Anglicare WA’s Kate Chaney boasts an impressively diverse resume, but a recent experience led her to realise a challenge that faces all her peers.
With diverse career experience stretching from law to innovation and sustainability, Kate Chaney has a unique view of what constitutes a successful leader.
Ms Chaney told Business News it became clear to her during a 2018 course at the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership that senior leaders often became stuck in an echo chamber and had little opportunity to step out of their comfort zone.
Founded in 1993, Melbourne-based Cranlana is a not-for-profit organisation promoting informed discussion on matters of responsible leadership and ethical practice.
It runs high-level colloquia and two-day symposia on topics such as justice, business and ethics, with more than 4,000 business leaders and executives having participated in its seminars.
Ms Chaney said among her cohort at the Cranlana Programme were the head of a major media organisation, a school principal and a mining executive, among others.
Through the group’s interactions, she said, it was evident that such leaders were often in environments that did not lend themselves to having their perspective challenged.
“Something I realised, and that I think my colleagues realised too, was that often there is moral content to decisions that we make in our busy lives, but we’re not aware of it, because it’s really hard to create space for that deep thinking in a busy job,” Ms Chaney said.
“If we start saying something is necessary, or it’s tradition, or it’s human nature, those are all warning signs that there’s something going on that we need to think more deeply about.
“One thing that I took out of the Cranlana Programme is that it’s really important to ask the hard questions.
“As leaders it’s really important to think about the morality of the decisions we’re making and the impact it’s going to have on the world.
“Reminding ourselves regularly that we are the system, and we can act to impact the society we live in is really important.”
She believes leaders have a duty to take themselves out of their comfort zone in order to be truly innovative and lead.
“Taking the time to reflect allows you to resist the general pull, and take a stand on things that are important,” Ms Chaney said.
“Those values-based decisions communicate really strongly to your staff.
“When you make a call as a leader it really sets the tone for the rest of the organisation.”
She said Cranlana provided a rare opportunity for leaders to slow down and diversify their thinking beyond the internal workings of their organisation.
“It’s a really great investment for leaders who are going to be contributing to making the WA we want to live in,” Ms Chaney said.
“That opportunity to spend a whole week doing deep thinking is so unusual, especially with a diverse group of people where you get perspectives that are so different to your own.
“That just brings a whole different level of thinking to leadership”
The executive team at Anglicare has embraced the Cranlana Programme as a regular fixture, with new chief executive Mark Glasson also voicing his support.
“Several executives, both past and present, have completed the course, with its learnings now inherent to our strategic processes.
“As an organisation, we are continually faced with tough decisions within complex ethical environments.
“The Cranlana Programme has equipped our executives with a deeper understanding of the intricate considerations required by high-level decision-making, and the importance of observing issues from multiple perspectives before making decisions.
“As a community service organisation working with some of the most vulnerable and at risk Western Australians, our role requires us to continually consider the greater good.
“Cranlana has helped me to see that every member of my executive team brings a different set of experiences and perspectives, and it’s important to bring these unique perceptions into consideration across the work we do, from strategic to operational.”