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Saxton Connects with... Dr Kirstin Ferguson

Farah Parkinson
04 Jul 2019

Meet Australian company director, author, former CEO and Air Force Officer Dr Kirstin Ferguson.

Kirstin, who was born in Melbourne, grew up in Sydney, studied in Canberra and now lives in Brisbane, says she is a ‘true citizen of Australia’s East Coast.’

She says that she has been fortunate to have had generous mentors, including some she has had for the past 20 years.

“Mentors are invaluable regardless of what your role, seniority or age might be. The right mentor will be able to offer you advice when you need it even though sometimes you may not wish to hear it. Value the time your mentors offer you and be sure to give back and find ways to mentor others too,” says Kirstin.

Despite a successful career as a speaker, MC and author, Kirstin’s ‘day job’ is as a company director.

She says, “I am deeply committed to helping govern the companies that I am involved with to ensure their long-term success and that of all who come into contact with them. I have always been passionate about leadership – from being a young leader in the military, being CEO of a global business and now leading through influence by sitting on company boards.”

Beyond the pure intellectual labour of her work, Kirstin concedes that ‘having the emotional intelligence to apply that intellect in a way that will make you the most effective leader you can be’ is critical.

The advice she offers would-be company directors is this: “Gain plenty of line management experience so you can truly understand financial, operational and strategic risks. Potential board directors should educate themselves as much as they can around corporate governance and ethical issues as well as what it means to earn (and maintain) a social licence to operate.

“Anyone wanting to be on boards should also be intellectually curious and a person who can absorb a lot of information and distill it down into one of two questions that will help shape the tone of a productive discussion,” she explains.

If she could meet anyone, Kirstin says that would be Jacinda Ardern.

“I would speak with her about authenticity, courage and trust since these are areas of focus in my work on leadership and she has offered us a masterclass in this form of leadership in recent times.”

When it comes to turning points, Kirstin says she’s had a few.

“Key moments during my career include choosing to join the military at the age of 17, joining my first board at the relatively young age of 35, being appointed by the Prime Minister as the Acting Chair of the ABC, successfully celebrating 757 women during the #CelebratingWomen campaign, and seeing my first book for sale in book stores.

“On a personal note, the defining moments have been the birth of my two (now adult) daughters and meeting my wonderful husband almost 25 years ago,” says Kirstin.

Mentors are invaluable regardless of what your role, seniority or age might be. The right mentor will be able to offer you advice when you need it even though sometimes you may not wish to hear it. Value the time your mentors offer you and be sure to give back and find ways to mentor others too. Dr Kirstin Ferguson
Kirstin is…

Reading: Every morning I start the day by browsing through roughly a dozen online newspapers and journals from around the world

Watching: ABC TV and streaming plenty of TV drama

Listening to: Podcasts whenever I can

Inspired by: #CelebratingWomen, a social media campaign that became a global, viral phenomenon. She says, “The campaign [that Ferguson created] also led me to fulfill a personal goal of becoming an author and saw me write my first book, Women Kind, which was published in 2018. I am now working on my next book and so I am spending many hours doing archival research which calls on my first degree – and first love – history.”

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