Welcome to the latest entry on my blog, where I delve into the profound and often untold stories of leadership, resilience, and the human spirit. In this post, I’m excited to share with you the insights and experiences of an extraordinary guest, Corinne West, the head of diversity and inclusion at King and Wood Mallesons. Our conversation is part of the “Courage to Lead” interview series, and it’s one that I believe will resonate with many of you.

Corinne’s CV is impressive:

Head of Diversity and Inclusion, King & Wood Mallesons
Executive Director Stakeholder Engagement, Intergovernmental Strategy and Inclusion, Dept of Justice and Community Safety, Victoria
Director of Culture and Transformation, Fire Rescue Victoria
Deputy Director Diversity and Inclusion, La Trobe University
Director Human Capital, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Senior Advisor to The Chief of Army, Australian Army

The Genesis of Leadership: A Dance Teacher’s Journey

Corinne’s story begins with a touching recollection of her first experience of leadership. As a primary school student, she organised a fundraiser for bushfire victims, showcasing her innate ability to lead and empathise from a young age. This early act of kindness set the stage for a life dedicated to serving others.

Her background as a dance teacher further shaped her leadership style, instilling in her the importance of discipline, creativity, and the ability to guide others. Dance, as Corinne would attest, is more than an art—it’s a medium through which life lessons are imparted.

Triumphs and Tribulations: IVF, Miscarriage, and Loss

Corinne’s journey, however, has not been without its hardships. She speaks candidly about her personal struggles with IVF and miscarriage, a testament to her resilience. The loss of her younger brother added another layer of grief, yet through these experiences, Corinne’s strength and capacity for leadership only grew.

Embracing Vulnerability: The Power of Personal Stories

Throughout our conversation, Corinne emphasises the importance of sharing personal stories. She believes that by doing so, we can show that adversity is a common thread in the tapestry of leadership. It’s not the absence of hardship that defines us, but rather how we navigate through it.

A Historian’s Heart: Storytelling and Service

Corinne’s background as an oral and academic historian reveals her passion for storytelling and its power to challenge the written record. Her work with different communities and her involvement in a project on Australia’s involvement in global peace operations demonstrate her commitment to giving back and creating positive change.

From Academia to the Army: A Leap of Faith

Transitioning from academia to a temporary position in the army, Corinne found herself supported in an unexpected environment. Despite fears of failure and the impermanent nature of work, she embraced the opportunity to apply her skills in research and storytelling to a new context, leading to personal and professional growth.

Leading Cultural Reform: Empathy and Empowerment

Corinne’s role in leading the cultural reform framework for the army, in response to reviews on defense culture, showcases her ability to adapt her expertise to drive change. Her work with disadvantaged communities, such as documenting the history of Kew Cottages, underscores the importance of giving voice to marginalized groups.

The Fire Services: Confronting Resistance

Working in the fire services presented Corinne with new challenges, particularly in promoting diversity and inclusion. She faced resistance and barriers, especially concerning the treatment of women. Through open dialogue and sharing personal stories, Corinne worked to foster empathy and understanding within the organisation.

The Ongoing Battle for Inclusivity

Corinne’s experiences highlight the complexities of driving cultural change in resistant environments. She emphasises the need for humility, respect, and consistent effort to create a positive and inclusive workplace. Her approach to cultural reform is a testament to her leadership and dedication to diversity and inclusion.

In conclusion, my conversation with Corinne West has been a profound reminder that leadership is not just about the positions we hold but the lives we touch and the stories we share. Her journey from a young fundraiser to a champion of diversity and inclusion is a powerful narrative of how our experiences shape us and how, in turn, we can shape the world around us. Thank you for joining me on this exploration of leadership, and I hope Corinne’s story has inspired you as much as it has inspired me.