Leading From The Front
“It will expand the way you see the world and change the way you exercise leadership.”
Melissa Hale was awarded a Change Our Game scholarship in 2020 – since then, her leadership and confidence has skyrocketed. Read more about Melissa’s leadership journey as a proud Deaf woman below.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am a woman with many hats. First, I am a wife and mum, married to James and together we are raising a beautiful, blended family of four teenagers - three 16-year-old boys and one 13-year-old girl. I am a proud Deaf woman.
In my day job I am currently the Manager of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit at the Victorian Council of Social Services. We support 24 different disability advocacy organisations in a variety of ways; resources, professional development, practice networks and peer support networks.
I am also a board director of Expression Australia, a Not-For-Profit service for Deaf and hard of hearing services, a member of the Accessible Transport Advisory Council with the Victorian Department of Transport and the Head of Deaf Women's Cricket with Deaf Cricket Australia, amongst other bits and pieces.
What Change Our Game Scholarship did you receive?
With the Change our Game scholarship, I was fortunate to be a part of the 2020 Williamson Leadership Program (WLP) run by Leadership Victoria. Williamson is a unique, immersive year-long program. It will expand the way you see the world and change the way you exercise leadership. It will push you to experiment – continually challenging how and why you lead.
What was the most beneficial part of the program? How has it aided in your personal development?
Before starting WLP, I held assumptions that leading in community and in a professional environment required two different skill sets. Leading in community meant being empathetic, understanding people and their motivations and bringing them along a journey with you to achieve an outcome. Leading in a professional environment to me was around holding a position of authority, and the action of making decisions to set an agenda and steering a group to keep them on track to achieve that agenda to a timeframe, like clockwork. The professional leader needed to have the knowledge to keep the team on track. I was wrong - it is a lot more effective to be like the former most of the time.
How has this program supported you in the work you have been doing the past 12 months?
There needs to be more leaders in visible and prominent positions of power and change makers that come from the backgrounds that they are representing. I believe that people with disability need to lead all decision-making about people with disability, in government, service provision, advocacy and more. Often this cohort do not have access to the same education, employment, and opportunities as the mainstream community to be able to lead. And if not you, then who? It has allowed me to really think about my influence and purpose and how I use my time and where I put my energy. This has meant stepping into different spaces and out of old spaces.
How important is diversity across sport? How can we (as individuals) be better leaders in this space?
In sport this means rethinking the traditional ways that we define the road to success - are we looking at things as ‘we have always done them” and is this holding us back? The more open minded we become about redefining success and wrapping support around the person to become the best they can be, the better sport will be. Diversity is something to be celebrated, not something that is ‘other.’ Being absolutely and unapologetically proud of who you are and the diversity you bring to the community will change the attitudes and mindsets of everyone you meet along the way.
What would you tell someone who wants to apply for a similar program but isn't sure how to go about it?
I had to take a huge leap out of my comfort zone to do this, however the program gave me the confidence and faith in myself to recognise my value and to keep choosing to make brave choices. I plan to actively seek opportunities that will align with my values to see inclusion, kindness and belonging in community that cast a net wider than sport - particularly to create more spaces where inclusion and belonging in community for people with disability are mandated, expected, and realised. If anyone is considering it, I hope they choose to leap out of their comfort zones too.
Monday 19 September, 2022