“How we can all ensure our community is connected, respected and thriving” Cr Swan

Last month I shared this cartoon. We know in our own lives, in our communities, and throughout the world there are so many things we want to see change for the better. It’s an important and positive part of who we are as we learn and grow in life.

By Cr Tegan Swan

Just like in the cartoon though, finding the right people to lead us through the process and our own individual willingness to take responsibility for our part in it is more of a challenge.

A few years ago, when conferences were still a thing, I had the honour of presenting a keynote session for the 10th National Women in Local Government Leadership Summit. I spoke about creating communities of change through emotional intelligence and building trust through empathy, perspective and connection.

I’d like to share some of what I spoke about on stage that day as it resonates strongly with where we are as a community right now, the type of leadership we need, and how we can all be part of ensuring our community is connected, respected and thriving.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most connecting, caring local leaders I know…. LISA NICHOLS! The work she has done in connecting and supporting our community both online and in real life is legendary so please check out my interview with her in this issue.

What is leadership to you? We get focused on the status of leadership but leadership is NOT being IN charge – Leadership is being responsible for those in OUR charge.

We all have the capacity to be a leader, it’s just like parenthood, some people don’t want to, and some people probably shouldn’t, but we all can.

Leadership comes with personal sacrifice, to be a successful leader you have to care. That’s where the importance of empathy comes in when we’re building trust within a community.

Empathetic leaders are valuable leaders. There’s a Ted Talk on Empathy and Leadership by Simon Senik with over 30 million views. Check it out if you get a chance.

He explains that exceptional organisations and communities prioritise the well-being of their people, and in return, their people give their all in protecting and advancing the wellbeing of one another, the organisation and the community.

There’s an outdated view that leadership is about rank, power and privilege but in reality it has little to do with authority, management acumen or even being in charge.

True leadership is about empowering others to achieve things they previously didn’t believe were possible.

We all have a responsibility to become the leaders we wish we had. By all leading with empathy in our own lives it becomes the norm not the exception and people feel more comfortable in this space.

There’s a (somewhat) famous quote by George Carlin “If you have selfish ignorant citizens, then you will have selfish ignorant leaders” YIKES RIGHT!?!?! This is possibly opening a can of worms but it’s all a little bit chicken and egg.

It’s almost an Australian institution to complain about politicians, to say how terrible they all are. Well, where do we think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky.

So it’s on all of us. Is this the best we can do? Is this what we have to offer? Is this the best our system can produce….garbage in, garbage out?

I believe leaders need to lead by example so if politicians and public figures aren’t feeling the public love…are they showing it?

Look at reptiles, they think only of themselves rather than considering the needs of those around them as well. You can absolutely have success when you have a me first attitude, like the crocodile. But that success is going to be short term and less able to weather hard times.


In hard times people will not rush to the aid of a leader if they’ve never felt he or she had their interests at heart.

You can get a lion to do what you want to it by whipping it but as some point it’s going to come back and bite you.  

 The little considerations we have for others creates a building effect, The daily practice of prioritising the wellbeing of others around you has a compounding and reciprocal effect not only in personal relationships but in the way we treat our colleagues and others in our communities.



We need to be aware of situations which short-circuit our capacity for co-operation and compassion, where paranoia, cynicism and self-interest are promoted. Distrust is created in these environments. The right leadership creates trust and flourishes. How we work and lead in our own capacity within our community is a reflection of each of us. 

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community” Anthony J. D’Angelo. We know this! We know we need to find (or be) the people who are connected and respected to lead the way. We need to tune into those people and help them to utilised their abilities.

Around the world, people are increasingly distressed and lonely. It’s a call for community – perhaps it’s the time to build the skills that will fuel a change for the better.

So wherever you’re at, let’s work together to be the change we want to see, even if was can’t all agree on what that change should look like.

And on that note, here’s another cartoon for you to consider until next month when we’re going to be chatting about the strengths and benefits of different perspectives and how we can each learn to be open to considering (not necessarily accepting or agreeing with) other people’s perspectives when we’re discussing community issues and opportunities.

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The above article was published in The Woolgoolga News last week and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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