Take opportunities as they come along, even if you think you may not be ready for it. This is the advice Dr Kirstin Ferguson offers to young people who are embarking on the beginning of their career.

Dr Ferguson is in Canberra next month sharing her experiences at the inaugural ‘Leadership in ACTion’, an event run by UNSW Canberra.

“Being a leader means being someone who is prepared to serve others and not be focused on being served yourself. It means being able to bring together people from different backgrounds, with different motivations and different needs to achieve goals they never thought possible,” Dr Ferguson said.

An alumna of UNSW Canberra, Dr Ferguson said that her years at the University, and the Australian Defence Force Academy, taught her about leadership, resilience, independence, being part of a team and sheer hard work.

“These values and traits have stayed with me throughout my career.”

What a career it has been; after beginning her career as an Administration Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, Dr Ferguson has worked across a range of industries including as CEO of an international consulting firm. She is currently the Deputy Chair of the ABC, a Non-Executive Director on a range of boards, award-winning expert in leadership, author and the creator of the social media campaign, #CelebratingWomen.

So, what makes a great leader? According to Dr Ferguson it is about having the self-awareness to understand the impact one has on those around them and requires more than just intellect or industry expertise.

“Much more important is having high levels of emotional intelligence to apply what you know in the most effective way to influence change and guide those around you. Great leaders know how to be humble, enquiring, generous of spirit and kind when required. They are also able to be decisive and be a strong leader when the situation calls for it,” she said.

At ‘Leadership in ACTion’ Dr Ferguson will speak about leadership, with a focus on what she has learnt about how to lead throughout her career. Advice that includes the message of continuing to be yourself and trust that you will be successful as you, not as the person anyone else thinks you should be.

“Authenticity is an incredibly important part of who I am as a person and as a leader. It is far too exhausting trying to be anything else and you will find you are far more successful as you, not as the person you think you need to be to succeed,”

Dr Ferguson also believes that diversity in leadership is important.

“The most effective leaders are those with the character strength and self-confidence to humbly serve those they lead while lifting others up. Practically this means being open to hearing and learning from viewpoints different to your own as well as seeking out ways to work with those who look, sound and see the world differently to you.

“Being open to diversity – in all its forms – and embracing the outcomes that come from that benefits us all. We need to look around the rooms we are in and if the leaders do not look like the communities we serve, we need to make conscious choices to ensure they do,” she said.

Dr Ferguson will speak at the inaugural Leadership in ACTion event, hosted by UNSW Canberra on 27 November at the National Press Club. For more information click here.