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7 Questions on Leadership with Nan Bahr

Name: Nan Bahr

Title: Professor Emeritus

Organisation: Southern Cross University, Australia

I am an Emeritus Professor of Southern Cross University, where I completed tenure as Deputy Vice Chancellor and have served as an executive previously at Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology.

My field of expertise is Education, specifically adolescent development and responsive pedagogy.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Nan's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Balancing business interests with care for individual needs.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I've never actively sought leadership but I haven't declined when invited or called upon. I see it as a natural component of living a life of service. My first leadership roles were in community service and in the military. Through these experiences I learnt that leadership is earned and is not a title so much as a way of using your gifts to provide for the needs of others.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I always have a goal for the day and arrange my time around attending to it. In actuality, the plan for the day starts at least the day before. I get up at around 5:30am and dress etc before clearing urgent emails.

I wake up the family and make sure they are all organised. My meetings start early but I don't schedule them into the afternoon. My afternoons are usually filled with responding to people while attending to the general task I have set for myself for the day.

Evenings are spent with family and some musical pursuits. Before bed I tidy up any uncompleted work tasks and check the plan for the next day. I typically finish up just before midnight.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A good leader takes the time, and makes the time, to listen to their team. It's easy to roll along with urgent but less important issues. However, your team are relying on you to protect and further their interests so you must keep your understandings fresh.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Winnie the Pooh. The tales of care and respect, humour, and friendship that underpin Winnie's leadership are convincing. I also like "oh the places you'll go" by Dr Seuss. It reminds me that I'm in charge of my own actions.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Watch and listen to people who are strong leaders as well as good people. Never forget that leadership is rarely about you, and is always about how you care for others.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I recall my introduction to the best boss I ever had. I attended a retreat as an observer before I started in my new role, and she gave a presentation on the budget.

This would normally have been a dry topic and her news for forecasting was grim. When she finished, she received a standing ovation from the entire audience which comprised all of her staff. I was shocked. I asked others why there was such support for her presentation.

The unanimous response was that she had taken the time to personalise her role, including her financial management, and that they all felt known and cared for in the financial management of the organisation. It is a reminder that people are the centre of attention for all good leaders.

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