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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Insights to Leadership from former Vic Premier Joan Kirner

Insights to Leadership from former Vic Premier Joan Kirner


At the 2013 Dame Roma Luncheon this week, I was lucky enough to join almost 300 women in the law and hear an inspirational address from guest speaker Joan Kirner. She spoke  on ‘Women: Assets for Leadership’.  

Joan Kirner was a member of the Victorian Parliament from 1982 until 1994, and is best known as the first female Premier of Victoria. Joan has worked tirelessly throughout her life to promote equality for women.

Despite some very high profile examples, such as Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, female leadership within the legal profession is still something that we are striving towards.

Joan spoke about her career in government and gave her list of ‘Assets of Leadership’, which are derived from her experience in the education and government sectors. Joan’s assets of leadership and her key comments on each asset are set out below to provide you with some inspiration!

1. Confidence

  • If you are to succeed in public and private life, then you have to be confident, not just appear confident…
  • You have to be confident to advance your cause and the cause of those you work with, confident enough to stand up for the things that you value and confident enough to make a difference for women.
  • Confidence is based on what you feel comfortable with”.
“When I put my red suit on in the morning… I would have to literally square my shoulders and some mornings say, ‘I can do it and I will do it’. Too many women know the first part but don’t act on the knowledge of the second and become a leader. Of course you can do it, but will you do it?”

2. Build on the achievements of women and men who have already changed society

  • Celebrate the women and men who worked for law reform, for example the improvements in the protection of women from violence.
  • “We celebrate that and we build on it.”
  • See what opportunities you might have to change society and take the next step.

3. Develop and maintain a clear sense of purpose

  • “If you want to lead then focus on a central purpose.”
  • Joan’s purpose was to make a difference in education for her children and for other children and to establish equality of representation of women in parliament so that more of society’s needs are covered.

4. Be clear about your values

  • Sit down and write your values down.
  • Then make decisions based on your values.
  • It’s valuable to have them written down so that just occasionally you can, “…check yourself out rather than have other people do it for you”.
“If you don’t recognise your own value, few others will. It rubs off. If you don’t value yourself, few others will value you…”

​5. Understand power and use it well

  • Gain, use and share power wisely.
  • “The more people that feel they have power and an investment in this county, the stronger it will be.”
  • To achieve this, people need to, “Build a knowledge and action base which includes the individual and collective wisdom and experience of women as well as men.”
  • Establish and develop a network and then act as mentors to achieve growth so that more people are changing society.

6. Work collaboratively

  • Be a leader who acts with people and not a leader who acts on people.
  • Acting with people strengthens your own power and the power of others - ‘sharing power’.
  • “When you share power you strengthen your own ability to implement.”
  • Have a clear sense of your own image – Be yourself!

Joan’s speech was heartwarming, inspiring and encouraging - so much so that I raced back to the office to write down my values! I feel honored that I was able to hear her words of wisdom and would encourage all of you (male and female) to strive to achieve Joan’s assets of leadership. I most certainly will. 

What do you think it takes to be an exceptional leader?

Cassandra Piacentini 

Young Lawyers Section Manager

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