A Very Human Leader
I’ll be honest with you. As I prepare for a phone interview with Georgine Roodenrys, I’m not sure what I’m going to get. I’m excited, of course - I hear she’s doing really important work as Executive Director, Climate Change and Sustainable Futures for the Queensland Government. But I’ll also admit to a nagging fear that, given her role, she may be too well-prepared, too polished and too guarded. Will there even be a story to share?
I needn’t have worried. Our conversation is entertaining, emotive and highly enriching. Georgine is impressive, undoubtedly. But in our 75 minutes together (we ran over time), I get to know a woman full of passion and personality, who is authentic to the point of deep self-reflection and brutal honesty.
A complex challenge, a vital mission
Georgine tells me early in our conversation that she has always been an environmentalist, following in her grandfather’s footsteps. It’s clear she’s also a progressive and ambitious professional. Indeed, by the time she joined the Department of Environment & Science (DES) in 2016, she had extensive global career experience under her belt, including a law background and 20 years in the energy sector.
I ask her to summarise her role. She shares that she leads “an amazing team” with four main priorities:
- Deliver on Queensland’s climate change targets;
- Work with communities across the State to get ready for climate change;
- Deliver the $500M Land Restoration Fund; and
- Develop the Circular Economy in Queensland.
No big deal then.
I struggle to get my head around such an enormous remit. Perhaps sensing my discomfort, Georgine simplifies her role:
“It means I spend a lot of time trying to influence people – presenting arguments for change, building networks of support and influence to access and convince decision-makers on a path of action.”
I ask her what drives her and she responds in a heartbeat:
“I love the environment and an intellectual challenge. What we’re doing is massive and I’ve found a place full of generous, warm, amazing humans who care about our purpose and whose values align with my own. It’s the first time in my career I’ve felt I’m working with kindred spirits.”
She also applauds the collaborative culture and the supportive leadership she has experienced.
“My current manager is the best boss I’ve had. He’s a collaborator. There’s no reporting to or being micro-managed. We collaborate to crack through these massive issues and he trusts in me to deliver the goods. I love that. I know he’s got my back.”
A winding road
So what prepares you for an opportunity - and a challenge - like this? For Georgine, it’s clearly a career journey full of diverse experiences. Indeed, as we discuss Georgine’s roles with the likes of Origin, BP and a host of other companies, two things are clear. The first is that it has been a winding road, with no shortage of pitfalls. The second is that through each experience, good or bad, she has learned more – about people, leadership and herself. Georgine speaks enthusiastically about her time at BP in Abu Dhabi, experiencing
true leadership, lived and breathed and working with
an extraordinary team with some of the most brilliant minds. Seconds later, she’s sharing the gory details of the time she was over-sold a role with a company who “weren’t who they said they were”, and a failed attempt to start a small food business of her own.
“I had periods in my corporate career - where it was easy to get caught up and think I was ‘all that’. But that passes. I’ve had enough humbling experiences and failures to stay grounded and to know what matters (I hope).”
By all accounts, Georgine’s humble, down to earth nature transfer to her leadership style, and I’ve heard that she is highly respected for it at DES. Interestingly, she says that becoming a parent has also shaped her approach.
“I’m happy to manage and lead people having been a mother. Just as you can never stop being a parent, you’re always a leader, even when you don’t want to be. That can be hard but it kind of forces you to work on yourself, in order to bring the best out in others. At this point in my life, I like the leader I’ve become.”
As our conversation progresses away from the ‘what’ to the ‘who’, Georgine’s authenticity and vulnerability come to the fore. They resonate particularly strongly when we talk about her husband, Jamie, and their eight year old daughter, Ruby.
“We’re a very special unit. As a professional woman, I feel proud that we’ve built a supportive, harmonious home, and that Ruby has an equally strong relationship with Jamie as she does with me. We’ve worked very hard to achieve those things.”
I ask her to tell me about Ruby.
“I feel so strongly about her. I’ve felt very challenged to be the best person I can for her. Suddenly, all those things you haven’t addressed about yourself are right there in front of you. I just worry all the time - I’m a strong person... a big personality. You hope you don’t hinder her own personality in any way.”
Our interview ended soon after this, and I’ve since reflected frequently on those last words Georgine said to me. I should have told her then, from one ‘big personality’ to another, that I think she should worry less. The fact that she is so honest and real... so aware of herself and her impact on those around her, is a huge strength. Her authenticity is a credit to her - as a parent, as an influencer and as a leader.
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 18 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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