Dr Anne Summers AO

As part of our regular segment, Our Community Leaders - Great Australian Leaders in Focus which features the thoughts of some of Australia's great leaders, this month we feature Dr Anne Summers.

Dr Anne Summers AO
journalist, best-selling author

This month's interview is with Dr Anne Summers AO, journalist, best-selling author and feminist.
Anne has had a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia and abroad. She is the author of several books, including the now classic Australian book, Damned Whores and God's Police, which was first published in 1975.

Our Community: Who do you consider to be three great leaders of our time and why?

Anne Summers:
  1. Simone de Beauvoir - who was the first modern woman to lay out the case for women's emancipation and thus inspired a generation of women to throw off the shackles.
  2. Hillary Clinton - who has shown that if you are brave enough you can continue to seize opportunities and re-invent yourself, thereby casting aside the restrictions of both society as a whole and, especially, people's preconceptions and expectations.
  3. Nancy Pelosi - who has shown how a woman can be a superb political leader, achieving lasting change (health care reform) and never forgetting the movement that made her journey possible.

Our Community: What are the three attributes you would consider to be essential to a leader?

Anne Summers:

  1. Courage
  2. Honesty
  3. Willingness to take risks

Our Community: What are the greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?

Anne Summers:

  • Our society does not embrace diversity, thus excluding many people of potential leadership ability
  • Cynicism around the possibility of real change in this country
  • Celebrity valued above integrity

Our Community: What advice would you give to a potential leader to take them to the next stage?

Anne Summers:

  • Don't be afraid to take risks (including the personal risk of showing your true self, however vulnerable you might be
  • Never stop learning, from people, from books, from self-reflection
  • Work hard

Our Community: What three insights have you gained personally on your leadership journey and how have they impacted on your style of leadership?

Anne Summers:

  • To be brave and not be afraid of failure (there is always another way or another chance)
  • To take risks, expand the possibilities and thus create a different future
  • Work hard and know your stuff

Our Community: Who have been your own leadership mentors and how did they assist in developing your own leadership style?

Anne Summers:

Max Suich and Max Walsh taught me how to be a good journalist. Professor Henry Mayer taught me how to think, to question, to argue, to be accurate. Without him I would not have written Damned Whores and God's Police.

Our Community: Thinking about your own leadership journey, what are you most proud of and what would you change if you had the chance?

Anne Summers:

  • Having written books that people have responded to and, in some cases, claimed to have had their lives changed by.
  • Having been able to improve the lives of the women and children who took refuge at Elsie (a women's refuge) in the early days.
  • Being able to influence the public debate and (to some extent) the policies needed to give women greater opportunities in Australia.

Our Community: If you had a magic wand, what would you change about community life in Australia right now?

Anne Summers:

I would remove discrimination, unfairness, prejudice, narrow-mindedness and bigotry and I would encourage people to think big, be brave and not be afraid of change.

Published Feburary 2011