What Makes a Leader Inspiring?

Recently, I attending an event that featured Fiona De Jong, CEO of the Australian Olympic Committee. Fiona’s presentation and the answers she gave to questions left me pondering why I felt inspired by Fiona and for me, what is the source of inspirational leadership.

Fiona talked about her vision of “being the most respected team in the world” and her three personal values that for me, underpin that vision –

  • Giving her best and expecting only the best from her colleagues.
  • Being happy with life and gratitude for the support from family, friends and fellow workmates.
  • Putting her health and well-being, as well as that of others, as a priority in life.

There is a great article sourced from Harvard Business Review titled “Discovering your Authentic Leadership” by Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew McLean and Diana Mayer that support my observation –

“The values that form the basis for authentic leadership are derived from your beliefs and convictions…”

Now I’ve heard many leaders speak about their views of leadership but the difference with Fiona was not just what she said, but who she was being whilst delivering the presentation. It was clear that she spoke from the heart and what she said was real and authentic for her. I could not imagine Fiona behaving in any other way than consistent with her vision and values.

At the same time, when I asked her publicly, what challenges she faces in having this vision live in her organisation, she was frank with her response and vulnerable enough to admit that she and her team faced many challenges. However, there was no doubt that under her leadership, both the Olympic team and the organisation that supports this team would show up to the rest of the world as being a ‘Great’ team, possibly the best in the world.

My musings leave me feeling that ‘Inspiring Leadership’ is being passionate and inspired about what you are creating, having your whole being reflect this and the humanity to be vulnerable and real about the challenges you face in leading your organisation and living your life this way.


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