An inspiring leader: Sallyanne Atkinson on women, expectations and life

I usually listen to these podcasts and TED Talks (here are my favourite TED Talks) before I go to bed to help me unwind, but Sallyanne Atkinson’s interview on Mamamia’s podcast  I Don’t Know How She Does It had me sitting up in bed, listening intently.

Sallyanne Atkinson was the Lord Mayor of Brisbane from 1985-1991 and is now a business strategist and corporate advisor.  She published her memoir, No Job for a Woman, in late 2016 (which, of course, is now added to my reading list).

I was fascinated by Atkinson’s journey and her attitude to life. During the interview she spoke about gender discrimination, including being sacked because she was pregnant and being excluded from Court as a reporter because she was female; balancing work and motherhood, including needing to leave council meetings to cook dinner for her children; and her journey through her career in male-dominated fields.

I really resonated with a lot of what Atkinson had to say.  I felt like I could have been listening to an interview with my future self, not because of her personal achievements (let’s be honest, mine are unlikely to ever stack up), but because of her mindset and views on life.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the interview.

On expectations

If I had to have a motto it would be 'just get on with it'

Oh, how I love this! ‘Just get on with it’ could easily be one of my life motto’s too.  People spend far too much time judging, comparing, gossiping and worrying about other people’s opinions.  I truly think that the world would be a happier place if we could just accept that everyone is different and that that is just fine.  Atkinson goes on to say that she thinks ‘mum guilt’ is a ‘total waste’ of emotion: ‘If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop doing it. Stop doing whatever it is that is causing you the guilt, if it’s possible. And if it’s not possible there’s a great prayer … God give me the courage to change the things I can, the strength to bear the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.’  Hooray! I don’t believe in mum guilt either.

On leadership and learning

Write your life, share your experiences because that is the only way people learn.

Sharing your experiences with others does not have to be narcissistic – it’s how we learn and develop.  This realisation was one of the reasons why I started my blog.

On work-life balance

I've never believed in hiding your children away from your job

Thank you!  I don’t agree that we should leave our personal lives at the door when we go to work. In fact, I think we should encourage employees and colleagues to share more about their personal lives. We’re all going through the same thing, so why should we have to hide this in a professional setting?

Atkinson also acknowledges that for some people, work is life and that isn’t always a bad thing: ‘We should be talking about work-life harmony. Making sure that you can deal with ups and downs.’

On ‘having it all’

There are lots of ups and downs ... but it's really how you deal with them that matters.

Atkinson’s view on ‘having it all’ is that you can have it all, but not all at once. Her advice includes working out what is important to you, choosing the right partner (‘Make your partner a real partner’, as Sandberg would say!) and getting help – you don’t have to do it all!

Atkinson sounds like my kind of mentor! I can’t wait to read her memoir, No Job for a Woman.  Look out for my review in the next few months!


  1. Lisa Pomerantz | 27th Feb 17

    I love TED Talks and TED radio too! That is what the commute is for, right? Thanks so much for sharing your new mentor with #globalblogging I have made some notations and will check out SallyAnne. Perhaps, I’ll even carve out some time for reading her book! I know I will look forward to your review. <3

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 28th Feb 17

      Thanks Lisa. My list of books to read it getting longer and longer. I can’t get through them quickly enough! I haven’t heard of TED radio, but it sounds like I am missing out. I’ll get on to it!

  2. Helena | 2nd Mar 17

    Ted Talks are great. From what I’ve read of your blog so far I think you and the company you work for are doing great in accordance of the life-work balance quote. May you both go from strength to strength and show the rest of the world it is achievable. #globalblogging

    • Lucy | Leaning In | 3rd Mar 17

      What a lovely comment, Helena. Thank you. I am really passionate about it so I am glad it shows through.

  3. One Messy Mama | 3rd Mar 17

    Love it when you say “Sharing your experiences with others does not have to be narcissistic – it’s how we learn and develop.” I couldn’t agree more!! Great read.You should make an infographic about your list of book to read! #globalblogging!

  4. Hayley@ Mission: Mindfulness | 3rd Mar 17

    Yes – she sounds like a lady that talks sense. The ‘ups and downs’ quote is one I particularly find valid – it’s how you deal with what life throws at you that counts. #globalblogging. xx


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