Catherine Webber: A new perspective on what it really takes to lead through change

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Catherine Webber

Catherine is a senior public servant, and was surprised by what she found in the Sydney Leadership program.

“I didn’t learn what I expected to.  I thought there would be much more attention on the external situation, but there was a focus on internal self-awareness, things like checking on my intention.”

“It’s about learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I’m an A type personality and I don’t like failing, so if I began to feel uncomfortable with something then I’d move away from it. I associated the feeling of discomfort with failure, with deficiency, especially in government where success requires finding a solution. Sydney Leadership has changed this for me. I found the confidence to sit with the problem longer, to stay in the exploration stage, and I learnt that change is only generated once these feelings of uncertainty and confusion are openly discussed and worked through as a group.”

“Before I enrolled in the program I’d experienced a change process where senior government people, those with authority and with good intentions, were brought together to address a difficult, substantive issue. Even though all the right people were in the room, frustration grew throughout the process and at the end very little shifted. The core problems remained the same. I found myself asking how would I lead if I could do it differently?”  

“In Sydney Leadership there was a real emphasis on listening.  This was far from front of my mind when I went into the course, and I’ve learnt how to sit in a listening space, hearing perspectives I hadn’t accessed before. I’ve learnt about my blind spots – and how important it is to know these, especially in government!  The way I hear people and can value everyone’s contribution, this has stuck with me – with family, friends and in work I’m very aware and present with the conversations I’m having now.”

“We were also encouraged to learn from the wisdom of the group.  There is a real shift in  perspective on the role of the leader / teacher / learner, on who has authority.  We’re all exercising these roles all the time, and can learn how to move between them. That’s something I’ve been experimenting with since completing the program, and it’s completely changed the way I view myself and others in different contexts.”

When asked how she found taking this knowledge and experience back into the government system, Catherine’s response was - “Sydney Leadership ignited the possibility of different roles and kinds of work, which I was really excited to explore. I took 12 months leave without pay and set up my own online business selling accessories and homewares that are made and designed by women, who all receive a fair wage… I would never have had the confidence to do this before doing the Sydney Leadership program.  I’m going back next year, part-time, as my heart is in the idea of public service, of being a public servant.”

When asked what she would say to other’s thinking about the program, Catherine’s response was to encourage them to do it, and also to know that “it’s not a traditional style program; I don’t know any other programs like this. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about yourself regardless of your industry or your role, and get a whole new perspective on what it really takes to lead through change.”

For more information on Catherine’s online business visit

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