Stepping up to lead with courage, passion and integrity
Stepping up into Board leadership takes courage and honour.
That’s one of Lisa Devereaux’s takeaways from her journey as she reflects on her Board leadership career to date.
“As a Board Director your decisions are critical to the strategic direction and success of the company or non-for-profit organisation or association,” Lisa says.
“You have to represent the best interests of the company, and the community of people who your organisation seeks to serve.”
Where curiosity leads
Lisa began her career as a scientist before moving into management and leadership positions within Science and Technology industries. Driven by a passion for innovation, Lisa chose to refocus her career on commercialisation and business development to bring diverse stakeholders together to form partnerships that translate research into impact in local communities.
Her Board leadership journey started with following her curiosity to see how a Board Leadership role could complement and further expand her leadership expertise to support her to work towards her longer-term career aspirations.
“At that time of my career, I had minimal experience or much understanding of what was required to be a Board Director,” says Lisa.
“I was curious to understand what the career path was to a Board Director role. How do people get those roles, what skills do they need to have, and what exactly do they do?”
This led Lisa to completing WiT’s Board Readiness Program in 2016, a program she still believes is an excellent foundational, introductory course for female leaders interested in Board Leadership or are new directors in their first committee role.
“One of the most valuable aspects of the program was the opportunity to share my Board leadership journey with a supportive and inspiring group of like-minded female leaders – some of whom I still remain in contact with more than six years later,” Lisa says.
“I initially found the course to be very challenging as the concepts taught were so new to me. But this was a challenge I needed because I gained in-depth insights on what to expect as a Board Director, fundamental knowledge of financial analysis and strategic planning as well as how I could approach securing my first Board role.
“Over the years I have gone back to the materials from the program to apply my real-world experiences as context for the content which has definitely deepened my understanding of the concepts taught.”
The stepping stones towards success
Lisa says that getting started can be a bit overwhelming and recommends that aspiring board directors start by volunteering in leadership roles for local clubs, associations in the community or committees in your workplace whose cause or mission aligns with your own values or unique interests or passions.
“After finishing the WiT Board Readiness program, I joined my employer’s Benevolence Fund as this aligned with my values of caring and respect for families needing help, Lisa says.
“Governance was required to review and grant financial assistance confidentially, and as Chair I was honoured to be able to use my time to support families going through difficult times.”
At the time Lisa was also volunteering and fundraising for White Ribbon Australia, a cause close to her heart, as she and her children were personally impacted by domestic violence for a number of years.
She directed her own healing to raise funds and awareness about domestic violence against women in the community by participating in trek4respect in September 2017 – trekking 65km of the Northern Territory’s renowned Larapinta Trail.
Her exemplary commitment earned her an invitation to serve on the charity’s Queensland committee.
Both opportunities gave her valuable hands-on experience and practical insights into governance requirements for non-for-profit organisations.
After serving as Secretary of the Gold Coast Amateur Beekeeping Society (and then later as Vice-President), Lisa applied for and secured her first major breakthrough role in her Board leadership career – a Board Director Role with Girl Guides Queensland, the state’s largest youth organisation for young women and girls with almost 4000 youth members and 1000 volunteer leaders.
“Joining the Board of Girl Guides Queensland was very exciting for me because the values I live by today have been shaped by laws I learned as a Girl Guide in my youth, says Lisa.
“Even though I knew that this was going to be hard work, it was effort I was 100% committed to doing because having experienced first-hand the benefits myself, I know how valuable these programs are in making a difference in the lives of girls and young women.”
It takes a village to support a leader to thrive during challenging times
After serving as a Co-opted Board Director for 12 months, Lisa became Chair of Girl Guides Queensland in February 2020. Just as the world was on the brink of a global pandemic, Lisa began facing her greatest challenge of her leadership career thus far – leading a new Girl Guides Queensland Board as a first-time Chair during a two-year period of unprecedented uncertainty, rapid change and immense pressure.
“As an organisation we had to pivot and respond quickly to navigate and mitigate numerous risk and governance requirements throughout COVID-19 pandemic,” Lisa says.
“On top of that, the Board also needed to make time-sensitive, complex, strategic governance decisions vital to child safety, membership and the organisational structure within Australia to empower Girl Guides to continue its legacy of supporting tomorrow’s leaders.
“I knew that having ongoing strategies in place to support me to take care of my wellbeing is essential to manage stress and reduce burn out, Lisa says.
During her time of need, Lisa sought professional coaching support and turned to her networks to find trusted mentors with the expertise to guide her through the unique leadership challenges she faced.
“An important part of taking care of yourself is asking for help and guidance when you need it,” Lisa says.
Lisa sought help from health and wellbeing coach Cameron Corish once a month to review her exercise, stress and nutrition to empower her to stay well, build resilience and reduce her risk of burn out during a highly stressful and intense period of her life.
Lisa also engaged a career coach to support her with strategies to manage her board career, and sought multiple mentors from her network for guidance, expertise and support on the various issues she was presented with.
“I’m grateful to the leaders whose support, expertise, perspective and mentorship has guided and challenged me to navigate the some incredibly complex (and at times emotionally difficult) governance decisions in the Not-For-Profit sector, Lisa says.
“The frank advice, wisdom and guidance I received from Dr Peter Isdale AM mentoring me in a Board Chair capacity during this challenging period was incredibly valuable as it forced me to learn and practice having difficult conversations and negotiations.
By having the opportunity to learn from and work alongside with Girl Guides Queensland CEO Ms Kim Harrington and State Commissioner Kathryn Pearson, I learned first-hand that the CEO and Board Chair relationship is critical for board success and ensure alignment with the shared vision of the strategic direction we were taking.
Integrating your commitment to being a leader into daily life
Looking back on her experience, Lisa says that time management skills and a having a supportive network of people behind you are two crucial elements for integrating your board leadership commitments into day-to-day life.
“If you work for an organisation, I highly recommend making your employer aware of your Board commitments and engage their support as early possible,” Lisa says.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have colleagues and employers who supported my Board leadership journey and have given me the trust and flexibility I needed when I’ve had Board commitments or when unexpected, urgent issues arise during work time.
“My family has also been incredibly supportive and understanding when I’ve negotiated time on evenings and weekends to read minutes, attend meetings or support the people connected to the organisations I serve in their time of need.”
Take the next step towards becoming a future Board Director
The WiT Board Readiness™ Certificate is a 10-week introductory program specifically designed for female leaders with expertise in STEM disciplines.
Under the guidance of experienced board directors and industry experts, female leaders will be equipped with the essential foundational knowledge, the skills, the connections, the voice and the confidence to become a highly skilled Board Director and take their seat at the Board table.
The 2023 Program runs from 27th April – 15th June 2023 and commitment to attend each weekly workshop is required. The program is delivered via a series of in-person workshops in Brisbane as well as supporting virtual seminars.
Applications for the 2023 intake of the Board Readiness Program are now open until 24 March 2023.