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Former Sportsgirl CEO, Founder of Mentor Me Women and Author of Leader by Design

Be empowered to lead with confidence in business and in life.

An award-winning CEO, Colleen Callander has wealth of knowledge and a proven track record in building brands, establishing winning cultures and creating environments that allow people to shine.

She is now sharing not only the past 13 years of experience as a CEO but the past 30 years of her industry and leadership knowledge.

Geelong born and raised, Colleen was brought up in a hard-working business-focused family, where there was always a job to do. After working in family businesses from as young as she could remember, Colleen had her first taste of retail at the age of 16.

Colleen had always dreamt of working at Sportsgirl, a brand she loved and had grown up with, so in June 1999 when she was approached to join the brand it was an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. This is where Colleen has spent the past 20 years of her retail career.

Current Work:

An inspiration to women of all generations, Colleen encourages women globally to have the confidence to believe in themselves, their ability, share their voice and find the superpower within. Colleen has shared her journey as a guest speaker at multiple conferences and events, including the Sportsgirl annual conferences, Business Chicks Movers and Breakers, Inside Retail ‘Live’ for Ragtrader and the Liquid Learning Event. Most recently, Colleen has been listed as one of the top 10 Influential Business Leaders Making a Difference by World’s Leaders Magazine and in 2014 was awarded the highly commended CEO Magazine, CEO of the Year Award, which she was also a judge for in 2012.

In April 2021, Colleen launched her book Leader By Design which has been met with rave reviews and immense success, including being nominated as a finalist in the 2021 Australian Business Book Awards.

Colleen is no stranger to the media having appeared on Sky News, The CEO Institute, Triple M, Lady Leadership and The Dynamic Leader Podcast and has been interviewed by the likes of The Weekend Australian, Australian Financial Review, The Australian, Business Chicks Latte Magazine, Money Magazine, GT Magazine, Geelong Advertiser and Inside Retail to name a few.

Talking Points

Leader by Design

Leadership is something that Colleen is extremely passionate about…not only her own leadership but the leadership of those around her.

When Colleen talks about leadership, she is talking about leading not only in business but also leading in your own lives whether that be in your community, school, workplace or even your home. Leadership starts with self...we need to be leading in our own lives before we can lead anyone else.

When Colleen gets asked about leadership, she always starts with what leadership is not - it’s not about a title, power, level of authority, size of your office, car park, the number of direct reports you have or the size of your salary. We often look up to and admire people with titles, ranks and positions of power, labelling them leaders.

What Colleen learnt over time in both life and business is that these trappings do not automatically qualify a person for leadership. And in fact, you don’t even need a title to be a leader. Every day we have the ability to lead through every action, interaction, reaction and decision we make in business and in life.

We all have the ability to become a ‘Leader By Design’, we all have the ability to become the leader we always wanted to be, and the leader we always wanted to follow.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

One of the biggest challenges women face today is a lack of confidence. Lack of confidence is the reason we stay in jobs we don’t like or stay in toxic relationships or the reason we don’t ask for that promotion or pay rise.

We need to start building real confidence so that we put our hand up for that promotion, walk into a boardroom and kill it with confidence and have a voice.

There are so many things we can do to build real confidence - one of them is to change that negative self-talk. When you...Change your story - change your life!

We have this inner voice inside our head that is highly judgemental and says things to us like: I’m not good enough, I’m going to fail, I’m underprepared, I don’t fit in, I’m too young, I’m too old. These stories can leave us feeling stuck, deflated and sometimes even sabotage our success.

We need to interrupt this story from self-sabotage and start taking control and create a more empowering story that helps us feel confident to take action.

People Before Profit

We live in a profit-driven world - sales, margins, market share, shareholder return and revenue are all critical performance measures, with profit being essential for organisations to reinvest, innovate and grow.

However, an area that is often overlooked is one that you’re not going to find on a spreadsheet… ‘people’! Leaders need to create environments where people feel connected, where their work matters, where they can contribute and feel part of something greater than the seat they sit in and the role they perform. In Colleen's experience when people feel valued, trusted and empowered, they will also feel engaged and motivated.

Colleen believes people with passion and purpose = profit.

Foundation of Great Leadership

Great leadership is about leading people, but great leadership starts with self - you have to be leading in your own life before you can lead anyone else.

The three foundations of great leadership are: self, values and purpose, no matter where you are on your leadership journey. Self-awareness and truly knowing yourself is when you are ready to lead others.

Values give us clarity with our decision making and are not only an important part of who we are - they also shape who we want to become. When we know our purpose, we move from: ‘what we do’ to ‘why we do it’ and ‘why does it matter’!

When we are clear on our purpose, we can create a vision for what the future looks like, set the right goals and plans, and take the right steps to create the life that we want and the one we deserve.

Culture Starts at the Top

Many leaders will talk about their competitive advantage as being their strategy, their product offering, their processes, innovation or even their HR policies.

This can be true to some extent, but Colleen believes an organisation’s biggest competitive advantage is its people and the culture and environment they create. As leaders, it is your job to create cultures and environments that allow people to shine. It’s your job to create a culture of inspiration, empowerment, collaboration, and trust...and when you do, the organisation thrives.

We often mistake culture for things like free lunches, free parking or a free pass to the gym and don’t get me wrong, these things are all great. Culture is also not something you can buy off the shelf, nor will a few affirmations or posters around the office do the trick.

There is no quick fix or magic pill to create a great culture. Culture is an always-on proposition...a positive, productive and empowering culture pays off in so many ways, not just the bottom line.

Kindness is Currency for Leaders

For many leaders, kindness isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about great leadership, right? Well, Colleen is here to challenge that thought.

Kindness is the new superpower for leaders…in fact she believes kindness is a new form of currency, one you can trade for loyalty, commitment and high performance. Kind leaders - are very capable of making good and strong business decisions, even tough decisions with kindness. When she talks about kindness she is not just talking about leadership - she is talking about leading with kindness in all areas of our lives.

Kindness is not a weakness…kindness is courageous.
Colleen is a true leader for our times, generous and purpose driven. She is an inspiration to women to truly believe in themselves, to give hard stuff a go and to use their voice to strive for bigger things. She is kind and empathetic and leads with integrity and purpose. Business Chicks

Colleen is one of the most influential and dynamic forces in the Australian fashion industry. Her unique ability to lead, impact and remain relevant in one of the most competitive industries is truly remarkable. She has empowered and led thousands of women over her dynamic career and is a phenomenal role model all women can learn from.

Health Lab Australia

Colleen’s story is inspiring, her career is outstanding and she knows a thing or two about leadership. I took a leap of faith and made contact with her. What I found was a warm, interested woman who was curious about how she could best meet my needs. She was very keen to support my request to work with my leadership team at the primary school where I am Principal. We are currently participating in the Mentor Me program and my team and I are excited, motivated and ready to fly! Thanks Colleen for your down to earth and supportive approach. It is a privilege to work with you.

Primary School Principal
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