The path to achievement in any field - for women especially - can be rocky. Sometimes it isn’t clear what the right thing to do is. When we do seek advice it is often offered by well-meaning, highly successful women with different backgrounds to us.
"Perhaps having to negotiate around [tall poppy] syndrome gives us skills we do not yet recognise.”
I write this from a ship in the Drake Passage on my way to Antarctica as part of a cohort of 77 women of science, all participating in the Homeward Bound leadership project.
I have met many women on this trip; leaders of all shapes and sizes. One thing allows us to exist collaboratively on a small boat: we share a commitment to achieving a common purpose through this grand adventure. Without the collective commitment, such an endeavor would be highly risky.
It’s true for any workplace. A study from Deloitte suggests almost 73 per cent of employees who say their workplace is ‘purpose driven’ are considered highly engaged. Engagement at companies without a purpose falls to less than a quarter - 23 per cent.
The dilemma of navigating the complex social settings of the workplace is a source of confusion around the globe. But it’s a particular problem in Australia, in the land of the ‘tall poppy’.
What if you are meant to be bright and upstanding and a light for others to follow? How do you do this and avoid the tall poppy chop?
Tall poppy syndrome is a social phenomenon well known to Australians. We like our leaders and our like heroes to be self-deprecating and humble - but we also like to have the right to chop them off at the knees if we think they have become too big headed. No one must look like they think well of themselves.