Stepping up, Backing yourself and Resilience – A lesson in leadership from Christine Nixon

Ange Connor

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Christine Nixon speak at a dinner hosted by the Ballarat Business Centre. The event was a sell out and many in the room were eager to hear from Christine about her career and leadership journey in an older, male dominated environment. Christine has been a prominent public female figure, known for being appointed, as the first female, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police in 2001 and holding the role until 2009. Rising through the ranks of the police force, Christine was successful in being the first woman in many of the roles she has taken on, paving the way for and encouraging other women to step forward and take on leadership roles.

What most surprised me about Christine’s presentation was how softly spoken she was. I was expecting a much more dominant and assertive personality after seeing this commanding woman dressed in her police uniform in the media, leading a team of primarily police men. What I realised as I sat there listening to Christine’s presentation, surrounded by a room full of leaders in their own right who come from all walks of life and possess all different personality styles, was Christine’s success as a leader was founded on her own values and beliefs in herself. Yes, Christine has been successful in leading others, even though at times she didn’t have all the answers, she was smart enough to ask” I don’t know, what do you think?” But if she hadn’t had the confidence and self-belief to step up and put herself forward she never would have become the iconic leader we know her as today.

Christine spoke about how numerous people would say to her “how did you get the job?” Her answer was simple, she applied. Even though she didn’t have all the answers and couldn’t necessarily tick all the boxes of the requirements for a position, she put herself forward anyway. She backed herself and she stopped being afraid – what was the worst thing that could or would happen, was her mindset. Christine wasn’t scared of rejection, she believed that where one door closed another one would unexpectedly open and even though she knew she didn’t have all the answers she knew where to go to get the answers and the questions to ask of the people around her.

Her journey as a leader hasn’t always been easy. She was and still is criticised for her decision to leave and go out for tea on the evening of Black Saturday. Christine has learnt what it’s like to be criticised, she has learnt what it’s like to be let down by people you know and trust. Yet she has demonstrated resilience and a strength of character in not doubting the respect or self-belief she has for herself. That’s not something easily done when you are personally being publicly criticised.

I believe it’s this fear of being judged and criticised, the fear of not knowing all the answers, the fear of putting ourselves out there – particularly as women, the fear of rejection, the limits that we create in our own minds that stops us from stepping up and being a leader. This fear stops us from stepping up and challenging others to think about doing things a different way. Imagine though, what we could achieve if we had the self-confidence and belief in ourselves that Christine has in herself. Imagine if we didn’t criticise and attack Christine for her decision to go out for dinner on Black Saturday, instead we recognised that the decision she made was a mistake; an error in judgement, and we all supported an environment where it is ok to make errors of judgement, as long as we learn from those experiences. Maybe then more people (particularly women) would have the courage, confidence and belief in themselves to step forward and apply. And as Christine so articulately stated “good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere” – it leaves one pondering, which kind of girl do I want to be?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on my latest blog. Feel free to share your leadership experiences with our blog readers as learning from others experiences is what it’s all about. I hope you enjoyed the read.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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  • She is a very inspirational leader and we are all human we get things wrong sometimes, but admitting the mistake learning from it and moving forward are huge steps too.

    • So true Krys, we all need to remember that a little more often. Thanks for your comment, Ange

  • I loved your blog Ange I’m only sorry I missed Christine’s talk. You seem to know I needed to hear these words today!

    • Thanks Torie, hope it helped you believe in yourself a little more today!

  • Thanks for sharing this Ange, I so relate to the fear of rejection/censure or failure.. it takes a lot of strength to step forward despite the fear.

    • You’re certainly not alone Pam, so many can relate to the fear of failure. It takes huge strength of character to step forward despite the fear. We need to re-program the way we think to see not stepping forward as failing ourselves and our own abilities.


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