The leadership sessons: Nebula 2019

December 4, 2019

By popular demand, we bring you Nebula: the leadership sessions.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It): Console recently hosted the property management industry’s first customer-exclusive summit, Nebula. Nebula was an in-person and live-streamed event that took place at the Brisbane Powerhouse and broadcast via YouTube. It was intimate, and it was streamed more than 300 times. It was indelible, and it flew by too fast.

Two standout performances are still being mentioned in Nebula feedback, and they both speak to the subject of leadership. We’re talking of course of Sonia McDonald and Midja Fisher. Both women are authors, entrepreneurs, coaches and keynote speakers from outside the industry, but both brought a compelling and immediate discussion of leadership to the table. In particular, they both point to where leadership starts. And it starts from within.

So if you’re ready for a mood or motivation boost (or why not both?), read on for the full videos and speeches from these amazing women: Sonia and Midja.

(Long read: 15 mins)


Sonia McDonald: Courageous Leadership

Today I’m going to take you on a wonderful journey around courageous leadership.

If you think about courage, I believe it is the most important virtue. Without it, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.

So why is courageous leadership important? If you think about what makes a leader, there are lots of words people will associate with the term. There’s courage and there’s kindness, there is vision and there is respect. And there are other associations too: a leader is one who coaches others, lifts others up, inspires others.

What else? Call them out. [The audience calls out some other words.] Trust, absolutely. Consistency? Yes. Definitely. What else? Honesty, putting others first. Passion, yes absolutely.


Leadership as role and title

These are traditionally identified as the ingredients of leadership roles. And that is why we should ask the question: have we made leadership all about role and title?

I personally think we have made leadership bigger than what it is or should be. When we look at leaders out there past or present, we come up with names of people like Barack Obama, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or gosh (laughing) even Scott Morrison.

We look at leaders then, mostly as people who bear those roles or titles. CEO, lead, head, manager. But that’s not really what leadership is. Leadership is about an attitude and a mindset, and a choice, and it’s about action.

So don’t compare yourself to that [role and title type of leadership, or otherwise famous leaders] and say I’m not going to give myself permission to stand up and be a kind and courageous leader.


Let’s have a show of hands now. Who here actually sees themselves as leaders?

Ok, I’m thinking probably 30% of the room. And I understand that’s a confronting question to ask. You’re not going to be sitting there going woo! I’m a rockstar in this leadership space. Look I get it. But I am going to ask you this question again later.

Well, I see all of you as leaders. And I’m going to share a story with you now about why I see all of you that way. I got into the subject of leadership nearly 14 years ago now. I ended up coming back from Shanghai in China with my four-year-old daughter at the time, and I had become a full-time solo mum.

Tough times

Something really unexpected and devastating happened to me over in Shanghai, and I moved back here to start all over again. I had $2,000 left in the bank and a crappy old Holden Commodore. Commodores are good cars, but this was not a good car.

And I thought to myself, what am I going to do? Back then, because I was a full-time solo mum, it was really challenging to find opportunities that offered me flexibility.

I ended up getting the chance to teach and coach engineers and superintendents about leadership. Basically, I said at the time to the person that was interviewing me that I knew lots about leadership, and I have to confess that at that moment, I was completely faking it. I faked it because I knew I needed to provide for my daughter.

'And that [property management] is a type of leadership. For that, the service you to do to everyone every day, I want to say thank you.'

And I worked I don’t know how many hours a week. I worked so hard to start my life again. Eventually, I actually managed to save enough money for my first investment property, which I still have today. It’s been managed by some amazing property managers that still today look after that property for me.

That property is my and my daughter’s future. So I look at the people who manage it, and everything they do to look after the property. Because actually, you’re not just looking after a property when you manage it. You’re looking after people like myself, and you’re making a real material difference to our lives.

And that is a type of leadership. For that—for the service you do to everyone every day—I want to say thank you.


Being our best starts with us.

Another thing I want to look at which is perhaps even more important is this notion around how we actually become the best that we can be. When you look at this world we’re living in today, don’t you think we need more kind and courageous leaders? Absolutely we do.

And it actually starts with us. But what’s more important than leadership and us being the best leaders we can be every day where you are making a difference to people like myself is that our most important resource is time. How many of you are sitting here going ‘I cannot believe it is nearly November!’

Do you wonder how quickly time is passing? It’s going so quickly, and we only get to live once. And the thing I want you to think about is when the time comes to make a difference to someone. What legacy are we leaving for others?

Here’s one of my favourite quotes. It’s from Cinderella. ‘Have courage and be kind. For where there is kindness there is goodness, and where there is goodness, there is magic.’

There’s absolutely magic when it comes to being kind and courageous. Think about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks. There are so many unsung heroes just like them out there. They’re making small ripples, but they’re having an impact.


A story of incredible courage

I want to share with you another story of one such type of leader. This is one of my favourite leadership stories that demonstrates everyday kindness and courage. And this person’s story started when she was 13. This beautiful young lady was bullied so badly at school that by the age of 13 she tried to commit suicide when she was 14. That was her first attempt, at 14.

She ended up leaving school. She was in and out of hospital about 30 times over a period of 3 years. Can I tell you, I'm very anti-bullying and poor leadership, but the courage this young woman demonstrated to overcome what had happened to her was incredible to see.

Then one day she turns to her mother and says, ‘You know what I’ve decided? I’m going to use my experience and my story to help other teenagers. I want to speak at a school.’

Her mother said ‘Wow, that is incredibly courageous.’ And her mother put it out there on social media and a school here in Brisbane approached her and said, ‘We’d love you to speak at our school.’

She spoke in front of 150 students. What courage she showed, to stand up and share her story. She spoke about kindness and compassion and being non-judgmental. And she spoke about how we need to lift each other up.


Everyday Leadership and lollipop moments

The change and the emotions that happened during her talk and afterwards was phenomenal. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Then she decided after she spoke that she wanted to show kindness.

And she’d seen this amazing Ted Talk called Everyday Leadership by Drew Dudley about the transformative power of a lollipop moment. A lollipop moment is a small act of kindness that has the power to make a difference to someone. And so she decided she wanted to go back and hand out 150 lollipops to these students.

In the end, she decided to put together 300 lollipops, so she could give two to each person. One lollipop for them, and another for a person to give to someone else as a small act of kindness. She spent a whole week putting them together with individual kind notes on these lollipops and handed them out at the school.

'You saved me that day.'

The school couldn’t believe the act of kindness. Her mother decided to post about it on social media and tagged the original Ted Talk presenter Drew Dudley in the post. Within 5 minutes of the post, Drew reaches out to her mother and says, ‘I need to speak to this young lady. She is amazing.’

Two weeks later he’s on a mountain in Canada standing there saying, ‘I cannot believe the act of kindness and courage you showed. The day your mother sent those photos to me on social media was the anniversary of the day I lost my fiancee to mental health issues. And you saved me that day.’


That child is my daughter.

That child is my daughter. She’s 17 now and she went and put herself out there and showed so much courage and kindness. She is definitely one of my favourite stories.

How can we all create that magic? Through kindness. Kindness is contagious. It gives you a high. It helps with anxiety when you’re kind to someone. Kindness matters.


How can we be kind?

How can we be kind? By caring about others. Leadership is about others. Leadership is about how we can inspire others to learn more, do more, be more. That is leadership. It’s about caring. We’re not machines. Sometimes I think we forget that. If you want to get great results from people, show kindness.

'Sometimes I think we forget that. If you want to get great results from people, show kindness.'

The research I’m doing around kindness and courage for my next book, and the stories and research I’m uncovering and hearing around kindness and the difference it makes for us in terms of engagement and performance has been astronomical.

It’s interesting, for example, to read the research that came out of Harvard recently regarding kindness. The one thing that is stopping executives climbing the ladder is their inability to create trust. And how do you create trust? By being friendly, warm, vulnerable, authentic, kind.

First impressions count. And kindness and trust go hand in hand. It’s also about being supportive. Two of my favourite questions are ‘How can I help you? What can I do to help you?’

It’s also about giving feedback. I’m a great believer in helping people to develop and go higher in their career. Being kind is being clear, and being unkind is being unclear. And it’s also about recognising and appreciating each other.

At the end of the day, the research says that we’re more interested in—and particularly younger generations are interested in—in recognition and appreciation. They want to be recognised. They just want to hear the words ‘thank you’ at the end of the day. Thank you.


The power of connection

Kindness also builds connection. I don’t know how many people get stuck in this spiral where they find themselves spending too much time on their phones. People walking down the street on their phones. People ordering coffee on their phones.

[Sonia borrows an audience member’s phone from the front row and start pretending to play with it while she talks to him.]

How often do we see that? People standing around looking at their phones and not connecting with each other. [She walks around looking at Scott’s phone. Then she hands Scott’s phone back to him and asks him how he is. She looks him straight in the eye this time. He jokes that Console just offered him six months free on Console Cloud, and everyone laughs.]

But how much of a difference does that make? Get off your devices and show kindness through connection as well.


‘Everyday social connection’

There’s also another really great piece of research about how your social life can help you live longer. And here it is: the number one predictor of life span is social connection. That means everyday social connection.

'I call it leadership by walking around.'

So when you buy a cup of coffee, say thanks for the coffee. When you’re at Coles, say thanks for help with the shopping. This isn’t about just gratitude here: it’s about the connection.

That’s what makes words like, ‘Yep I’ll have a skinny latte thanks.’ unkind. It’s rude. And it doesn’t even show that you’re present. So every day, make sure you’re being present and connecting.

I call it leadership by walking around. Get off your devices and start leading and connecting with those people and it’ll also help you live longer. How does that sound? Don’t you want to live longer? Being kind helps you live longer. Connecting helps you live longer.



The next thing I want to talk to you about is courage. Don’t you think that we need more courageous leaders? We do, don’t we. And I get it. I believe that courage and fear go hand in hand. One of my favourite sayings is that courage is fear that’s being held onto a moment longer.



So when it comes to courage the four things I focus on in the work that I do are as follows: F-U-C-H. The first one is 'F', which is for focus. What are you focusing on. Focus is everything. I always say, ‘Attention goes, energy flows’. So what are you focusing on? Are you focusing on the fear or the courage? From a neuroscience perspective, the brain is motivated by two things: threat / reward, and safety / fear.

But in terms of evolution, we tend to gravitate towards more fear and threat because that’s what has kept us alive. But we have to embrace and get through fear to get to courage and reward.

So the reason why I look at focus is I’m looking at what I’m focusing on. Am I focusing on things that will help me be the best I can be to be truly courageous. Am I focusing on each and every day being kind, and being the best version of me.


The RAS, or reticular activating system

Now there’s a great part of the brain could the RAS, or the reticular activating system. The RAS determines what you focus on. The brain can only take in about 7 units of information per second, give or take, and we determine what those seven units are.

So we need a volunteer that has bought a car recently. Who’s bought a car. What car?

[Audience member answers that it is a Mitsubishi Triton.] And what colour was the Mitsubishi Triton? [Audience member answers that it’s blue]. And since you bought it, have you been seeing it more often on the road? [Audience member laughs and agrees.]

You’re walking down the street and going, ‘There’s another one. And another one.’ That car recognition is your RAS at work. The RAS focuses on things classified by ‘DIPI’: Dangerous Interesting Pleasurable, and Important. The brain is always on the lookout for information that conforms to one of these categories.

It happens with more than just cars of course. So if you set your RAS to focus on everything that is wrong with you or your life or the world, or what you don’t have, then sure enough, your RAS will start to show you that data.

I know we’re human and not dancing on rainbows everyday, but it’s important to be aware of what we’re focusing on.


Know thyself.

'U' is actually for You. Self-awareness is key when it comes to courage. What makes me who I am? What are my strengths and talents so I can be brave and courageous? The more you understand who you are, the more you’ll be able to understand others and help them be the best they can be as well. Focus your RAS on your strengths and talents.



Then there’s 'C'. When it comes to courage, you have to be compassionate. There have been so many times I’ve been really courageous and there have been so many times I’ve stuffed up. And I’ve learned more from my stuff ups because I’ve been compassionate and gentle to myself when that happens. So I kind of really embrace fear and stuffing up now.

But compassion is really important. Why is it important? Because you are a human being and you have to be kind and gentle. And when you’re kind and gentle to yourself, you’re kinder and gentler to others.

To illustrate my point, let’s take the analogy of a child. I’m sure you all know children in the room. Now imagine if a child came up to you and said, ‘I want to have a conversation with you.’ Imagine if they looked up at you and said, ‘You know what? I want to be courageous but I’m too scared. I’m scared I’m going to fail. I don’t think I’m worthy. I don’t think I’m good enough, I don’t think I’m smart enough, I don’t think I’m pretty enough. I don’t want to put my hand up and stand out.

‘I’m worried that people won’t like me if I’m being true to myself and be authentic.’ Would you look at that child and say, ‘You know what? You’re right. You are not worthy and you’re not smart enough.’ Would you say that to a child? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you say it to yourself? And we do say that to ourselves don’t we? Talk to yourself like you would someone you love.



So I’ve spoken about focus, you, and compassion. And so we come to the last letter, H. H stands for habits. Habits build character, so make sure that each and every day you have courageous and kind habits. And those habits? That’s right. They start with you.

‘When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live a life that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice.’

So courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not the absence of fear. The last thing you want to do at the end of your life is look back and realise you didn’t leave a legacy, and I didn’t have an impact.


See yourselves as leaders.

So this is what I want. I want you to see each and every one of yourselves as leaders, because you are all leaders. And then I want you to think about this proverb. When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live a life that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice.

And that starts with being kind and courageous and making a difference and making an impact. Thank you for being here and listening to me today, it was such an honour and privilege to be standing here in front of you. And making a difference to how you can be kind and courageous and gentle and making a difference for others.

So let me ask you again: who sees yourself as a leader? [Everyone’s hands go up.]


Midja Fisher: Unshakable

Have you ever had a year like that?

1997. What a year. Have you ever had a year like that? A year that is etched in your memory forever. For me, it was the year I fell in love with the man that would become my husband. It was then I fell in love with the law firm that would become my second family.

But fast forward 19 years to 2016 and all of that comes crashing down. And I am left, feeling hurt, alone, and above all rejected. And I think if those people no longer want me, nobody will want me again. So what to do? To wallow in self-pity? Well of course yes for a little while, yes.

But then I thought to myself, what’s missing, Midj? The thing I had but then lost was confidence. This self-doubt had been in my head. So how to get that confidence back? How to become unshakable?


Know yourself.

Well step one, is to know you. Get to know the real you and who you are right now. What are your priorities? What are your motivations? What gives you meaning and motivation when you get up in the morning each day to go to work. What’s your legacy?

Mary Oliver once said, ‘doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?’ So tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? When all of this is said and done, why were you here? And what’s your magic? What do you do better than anyone else? And amplify that.

Turn that up to full volume.


Be yourself.

And the second thing you need to do then is to be you. Be real, be authentic, and stop pretending to be someone you’re not. To be yourself right? And to take off the armour, because it is so heavy to be carrying it around every single day. Just be vulnerable. Let people see the real you.

Be seen, and then let go of perfection. You know what? Nobody trusts it. Someone that is perfect? People don’t trust it. It’s an illusion and a lie so let that go. Instead: be present. Be in the moment. Stop worrying about yourself, and start focusing on the person standing right there in front of you.


Believe in yourself.

And finally: believe in yourself. Create an unwavering self-belief. I know who I am, and guess what? I am awesome. Stop the comparisons! Stop comparing your real life to someone else’s highlight reel. Because comparison is the thief of joy.

So be grateful for who you are and what you have right now. Silence that inner critic. Silence that voice that says you’re not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. Instead, let your inner cheerleader be loud and be proud.

And find your tribe. Find those people that lift you up. If you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, choose wisely my friend. Your confidence is like a strong, majestic tree. Its strength comes from the roots. Your roots are in who you are, your values, principles, your character. You don’t need to prop your tree up with what you wear, the car you drive, the suburb that you live in. you don’t need any of that. Your tree is strong and unwavering without it.

Unshakeable confidence allows you to do your very best work. It allows you to forget about yourself and instead be of service to others and to make the difference in the world that you were meant to make.


Wondering what to read next? Read the full Nebula recap, focus on the Zing Pow Wow sessions, or get a refresher on Dean’s four numbers with ‘What is your rent roll worth?’ Or, learn more about our migration process with these five qualities of effective migrations.

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