Fiona Smith As part of our monthly segment, Our Community Leaders - Great Australian Leaders in Focus which features the thoughts of some of Australia's great leaders, this month we feature restaurateur and author Stephanie Alexander.

Stephanie Alexander OAM

Stephanie Alexander has been a leader in the Australian food industry for decades. A restaurateur and author of cooking books, Stephanie has been instrumental in the development of an Australian food movement and the many festivals and special events it has spawned across Australia.

Stephanie has also been a teacher for generations of chefs and also children through a gardening and cooking program she initiated at an inner-Melbourne school.

She has written a number of books, and contributes regular articles to the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

We started by asking who he considered to be three great leaders of our time. And Why?

Stephanie Alexander:

  • Nelson Mandela - courage, principled, ability to inspire others
  • Gough Whitlam - offered a vision that changed society; willingness to hand out resources and see what grew from the initiatives; articulate
  • Noel Pearson - has intellect; empathy, ability to influence change of direction for one of our most shameful problems, the situation of Aboriginal Australians
Our Community: What are the three attributes you would consider to be essential to a leader? And why?

Stephanie Alexander
  • Ability to articulate a vision that inspires hope
  • Clear principles that many can relate to
  • Wisdom, ability to engage in debate with opponents without recourse to violence or abuse
Our Community: What are the three greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?

Stephanie Alexander
  • Education does not encourage radical thinking
  • Inequalities in education system
  • Political apathy perhaps due to average high standard of living
  • Political party system that plays politics rather than debates change
Our Community: What advice would you give to a potential leader to taken them to the next stage?

Stephanie Alexander:

Tricky one. Think. Develop a thick skin.

Our Community: Nature/nurture - are leaders born or bred?

Stephanie Alexander:

Who knows, probably bred from circumstance.

Our Community: What do you consider to be the top leadership issues facing the nation?

Stephanie Alexander:
  • Social justice
  • Republic
  • Aboriginal Rights & Welfare
  • Refugees
Our Community: What insights have you gained personally on your leadership journey?

Stephanie Alexander:
  • It's lonely at the top
  • Huge satisfaction in influencing others
  • Big issues in life can take a long time to resolve
Our Community: Who have been your own leadership mentors and how did they assist in developing your own leadership style?

Stephanie Alexander:

  • Mostly writers about food ie. Elizabeth David, Richard Olney, Alice Waters, Claudia Roden.
  • My mother, who gave me a love of food and understanding of the place of good food in a full life.
  • A few friends in the hospitality industry - Damien Pignolet, Maggie Beer, Janni Kyritsis - who gave practical assistance to problems and an ear to listen

Published June 2004