Back yourself: Inspiration from Gail Kelly’s ‘Live, Lead and Learn’

As our former Client Development Partner Dani Matthews embarks on an exciting new career adventure, she shares with us inspiration and reflections on the three Ls according to former CEO of Westpac, Gail Kelly’s first book – Live, Lead and Learn.  


Having always admired Gail Kelly’s leadership of the Westpac Group I was excited when I heard she had written Live, Lead, Learn – My stories of life and leadership. My last encounter with Gail was attending one of her final events as CEO of the Westpac Group, a St George Group Foundation Lunch. The stand out theme for me was ‘Anything is Possible’ which I reflected on in my blog: How to break through the glass ceiling: Lessons from Westpac’s Gail Kelly.

She then seemed to seamlessly transition out of the Westpac Group with Brian Hartzer as her worthy successor. With Gail coming back into the public arena it triggered me to revisit her wisdom and talk to some of our IECL Westpac Group friends to reflect on their time under her tenure.

Diversity is a strength

I believe creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is a competitive advantage in today’s leadership landscape. In Part 2, Chapter 7 ‘Diversity is Strength.’ Gail reflects “Having a workforce more reflective of the society in which we live and the customers we serve enhances long-term sustainability, builds stronger alignment and facilitates better decision-making.” 

Grazia Pecoraro, Principal Consultant & Founder, Perspective Hive Diversity Consulting & former Senior Manager for Diversity & Inclusion at Westpac Group, worked in Westpac’s award-winning Diversity and Inclusion Centre of Excellence during Gail’s tenure and shared with me:

Lead with courage

I remember when Gail led the introduction of Westpac’s fifth value of ‘Courage’. This included ‘having the courage to deal with change, thinking boldly and finding new ways of doing things.’ I think this is essential for today’s leaders to navigate the constantly changing landscape.

In Part 2, Chapter 4 ‘Lead with Courage’ Gail writes “With the advent of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, scrutiny of leaders’ actions and behaviours has never been higher. Against this backdrop, it has become even more important to lead with courage, to be able to articulate a bold vision and execute in it fearlessly, to persevere when the pressure is on, to stand firm under fire from the naysayers, and to persist in what you believe is right. This is not easy, especially when you are in the midst of it.” 

John Raymond, IECL’s Head of Coaching, is an IECL consultant working with Westpac for the past seven years including through Gail’s tenure as CEO. He reflects:

Family comes first

As a wife to Owain and mum to two beautiful boys, Ethan and Huw, I really related to Gail’s message around putting family first. What shines through the book is her strong relationship with husband Allan and their four children.

In Part 3, Chapter 1 ‘Family – The Most Important Thing’ Gail writes, “Today when people ask me what I am most proud of in my life and career to date, the answer is an easy one: I am proud of my family. My 40-year happy marriage with Allan, and our four wonderful, centred and caring children…While luck has a lot to do with this, so has our focus on family – putting family first.”

Nicole Ward, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Westpac Group, who has been at the Westpac Group for over a decade, reflects:

Be bold, dig deep, back yourself

Gail transitioned from a career in teaching to financial services without prior experience. She had to be bold, dig deep and back herself. She includes a powerful question from Sheryl Sandberg in her book, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I know this is a favourite of some of our IECL coaches. If we don’t dig deep, confront our fears and back ourselves, can we ever be the best version of ourselves?

In Part 1, Chapter 5 Gail reflects “The fact is that in the really big ‘fork-in-the-road’ decisions, I stared into my fears and insecurities and pushed myself hard to get beyond them. I learned that, as challenging as it may be, it pays to be courageous and back yourself. I have been encouraged by others – sometimes strongly encouraged – to have a go. It has helped to be aware of the many people who will support and assist along the way.”

Andy Fell, Founder GiFT631 and #youth4good, and former Westpac Group GM, Premium Bank, St George Group and Premium Financial Services, contributes:

I found hearing these reflections very inspiring! Personally, Gail has taught me to back myself when making tough decisions, ensure you love what you do and put your family first. This learning has helped me make the big decision to follow my passion of helping coaches, leaders and entrepreneurs develop an authentic online brand and build my LaunchPad Media business (started on maternity leave) around the boys. With the support of my husband Owain (who in October will transition to six months paternity leave) I am excited to take this next step.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave the IECL family after six wonderful years, filled with amazing learning, deep relationships and purposeful work. However, the great thing about IECL is that you’re always part of the family and we’re already looking at a ‘Social Media for Coaches’ CPD collaboration for our alumni.

It feels timely to finish this amazing IECL life chapter reflecting on my biggest client partner and Gail’s ‘Back Yourself’ mantra. 

Dani Matthews is a Digital Personal Branding Specialist who has co-founded Launchpad Media, a digital marketing agency that helps clients recognise their value and how to authentically market themselves online. She is an avid lover of learning, with  a purpose to inspire others to insight and action through writing and conversations.

Image reference: https://www.westpac.com.au/news/making-news/2017/07/new-book-uncovers-secrets-to-gail-kellys-success/