Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - By Os­car Cainer


Some­times we think ev­ery­thing is hunky-dory and then re­alise it’s not. When we doubt this sense of right and wrong, it can throw ev­ery­thing into ques­tion. The con­verse is also true. We can feel up to our necks in a river of trou­ble, then re­alise the ground be­neath our feet is firm enough to make it to dry land. This week’s full moon shows that an old prob­lem has an easy an­swer; look closely at some­thing you’ve avoided. The full moon has a pow­er­ful mes­sage for you. Call 1900 957 223.

When I was asked to put my hat in the ring for my first CEO po­si­tion at Mi­crosoft Aus­tralia I said, “No way! I can’t do it!”

Three things ter­ri­fied me about tak­ing on the role. One was that I didn’t want to talk to the press, which is ironic given that this story is in a mag­a­zine and REA is part-owned by a me­dia com­pany (News Corp Aus­tralia). Se­condly, I don’t like do­ing pre­sen­ta­tions in pub­lic.

The third one, which was the more trou­bling for me, was that as a leader, you re­ally had to in­spire the peo­ple who worked for you. The thought of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for in­spir­ing 1000 peo­ple – at that stage, Mi­crosoft was far smaller – truly ter­ri­fied me. My im­pres­sion of what an in­spi­ra­tional leader should be was this utopian ideal that doesn’t ex­ist, and I cer­tainly wasn’t it!

I didn’t ac­tu­ally ad­mit these things ter­ri­fied me. I just said they were things I didn’t have ex­pe­ri­ence at and I wasn’t very good at. Deep down I was scared.

For­tu­nately, [then out­go­ing CEO] Steve Vamos had more con­fi­dence in me than I had in my­self. He said, “I think you can do it.” There’s some­thing very en­cour­ag­ing about some­body that has no rea­son to want you to fail, to have more con­fi­dence in you than you have in your­self. I had a tor­tur­ous week­end of hav­ing to de­cide whether to put my hand up for the role, and I did. I was so lucky to be se­lected in the end.

Some­times I think about what would have hap­pened had that con­ver­sa­tion with Steve been with a leader who was less open-minded. Some­one who would have said “OK!” if I told them I didn’t think I was ready to be CEO. They likely would have gone to the other three can­di­dates, who quite likely all would have been men, and one of them would have got­ten the po­si­tion.

Now I am the CEO of REA Group, a dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany, and I’m de­ter­mined to be a good men­tor to ev­ery­one in my or­gan­i­sa­tion. Far more than men, women have imposter syn­drome, where we look in the mir­ror and ques­tion our­selves.there’s a hu­mil­ity that comes with be­ing self-crit­i­cal, but it can lead to self-doubt. When you’re do­ing things you haven’t done be­fore, that can be quite a bar­rier to over­come. That’s why we need more courage.

I don’t think there’s a sil­ver bul­let on why there are more men than women in lead­er­ship roles. But I think there’s greater recog­ni­tion that hav­ing di­ver­sity in lead­er­ship teams, in­clud­ing in the CEO, is ben­e­fi­cial. And that’s di­ver­sity of think­ing, of age and ab­so­lutely of gen­der.

When there are not enough women in the ranks, in those more se­nior po­si­tions, then you get into this cy­cle. If all of the peo­ple who are mak­ing de­ci­sions are 45- to 50-year-old white men with sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences, they tend to hire peo­ple who are more like that.

I don’t think that’s in­ten­tional. It is be­cause that’s who they nat­u­rally com­mu­ni­cate with, who they share a rap­port with, and they know they can work with that per­son.

These are all valid and ra­tio­nal rea­sons. But it does not cre­ate change. And it doesn’t get the di­ver­sity of think­ing that is sorely needed.

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