this is pretty amazing, because they do go to a lot of sessions like these.

Director of Network Relationships - Proloan (aust) pty ltd

Again this year you and your team have been fantastic and extremely helpful.  In regards to you Sharm, you have been an absolute star and phenomenal help with our speakers and presenters, a great communicator, wealth of knowledge and so prompt with responding and looking at ways to cater to our needs.

Event Manager Fitness Australia

I would recommend, without hesitation, the services of Jane Rowland Smith and Ovations. Jane answered a last minute call to arrange a guest speaker for our principals. Nothing was too much effort, all was arranged within hours, and went very smoothly. The guest speaker was exactly what we required and our brief was followed. Thank you Jane and the team at Ovations.

Executive Director of Schools Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

All aspects of the process has always gone seamlessly with Ovations and we will continue to seek your assistance for the awards in the coming years.

Thank you again, your help has meant that our Awards are very professional and extremely well received by our members and guests.

Executive Assistant BSCAA NSW Division

Jane, I personally want to thank you for all of your support, advice, patience and all round kindness that you have given me over the last 3 or so years.  This event would not have been as successful without the valuable MC’s you have recommended and the support you provided me when it all just seemed too hard

Shona Dilley – Smart School Awards, Department of Education
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