Applications for our 2019 Skill Organisation Leadership Scholarship for Chief Executives close on 8 February.

This year's recipient, Steven May, Chief Executive of Wairoa District Council, reflects on his experience at Melbourne Business School.

I'm very interested in discussions around leadership and factors such as the organisational culture that exist, from which people compare your style of leadership against. We see job adverts that require a 'strong leader', but what does this actually mean? Is it a Board of Directors, removed from involvement in operational decision-making that reflect historic norms and cascading this down?

Some may think strong leadership means an autocratic 'take-no-prisoners' style, whereas an authentic leader with a high level of emotional intelligence has a harder role in setting the scene for organisational cultural change and championing this cause. Although seen by others against this historic setting can be classed as weak or indecisive.

A full week, living onsite at Melbourne Business School provided me with valuable time to reflect on my first leadership role.

Having been promoted from within my team with no management or leadership training, I needed to rethink what success meant to me, beyond quantitative monthly data reports. My approach was to learn to gain a sense of pride and satisfaction through the success of my team. If I could influence ten people to increase their performance by 5% , then that's a 50 percent improvement for the organisation. More importantly the authentic approach to developing staff and creating an environment for team success is where the real value is achieved.

I took part in a number of activities, both in a group and individually. The course was run by two facilitators, but they took a back seat approach. Every question was reflected back, and the facilitators were there to get under the mask. It's only knowing what truly drives you, faults and all, that you can understand your instinctive reactions to the influences of others.

The highlight for me was the desire of all attendees to take advantage of the week and reflect, invest in themselves and while surrounded by strangers, feel comfortable to talk about their 'inner critic'.

You know the one, they tend to come out at night, echoing comments in your mind about the day's failures, as they see it. A technique to use, is to slow the inner critic's conversation down and turn the critic into a coach. Identify the areas raised but formulate a process driven response, measured and achievable and take back your inner strength.

The Skills Organisation Leadership Scholarship highlights how local government is a family of professionals, investing in its own.

Through these leadership initiatives that SOLGM and likeminded sponsors support, I feel valued for my contribution to the sector which you may not do after reading your local papers letters to the editor.

So if you are reading this and your inner critic is discouraging you from applying for any of the SOLGM leadership opportunities, I will send over my inner coach to make an offer to your critic (Que heavy accented Italian voice) "that they can't refuse."

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