Amy Bach is a health sec­tor leader based in Melbourne. She has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in se­nior man­age­ment roles in health­care in Aus­tralia and the UK. For her, re­silience and courage are two key in­gre­di­ents for true lead­er­ship even though they can be hard

Business First - - WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP -


I have learnt through my lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ences that in or­der to be an in­flu­en­tial leader, some es­sen­tial com­po­nents in­clude hu­mil­ity, adapt­abil­ity and courage. An­other com­po­nent that has been some­what sur­pris­ing to me is the power of vul­ner­a­bil­ity as a leader. In a pre­vi­ous workplace, I ex­pe­ri­enced a highly stress­ful sit­u­a­tion with a man­ager who was dis­play­ing bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour to­wards a num­ber of her di­rect re­ports (of which I was one). Af­ter a lengthy pe­riod of time try­ing to op­ti­mise the sit­u­a­tion with her lo­cally, I con­cluded that my core val­ues of in­tegrity and re­spect ul­ti­mately left me with two choices: re­sign (and re­move my­self from the sit­u­a­tion), or have the courage to call out her be­hav­iour to her man­ager. I took the risk, with my heart thump­ing, and chose the sec­ond op­tion. Thank­fully, af­ter a pe­riod of time, that par­tic­u­lar man­ager was moved on. The as­pect that sur­prised me in this sit­u­a­tion was that a col­league I had cho­sen to con­fide in dur­ing these dis­tress­ing times ral­lied and dis­played the most in­cred­i­ble

amount of loy­alty to me at the time when I most needed sup­port. This only hap­pened af­ter I chose to let my guard down and al­low my vul­ner­a­bil­ity to show. To this day, that per­son re­mains a trusted friend and con­fi­dant.


Many of the ‘break­through’ mo­ments I have had in my ca­reer would not have hap­pened with­out a huge dose of courage. When I was con­sid­er­ing ap­ply­ing for a sig­nif­i­cant (and slightly scary!) pro­mo­tion a num­ber of years ago, I had to choose to play the courage card as I faced many ob­jec­tors. My man­ager at the time, who sadly had not quite grasped the leader ver­sus man­ager con­cept, asked me whether I was an only child! Many other peo­ple sim­ply said, “Oh well, it’ll be good for the in­ter­view ex­pe­ri­ence even if you don’t get the job.” One per­son re­minded me that I did not need to have ev­ery item of the po­si­tion de­scrip­tion ticked off to ap­ply, and that there was only one thing I could guar­an­tee: if I did not ap­ply, I could be 100 per cent cer­tain of not get­ting the of­fer! That was my num­ber one sup­porter, my hus­band Matt. Well, as they say, the rest is his­tory. I got the job.

It is so im­por­tant to have peo­ple around who will back our de­ci­sions, even the ‘pipe dream’ ones that may seem crazy to even con­sider. I have ex­pe­ri­enced the value of shar­ing per­sonal ca­reer goals with a se­lect num­ber of trusted sup­port­ers or ‘in­ner cir­cle’. More­over, a pro­fes­sional men­tor can play an im­por­tant role in the process of es­tab­lish­ing next steps, both short and long term. A side note to this is that many peo­ple find there is more value in se­lect­ing a men­tor through nat­u­ral con­nec­tions rather than for­mal ‘men­tor/mentee match­ing’ pro­grams, and this process may take a bit of time. I went from hav­ing zero men­tors for the first five years of my ca­reer to now hav­ing three that I go to for dif­fer­ent sorts of ad­vice.

All of us lack courage at times, par­tic­u­larly when con­sid­er­ing a change of jobs or putting our hand up for a pro­mo­tion or new project. Too of­ten peo­ple (fre­quently women, un­for­tu­nately!) can con­vince them­selves that they will not suc­ceed be­fore they have even taken the first step. I have men­tored women just start­ing out in their phys­io­ther­apy ca­reer, and a com­mon mis­take that I have also been guilty of seems to be to jump about four steps ahead to the ‘will I or won’t I take the job’ ques­tion be­fore even be­ing of­fered an in­ter­view. It is im­por­tant to har­ness the sup­port of oth­ers to bol­ster our con­fi­dence but also to just jump in! A tac­tic I have learnt in these sit­u­a­tions is to think about what it is I am afraid of, de­vise a strat­egy that could min­imise the im­pact if the worst out­come did hap­pen, and then take the plunge be­fore I can talk my­self out of it!

A re­cent ex­am­ple is that I had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the World Health Care Congress in April this year in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. I con­sid­ered con­vinc­ing a col­league from work to at­tend with me, or at least bring­ing a friend or my hus­band along for com­pany. What I de­cided in the end was to push my­self to go with the scari­est op­tion: to go solo. Prob­a­bly my big­gest fear was that po­ten­tially awk­ward mo­ment dur­ing the lunch break, when faced with a room full of strangers. It is like be­ing back at the first day of school! Who do I sit with? What if ev­ery­one else knows each other al­ready? What will I talk about with these new peo­ple? The strat­egy I used at the con­fer­ence was that I de­cided to go out of my com­fort zone dur­ing each of the breaks and, rather than oc­cupy my time pre­tend­ing to look at the stalls set up in the lobby (while re­ally just scout­ing for free pens), sit next to some­one in the lunch area, in­tro­duce my­self, and let the con­ver­sa­tion flow from there. The re­sult was that I had a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence over the du­ra­tion of the con­fer­ence, in­clud­ing some of the most en­gag­ing and in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions I have had in a pro­fes­sional set­ting to date. I formed con­nec­tions with a CEO of a hos­pi­tal in New York, a mem­ber of US congress, a founder of a health­care start-up in San Fran­cisco, and a Deloitte man­age­ment con­sul­tant from Hong Kong! If I had at­tended the con­fer­ence with even one other per­son, I would have missed out on many of these real net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties en­tirely.

So, for any­one in a po­si­tion that in­volves lead­ing oth­ers, the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion re­mains: will you choose to fo­cus on be­ing a com­pe­tent man­ager, or take up the more com­plex but also more re­ward­ing chal­lenge of com­mit­ting to be­ing a truly in­flu­en­tial leader? Lead­ers achieve through oth­ers. They de­velop, em­power and mo­ti­vate peo­ple, shape team cul­ture, dis­play courage and re­silience in the face of ad­ver­sity, and un­der­pin all of this with some­thing that can­not be eas­ily taught, but can cer­tainly be cho­sen: to lead with pas­sion, au­then­tic­ity and a com­mit­ment to mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact in the workplace. Amy Bach is the man­ager of a de­part­ment of al­lied health pro­fes­sion­als within a large pri­vate health­care group in Melbourne, Vic­to­ria. A phys­io­ther­a­pist by back­ground, she has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in both clin­i­cal and se­nior man­age­ment roles in the health­care sys­tem in Aus­tralia and the UK and is cur­rently com­plet­ing an MBA at Melbourne Busi­ness School. Amy is pas­sion­ate about mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact in a workplace, shap­ing team cul­ture and staff en­gage­ment, and help­ing to fa­cil­i­tate and em­power women to achieve se­nior lead­er­ship po­si­tions. She has pre­sented at a num­ber of health­care con­fer­ences on the topic of lead­er­ship and staff en­gage­ment.

Amy Bach is a health sec­tor leader based in Melbourne

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