Australia’s first female Director-General Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) Kerri Hartland addressed the recent Connect+ speaker event held on 26 July 2023.
Highlighting her ‘lessons for leadership’ - listening, relationship building, empathy, communicating the why and decisiveness - DG ASIS took the audience on a journey through her extensive and varied career working across government departments, agencies, taskforces and the private sector.
Commencing her career as a journalist, the (future) DG ASIS quickly identified the value of building relationships through listening to people and allowing people to feel heard and appreciated. DG ASIS noted that listening was as important to a journalist as to a leader at the highest levels of government.
Building strong relationships has allowed DG ASIS to “stand in the shoes of others” and empathise with her staff, better understand their different points of view, understand their needs and build their trust, to effectively lead.
DG ASIS detailed the value of gaining trust by sharing the context of the work being undertaken, sharing the ‘why’, and explaining the bigger picture – an approach which had served her well.
“I think being able to really be honest about what's happening, set a context, is really important.”
As a leader, DG ASIS explained you need to know your value-add, recognise where you need to gain expertise from others, then draw on that expertise to allow decisive and effective decision making.
“Once you've listened and you've deliberated, leadership requires … taking in that information, understanding the context, using your judgement and then making good decisions.
In closing DG ASIS reinforced the final lesson of resilience.
“Bringing people along with you is really important. I think you won't always get it right. No, I think you won't always get it right, but you do need to get it more [times] right than you do wrong. But if you do get it wrong, you need to own up to that and apply the lessons for next time.” DG ASIS said.
DG ASIS also recognised the progress made in the NIC in recent years noting upon her return to the NIC she “found a more joined up national intelligence community and a government that has clear expectations of whole of government building relationships”, a sound reflection of the work being conducted and encouragement to continue.
In discussion with the audience, DG ASIS answered questions, sharing her views on issues ranging from the value of formal and informal mentoring as part of building a network; government and public service accountability; NIC workforce challenges; and the growth of Artificial Intelligence.
Connect+ is a series organised by the Office of National Intelligence and Future Women, on behalf of the National Intelligence Community to build leadership capability and professional networks amongst women in the Community.
26 July 2023