I come from generations of farming folk on both sides of my family. I grew up on a small farm just outside Queenstown in New Zealand, so a sense of reverence for the natural environment seems to be in my blood.
As I reflect on the devastating floods happening here in Australia, as well as two years (so far) of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is starkly obvious how our changing natural environment is throwing up tremendous economic and social challenges.
Purposeful and resilient leadership is required more than ever. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it seems a good time to share what I’ve learned about leadership from the land and the office.
It’s a privilege to be raised in a landscape as stunning as the Queenstown region. It’s a physical environment that humbles you. A little resilience is required when the pipes freeze in the winter or when joining Dad to feed-out in the snow. You learn quickly to watch and listen to the environment and to manage life – and the land – with agility, in accordance with mother nature’s rhythm.
Equally, we now fully understand in the corporate world that doing the right thing by the environment is also what is required to make businesses – in all sectors of the economy – successful and resilient.
I’m proud to work at ANZ, where we understand doing business that accounts for environmental (and social) factors is to do good business – for our customers and our communities.
When I started my corporate career some 25 years ago, I didn’t understand the power of financial markets to act as a change agent. I also didn’t imagine being a banker, let alone one working in arguably the most prescient shift in the global economy since the industrial revolution.
Today, I’ve been in banking for 20 of those years, and in the sustainable finance market for seven. I’ve led ANZ’s sustainable finance business the last five.
To work at the intersection of finance and the environment is an exciting challenge and offers a meaningful way to leverage the bookends of my life experience so far. This sense of purpose is helping me to grow and bring clarity to my role as a leader within ANZ and in the marketplace.
My philosophy is leadership is for anyone in any industry, in any role, at any level.
It is easily demonstrated, and can happen in the smallest of ways, such as speaking up on a process improvement. But it can also have a bigger impact, such as driving a new business strategy or transforming a team culture.
In my experience, the most successful leaders are those who understand leadership is primarily about impact and influence, not power or hierarchy.
They are people who demonstrate traits such as authenticity, kindness, empowerment, curiosity, an ability to listen and hear, and tend toward a good dose of pragmatism with a decent sprinkling of good humour in the way they operate.
I pay tribute to my women – my mother (the original ‘working mum’ from before that was even a label), my sister, my stepdaughters, my niece, my aunts and godmothers, my girlfriends, my boss, my colleagues and peers inside and outside of ANZ, as well as my amazing team.
I am able to write this because of your support and trust, your honesty, humour and wisdom, and your love. Goddesses, all of you. Kia Kaha!
Katharine Tapley is Head of Sustainable Finance at ANZ Institutional
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