Building positive relationships and serving the community are vital

Friday, 12 November 2021

Some wonder if good leadership matters. It has certainly mattered to me.

Nathan Towney

As a proud Wiradjuri man from Wellington, NSW, I grew up surrounded by my large extended family and community, who instilled in me the values that I still live by. Two of the main values I attempt to exhibit are: building positive relationships and serving the community.

I grew up watching my mother and father display these values every day and quickly understood the expectation they had of me to follow their lead.

They modelled for me a solid foundation that enabled me to evolve my leadership across the many roles I am fortunate to play. They taught me that leadership is passed on by what we do, who we are, and how we make people feel.

Professionally, I have been fortunate to work with extraordinary leaders, many of them displaying strategic behaviours and personal characteristics that I do my best to emulate.

They all demonstrate to me how the actions of a leader can make people feel valued and create a sense of belonging across a community. They allocate time and space to build connections with people. I watch with interest as they use these connections to motivate, influence and inspire others.

When I first started in a leadership role, it became clear to me that leadership is a privilege. It allows me to serve others. I reflected on the professional and community roles that my mother and father played in my home town and drew more inspiration from them.

My “go to” leadership book for the past seven years is Uplifting Leadership (2014) by Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris. They reveal that “uplifting leadership raises the spirits, hopes and performance of the professionals and other adults in a community so that they will uplift all those they serve”.

I am privileged to have opportunities to serve others every day. I take time to connect with people each day. I quickly learn everyone’s names, their sense of country and engage with them about aspects of their lives that motivate them (kids, hobbies, sports etc.).

I give people my full attention. I attempt to live by the mantra that every interaction matters. In the decisions I make, I include others in the process and explain the rationale for things I do that may not seem obvious. In that way I try not be an administrator, but a steward.

My current executive role at the University of Newcastle allows me to work with all areas of the university and with amazing external partners to drive a commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, research and engagement. I work with great people who share a common belief in equity and excellence for all Australians.

To get us closer toward reconciliation as a nation, we need to build bridges across cultural divides and differing perspectives in business, the arts, health care, science and beyond. I position myself as that bridge builder. My parents taught me that.

Great leaders taught me many life lessons that guide my behaviours and my decisions as a husband, father, colleague and neighbour. I hope that one day, my children will be proud of my leadership qualities and see me as someone who did my best to serve their community.

Nathan Towney is Pro Vice-Chancellor - Indigenous Strategy and Leadership.


Related news

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.