Leading the way in local government

If, as American philosopher Peter Drucker says, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” many rural and regional women are stepping up to do the ‘right things’ as elected leaders of shire and rural councils.

It seems that leadership opportunities for women in councils are high, with the Municipal Association of Victoria estimating that 41% of all mayoral appointments are now women.

We asked three rural women who have stepped up as mayors to share their take on leadership.

Natalie O’Connell, East Gippsland Shire Council

“My advice to other women seeking leadership positions in council is to approach it as you would any other role. Traditionally local government is made up of older men, but I never took that into consideration when I stood. Women need to have the confidence to know that they can succeed in these leadership roles. The tide is definitely changing and overwhelmingly people are so pleased to see women in council. Lastly, always remain true to yourself!”

Ann Young, Swan Hill Rural City Council

“Meetings and assemblies involve a lot of pre-reading to familiarise yourself with the issues being raised and voted on. This all takes time and it’s easier as time passes. I am lucky that we have a great team of councillors and a good relationship with our CEO, Directors and staff. We don’t always agree but all realise that we can’t make all of the community happy all of the time, and sometimes hard decisions need to be made. It is a very satisfying role but should never be taken lightly as decisions can affect so many people in social, economic, business and community wellbeing ways.”

Janet Pearce, Macedon Ranges Shire Council

“Be yourself, be genuine and honest. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be open to continual learning, but the basis of who you are, your beliefs and principles need to be your core. Actively listening to people is important and not judging is vital. The community is diverse and so are their thoughts and personalities. Always remember that you work with a team and acknowledge their work — fellow Councillors, staff, the community and all levels of government and departments.”

Pictured: L-R Mayors Janet Pearce, Natalie O’Connell and Ann Young

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