Hello, dear readers! I’m Allan, your host of the podcast The Courage to Lead Interview Series that delves into the stories of remarkable individuals shaping our world. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a blog post that encapsulates a truly enlightening conversation I had with Terri Martin, the head of corporate training at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), based at the University of New South Wales.

The Genesis of Leadership: A Tale of Early Responsibility

My chat with Terri began with a question I pose to all my guests: “What is your first ever true experience of leadership?” Terri’s response took us back to her 15-year-old self, working at Harris Farm Markets in Brisbane. With the daunting task of learning all the codes for fruits and vegetables, Terri’s conscientious work ethic quickly shone through. To her surprise, she was soon asked to become a supervisor, a role that brought with it a weighty responsibility for someone still navigating high school and extracurricular activities like gymnastics.

This early brush with leadership was a revelation for Terri. It showcased a recurring theme in her life: others often recognised her leadership potential before she did. This formative experience laid the groundwork for her understanding of leadership as an innate ability to manage, inspire, and take on responsibilities, even when they seemed overwhelming.

From Checkout to Corporate Training: A Career of Compassion and Challenge

Terri’s journey from the checkouts to the head of corporate training at NIDA is a testament to her resilience and adaptability. Her story is not just about climbing the corporate ladder; it’s about the human connections that shaped her along the way. One such connection was with an elderly gentleman she met on her bus rides, whom she befriended and assisted out of sheer kindness. This relationship highlighted Terri’s innate leadership quality: the ability to recognise and respond to the needs of others.

Empathy in Leadership: Balancing Professional Boundaries

Throughout our conversation, Terri emphasised the importance of empathy in leadership. She candidly shared her experiences of transitioning into leadership roles and the lessons learned along the way. One powerful example was her role in facilitating a positive change in team dynamics at a previous organisation. By fostering open communication and understanding between two conflicting teams, Terri witnessed a significant cultural shift, underscoring the impact of effective leadership on team cohesion and organisational success.

The NIDA Chapter: Leading with Creativity and Purpose

Terri’s role at NIDA is a blend of her passion for creativity and her expertise in leadership. She described a new partnership with the Sydney Swans a large, successful,National Australian Football Club, where she is helping train their staff to be better communicators and have more presence. It’s clear that Terri thrives in environments where she can bring creativity to life and make a tangible difference in people’s professional skills.

Reflections on a Diverse Career: The Power of Resilience and Trust

Terri’s career has been anything but linear. From her time at Presentation Studios, which looks after TED Talks, to her impactful work at Youth Off The Streets, she has navigated various sectors with grace and determination. As a sometimes single mom, Terri also opened up about the challenges of balancing her career with family life, highlighting the support of her mother and the necessity of prioritising what’s truly important.

Throughout the interview Terri talked about trust and the fact that she trusts everyone implicitly, not wasting energy protecting herself against what might happen, instead looking wholeheartedly at the possibilities. Two other highly successful leaders showed this trait of trusting everyone, in the The Courage to Lead Interview Series.

If you want to check out their interviews these leaders were Andrew Colvin the former Australian Federal Police Commissioner and Mark Stone AM, former CEO of Parks Victoria

Embracing Imperfection: Advice for a Fulfilling Life

As our conversation drew to a close, Terri imparted a piece of advice that resonated deeply with me: let go of the pursuit of perfection. She urged listeners to embrace “good enough” and to be gentle with themselves. It’s a reminder that in our quest for success, we must not lose sight of our well-being and the joy of the journey.

Final Thoughts: Creativity as a Leadership Tool

Reflecting on Terri’s story, it’s evident that creativity is not just an artistic endeavour; it’s a vital component of leadership.

As Terri so beautifully put it, being surrounded by creativity nourishes the soul and provides the courage to face judgment and turn visionary ideas into reality.

I hope this blog post has given you a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Terri Martin’s experiences and the profound insights on leadership she shared. It’s conversations like these that remind us of the multifaceted nature of leading with empathy, creativity, and a deep-seated desire to make a positive impact on the world around us. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and until next time, keep leading with heart and purpose.