It was a pleasure to welcome Dr David M Williams AM to our Zoom conference to present the leadership philosophy he pioneered: ‘The 7 Axioms of Leadership’.
David is an eminent leader in the Illawarra in both the business and community sectors. He is CEO of MWLP - a not for profit organisation focused on supporting youth in their personal and professional career development by assisting young people make the successful transition from school to work. He was awarded a Member Order of Australia (AM) in 2014 in recognition of his countless contributions to the Illawarra region and was the first Doctor of Business Administration to graduate from the University of Wollongong.
Developed for Dr Williams’ doctoral thesis, his studies focused on the 7 things that successful leaders must consider:
Illustrated by fascinating anecdotes from David’s life and career, he leaves the impression of a man who lives, and Leads, his most authentic life.
Following the presentation we held a Q&A with Dr Williams:
If context is critical, how can leadership thrive in uncertainty, ie COVID times?
David refers to the importance of developing foresight and asking: What are the things that I can do, how can I assist, what things do I have hidden away ‘in my box’ that I can bring out in this unforeseeable situation?
How do we make our teams feel safe and secure in uncertain times?
David gives the example of how he shouted his team a takeout meal during lockdown to lift morale and let them know that they are valued.
In a crisis why do some leaders ‘drop the reins’ or lose their way once out of their comfort zones?
David uses his tent-pole analogy to illustrate how a situation such as COVID can expose weaknesses in leadership skills – for example capability or adaptability. Some leaders find it impossible to operate outside their established way of doing things.
[referring to the Leadership Tent] David, if intellect provides the guy ropes, is it possible to provide good leadership coverage with just character and intellect?
No, I don’t think you can! The character will hold up but the guy ropes provide the support, and ultimately the supporting attributes will be necessary.
Do you think that our political leaders (or some of them) have learned to embrace their Authenticity during the COVID crisis?
No! They have to stick to the party line and it’s extremely difficult for them to express their authenticity. They risk being cast out if they step outside the party rules.
Some of our leader have blind-spots in terms of skills but are very good at surrounding themselves with people who plug those gaps, is that part of a leadership skill-set?
Yes, one of the ‘guy rope skills’ is recognising your own deficiencies and finding and trusting people who are good at those things.
Who is a leader that you aspire to and why?
I really admire Sir William Deane, Governor General 1996-2001, for his humility. “When the Olympic flame arrived in Australia in 2000 there was a crowd waiting to see it and instead of whisking it away in the waiting car, he walked among the crowd with the flame in a lamp so that the people could see it up close before handing it over to the officials. One example among many of his humility and authenticity as a leader.”
Posted by Beth
This event was a make-up site tour after the planned trip to Mercer was cancelled due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Thanks to Zahra Shahbazian for the idea and for facilitating introductions.
TRICEP (Translational Research Initiative for Cell Engineering and Printing), is a UOW-owned facility that works with research institutions and industry to develop innovative technologies using 3D bioprinting. After watching the 30-minute online site tour we were joined by Associate Professor Stephen Beirne for a Q&A ...
Tell us about your leadership journey?
Stephen celebrates his 10 year anniversary of working at TRICEP this week and has seen many changes and advances in technology in that time. Now he heads up a team of engineers and clinicians to find innovative product solutions for medtech manufacturers.
Working collaboratively with UOW, how do we [the Illawarra] promote the incredible skills base we have here?
Speaking as an Illawarra 'native' who came from elsewhere, Stephen sees this as a regional mentality that needs to change - the region, and specifically Wollongong needs to see itself as more than a 'steel town', because it has so much more to offer.
How do you find and recruit engineers for TRICEP?
TRICEP recruits on a project basis and use our collaborative networks at UOW. It's common for staff to move on to other projects elsewhere after 2(ish) years, and this is encouraged, in order for the young professionals to get broader experience. They inevitably stay in touch and may return, or become collaborators on future projects. However, the operations at TRICEP are expanding and they are considering extending the 2-year rule, in order to retain their investment in knowledge and training.
How far away from the market are the products we saw in the tour?
[Laughs knowingly, as this question inevitably comes up] If you are asking how long before we can print human organs [yes that's exactly what we're asking] then no sooner than 50 years in the future. Some of the titanium and ceramic implants are commercially available now, and the bioinks (not the hydrogels), but we are still a long way off from complex organs.
Vote of thanks by Raychel Davis.
Posted by Beth.
Blog posts written by the Leadership Illawarra Program Cohort.