Sally Foley-Lewis

As a young girl, before I started school, I remember playing with an old typewriter. I wasn’t old enough to know how to spell many words, but I knew that a typewriter produced documents of words. I would tap away on those keys pretending I was typing the most important reports, memos and letters. With head held high and chest puffed with pride, I would pull pages out of the typewriter with gusto and stack the sheets neatly on the corner of my makeshift desk. I would then boldly walk – read:stomp – around the front room (AKA my office), giving all my imaginary minions tasks to do. I was in my little happy place with order and a hint of bossiness.

If you asked my mum what’s one thing she remembers about me when I was in primary school, she would tell you how bossy and organised I was. Mum loves to share the story of how I was one of the key instigators of the students’ demand that my primary school provide softer, better-quality toilet paper. I don’t recall much of the situation, but I, along with my comrades, organised a petition. Did we get softer, better toilet paper? I honestly can’t remember. Being organised, wanting to improve a situation and being a bit bossy – that I do remember!

I aspired to work in a position of leadership. Back then, I thought to have a job title that included words such as chief, executive or manager meant I was the best, that I had made it! So, when I became the head of a youth organisation, my ego well and truly went into overdrive. I really thought I had made it.

That lasted all of a week – if that! I quickly discovered how challenging it was to go from working with my colleagues to being their “boss”; to manage multiple and shifting priorities; to make sense of, filter and translate broad strategic information (that changed so much and often your head would spin) into operational language; oh, and to grow the membership.

It was lonely and it impacted my life professionally and personally. I had to stop and re-think my approach to the way I worked, the way I led my team, and the way I led myself.

I had two saving graces. The first was the dedication of the team I had the privilege of working with. Was it all sweetness and roses? No, of course not. But overall, they were a great team. The second was the ultimatum I was given at home: it was a “something’s gotta give” situation. It was the toughest and best wake-up call I had ever received!

My involvement with youth leadership and service organisations as I grew up (even working for a few) and learning first-hand the role of the leader prompted me to blend my inner organiser with my love of service. This mix is no doubt a fundamental influence on my obsession with helping leaders be more confident and productive. I don’t want any leader to feel what I felt or to go through what I went through. This is why I share my stories, learning and insights.

I won’t let isolation, mis-matched or lack of support, lack of development happen to you!

Today, I work with dedicated professionals who know that leadership is a behaviour. It’s a journey, and part of being a successful leader is constantly looking for ways to improve. Being a productive leader encompasses all this. I have the great privilege of working with thousands of managers across multiple industries, internationally and in Australia. I’m passionate about helping them to be successful leaders. No matter the geography or the culture, common self-leadership, productivity, and leadership challenges face us all. No one can escape the reach of needing to be exceptional productive, people leaders.

It matters not what role you’re in or what your job title is. You are a leader. A leader is not a job title – it’s a behaviour. If you have a burning desire to be a better, happier and more self- and productive leader in your life and for your team, business or organisation, then make a decision to give yourself permission to take the life long journey of personal and professional development.

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