Carol Schwartz AM

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 Carol Schwartz AM.

Carol Schwartz AM is a pioneer in the area of social enterprise in Australia. The founding Chair of Our Community, Carol recently also founded of the Women's Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA), which is working to address the imbalance of women in leadership positions in Australia. WLIA recently partnered with Our Community to launch a new program to boost the number of women recognised through the Australia honours system. To find out more or download the Advancing Women: Women & the Order of Australia booklet, visit


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

  • Hilary Clinton is a great political leader of enormous authority, courage and tenacity.
  • Jacqueline Novograz is an innovative leader in the Social Enterprise world.
  • Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is proving herself to be great political leader in very turbulent times.

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

  • Great listening skills
  • An ability to gather excellent people around you and give them leadership opportunities
  • Courage, decisiveness and transparency

What are the greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?
For women leaders the greatest barriers in Australia are unconscious bias, social conservatism and an unwillingness to explore and create systemic change within organisations.

What advice would you give to a potential leader to take them to the next stage?
Be alert to opportunities and focus on constant and transparent communication.

What insights have you gained personally and on your leadership journey and how have they impacted on your style of leadership?
The greatest insight I have gained is to always tell the truth. It's very powerful!

Who have been your own leadership mentors and how did they assist in developing your own leadership style?
I have had a number of leadership mentors, most predominantly my husband Alan who has given me great insights into myself and my very great friend Eve Mahlab. Having said this, I think I learn a lot from a lot of people who I deal with in very diverse contexts.

Thinking about your own leadership journey, what are you most proud of and what would you change if you had the chance?
What I'm not proud of is the very slow progress we are making in the context of equality of women's leadership in this country. What I am proud of is the small part that I'm playing to redress that imbalance … (I hope!).

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about community life in Australia right now?
I'd make sure that there was equality in representation of men and women in leadership roles in community life, which is subject to similar issues we deal with in corporate life.

Published March 2011