Written by Lorraine Madden. Associate at Semann & Slattery.

Semann & Slattery and Macquarie University, on behalf of Children’s Services Central, recently held the Creating New Frontiers in LeadershipConference in Sydney. Rod Soper, the closing keynote speaker, left the 160 strong audience with a provocative presentation on leadership, and the wake we leave behind!

In boating terms, a wake is the pattern of water behind a vessel created as it moves forward. Wakes can be smooth and neat, or disruptive and messy. And so too, argues Rod, it is with people. Effective leadership requires a leader to constantly look behind to see the wake they leave behind, as feedback for future actions and interactions. Cloud (2006) argues, ‘…the wake doesn’t lie and it doesn’t care about excuses. It is what it is. No matter what we try to do to explain why, or to justify what the wake is, it still remains. It is what we leave behind and is our record.’

Hyatt (2012) states that our wake can leave people feeling energized or depleted; encouraged or discouraged; engaged or disengaged; inspired or ready to quit. The good news is that we get to decide what the impact will be! This requires us to be mindful of our intentions and our influence, and take full responsibility for our actions and interactions. In doing so we generate more potentiality around positive impact and positive change.

In facilitating positive impact and positive change, Rod highlighted nine ‘secrets’. These are:

  1. Have a mind that is OPEN TO EVERYTHING and attached to nothing
  3. Avoid JUSTIFIED RESENTMENTS at all costs
  4. ACTIVATE your PASSION – don’t die with your music still in you
  5. INVEST in the STRENGTHS of your team
  6. MAXIMIZE your TEAM by surrounding yourself with the right people
  7. UNDERSTAND the NEEDS of your followers
  8. Your ONTOLOGY matters – know who you are and what you stand for
  9. Leadership is pursuit – what you pursue makes a difference.

Rod concluded by asking the audience the following questions: What wake do I leave in my actions and interactions with others? How does this bring clarity to what I have done and inform what I need to do next?


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