Collaboration, teamwork and being an inspiring leader

From a diversity of teams to leading an organisation with authenticity, we caught up with Tess Walsh, Assistant Commissioner of Victorian Police in charge of the Western Region. Tess is one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 and here she shares insights on role models, being vocal and working with thousands of colleagues to bring to life a dedicated focus on culture, respect and inclusivity.
How have you found being an LGBTI member?

We have had an interesting last decade in policing. We have come so far and that is demonstrated at Pride March where now I march very proudly with a range of colleagues and an incredible show of support! It hasn’t always been so. In the early days, we had difficult times. As an organisation we have committed to work on diversity and inclusion. We need visibility and to make it ok for young people to realise they can be themselves. To achieve this we need to be out and open.

I did a leadership program at age 40 and that is where I met my partner and I think I got a lot out of it professionally and personally – because we have been together for 10 years. And she has been incredibly supportive of me in my career and that support has allowed me to do some pretty marvellous things! I don’t think I would be anywhere near the position
I am in without her support.

What does it mean to you to be on this list?

It’s not like me to be showy and on a list. My career is all about providing policing services to the community and keeping them safe. To be recognised as a leader is lovely and a leader in a different sense that I am used to. It is humbling to be acknowledged in the broader community and to be included on this wonderful Outstanding 50 list. Leadership also comes with responsibility to lead well and I love that challenge.

Any advice for your 10 year old self?

Don’t be afraid. Always speak up for what you know is true. Find your voice and follow what is right.

In your career, any key lessons to share?

Early in my career I had all male managers and I loved working with them across crime investigations – strong males and marvellous men and leaders. As they were successful, I naturally tried to emulate their style but my style differs and I had to learn how to navigate that and to achieve my most authentic self as a leader. What I know to be true is that it takes a lot less energy to lead as yourself. It feels a lot better and sets a good example. People can come to expect consistency from you.

In current business, any changes you would make?

I would reset the ethics and values bar. As a society I think we know what is right and true but we shift from it at times. We need to focus on educating everyone about the importance of diversity and inclusion. We all have to live and set those values.

What more do you think could be done around visibility?

Deloitte is paving the way. My partner and I have always talked about normalising our relationship and language is very important. It might be small actions or things but they are big statements. For us, it’s always been about ensuring that our relationship is normalised and accepted.

What is your favourite song and why?

So, having grown up with Carole King, I would struggle to choose between You’ve Got a Friend and (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman – but I think I’d choose anything by Tina Arena. I went to the same school as Tina. I love her voice and she is a fantastic Australian and a friend to the community as well.

Three guests receive an invite to your dinner party. Who would they be?

The first would have to be Meryl Streep. When jokingly asked who would play me in a movie I always think of Meryl. Then I thought maybe Oprah or Roger Federer. But then I remembered Gillian Roltan AM, Australian equestrian champion, came off her horse and broke her ribs and shoulder and got back on and won a gold medal and has always been a heroine of mine!

How can we all play a role in shaping inclusion?

Treat everyone with respect and dignity. It is just that simple – that simple and that complex. If we can accept difference and learn about tolerance and acceptance and challenge ourselves and our own unconscious bias about what true diversity and true inclusion look like, then it will change a lot of workplaces. Be respectful. Acknowledge difference and be settled with it. It’s fine that we are not all the same. It would be very boring if we were!

 

Tess is one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 – a list that recognises and celebrates the many LGBTI role models in business. For more on our inspirational LGBTI leaders visit our Outstanding 50 webpage, or read more interviews in the series here.


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