Emily Wilson is on a mission to learn – and share – as much as she can about the leadership mindset from Australia’s most respected leaders. That’s the idea behind the What I Love About video series… or WILA for short.

While not all leadership styles are the same, Emily has found there are certain, basic traits that earmark all successful leaders. This week Emily enjoys a glass of wine at the stunning Butler Restaurant in Sydney’s Potts Point, with Alison Harrop, the Group CFO at Dexus – an inspiring Australian leader.

In this, part 3, of their discussion, they touch on the benefits of honesty and being human – which she obviously does with the right touch of humour.

(Watch Part 1 – Letting go, vulnerability, EQ and receptivity or Part 2: Future leaders, legacy and an open mindset)

Transcript of Part 3 – honesty, humour and being human starts here:

Emily: I recently caught up with Alison Harrop. What I Love about Alison’s style is it’s no BS, authentic, straight-talking leadership style. And I love how naturally funny she’s in her own responses.

Alison Harrop: CFO of a company you’re expected to play a certain role you’re expected to be a certain thing.  And I guess my way of cutting through that kind of facade is by disarming people. So, say to them, ‘look,’ …being really honest and saying, ‘actually, I had a really bad weekend and actually the kids were, you know, terrible and actually I’m feeling really tired this morning and I’m actually not really very energised for what I’m about to do right now. And people kind of go, ‘did she just say that?’

Emily: Yeah, but it’s honesty.
Alison Harrop: Yes, you’re being honest and authentic.  Doesn’t mean I don’t love the place, doesn’t mean we’re not really still bang-on mission and we’re going to do all this stuff – just this morning, right now, I’m feeling really tired.

It is just about honesty. I think early in my career I tried to be the facade, ‘I need to behave like this – and I need to look this way…’ But you can’t keep… Well, for one, you can’t keep that up. You can’t possibly keep that up all the time. But secondly, what is the point? I’m not being genuine and honest with the people that work for me. I don’t want them to learn to do that. I want them to learn to be natural and open…

And I find that people respond to me way better if I’m honest with them and go, ‘you know what I’m just over it today. Can we just do this another time?’ Or, ‘actually, you know I’ve had a really busy day, I can’t concentrate… I’m sorry I’d love to talk about that…’

Emily: But my head’s not in it right now.
Alison Harrop: Right. I’m not in it right now, I’m really distracted… can we do this another time?

Emily: Because you wouldn’t do it justice.
Alison Harrop: Right. And they just go,

OMG she’s actually human. She’s not this facade, she’s not the ‘CFO’ or whatever, she’s actually a person and she has the same problems that I do.

And I’m really glad that she told me because I didn’t want to waste my time or her time… and actually that’s awesome.

A lot of execs to feel very uncomfortable with being that open about themselves, Especially because I say to stuff in meetings like,’ I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I don’t understand what you just said’. I’m happy to just own it and go, ‘you know what, I don’t understand what you’re talking about.’ For a lot of execs that’s a very uncomfortable place to be because a lot of their career is built on ‘you need to be a certain way’ and need to,  you know… ‘I’m in this important meeting I need to present myself with this picture of myself’.  I still get some execs, when I say some of that stuff say…

Emily: “Did you just say that!? Did you just admit that?!

Alison Harrop: But it’s fun because then they go, ‘actually I wasn’t quite sure about that either.’ So it kind of brings a different conversation. But you have to, you know, I guess it comes from a place of, well… I know that I’m good at lots of stuff, I don’t need to be good at everything. And if I don’t understand, in all honesty, I’m going to say.

But, you have to get over a… well, there’s a mental barrier for people around admitting that. Because you’re supposed to be this very senior, know-it-all.

Emily: Alison definitely knows more than most leaders, but what I love about Alison Harrop is how effortlessly inspiring she is.
Bravo Alison!

Watch Alison and Emily in Part 1: Letting go, vulnerability, EQ and receptivity as important indicators of successful people, and Part 2: Future leaders, legacy and an open mindset 

Emily Wilson FutureYou sincerely thanks Alison Harrop for her time and generous, personal sharing. 

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We’d also like to thank The Butler in Potts Point for facilitating the lunch and the camera crew. 

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