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Tips on becoming a stand-out leader

Sir John Storey Award winner, Gemma Wood MIML, is thriving as an emerging leader in the male-dominated sector of engineering and infrastructure. Leadership Matters asked her for her tips on becoming a stand-out young leader.



Gemma Wood MIML

I volunteered in Kenya and deliberately picked somewhere that’s basically as far away from home as I could get. It was a really good experience because I not only discovered more about the Kenyans’ culture but also learned so much more about my own culture. It opened my mind a lot.



It’s important to understand that factors like people’s upbringing and culture, background, language and spirituality contributes to how they think and operate. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to have some insight into that and consider what might make people comfortable and how best to work with them. For example, I must be aware of the wording I use and how I speak to someone. Acknowledging that some things are ‘different’, not weird. How we speak can have such an impact on a person.



An unforgettable leadership moment for me was when my boss was faced with a situation that was not in the best interest of his people. My boss, as the leader, decided to put his people’s wellbeing first, no matter how much money it cost the business. And to me it is so incredibly important for leaders to back their team, having their best interests at heart. When people feel really appreciated and feel that they’re adding value, you’re going to get that discretionary effort out of them. They’re going to be really positive and invested in what they do.



There’s a lot of talk about resilience. It’s such a buzzword. But I think, no matter how resilient a person is, it’s important to notice when high stress becomes the norm. That’s when you need to recognise enough is enough, and say ‘no’. Resilience is a great thing to work on and build up, but high stress should never ever become the norm because then you can’t bounce back. So, it’s an awareness of when to be resilient or when things have gone too far, and you have to say ‘no’ for your health or the health of your team.

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 print edition of Leadership Matters, IML ANZ’s quarterly magazine. For editorial suggestions and enquiries, please contact

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