Stepping into the unknown, and embracing her flaws – and strengths – as a leader: GGF’s latest Leading Questions podcast with Australia’s governance chief Stephanie Foster

By on 01/05/2022 | Updated on 04/07/2023
Stephanie Foster: “I'm not scared to be afraid and I’m not scared to show people that.”

Global Government Forum’s flagship Leading Questions podcast is today returning for a second series, starting with an in-depth interview with one of Australia’s leading public servants, Stephanie Foster.

Foster is deputy secretary governance, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and head of reform for the Australian Public Service, and in this podcast she speaks with refreshing honesty about stepping out of her comfort zone when – after 23 years working in defence – she took on responsibility for a failing AUS$1bn stimulus package for local government, despite never having run a programme before. She shares lessons on how to lead major projects, the leadership styles that have inspired her, and why sometimes it pays to break the rules. 

Listen to the episode:

Foster also recounts her experience of delivering the Foster Report in response to an alleged sexual assault in Parliament House – a project run against a politically-charged backdrop and under intense media scrutiny, and when Foster and her team had initially just five weeks to come up with recommendations on how to make parliamentary workplaces safer.

Also touching on leading through COVID, coping with self-doubt, and why an excellent leader can also be a flawed human, Foster’s episode is an inspiring must-listen.

The first series of Leading Questions gave listeners an insight into civil service leaders’ careers, experiences and motivations, and featured Lord Gus O’Donnell, former UK cabinet secretary and head of the British civil service, and Minouche Shafik, the youngest ever vice president of the World Bank.

Listen here: Leading Questions podcast: civil service leaders share what they learned from their time at the top

This second series will search the globe to find the best examples of public sector leadership in 2022. The next episode in May will feature Suma Chakrabarti, the former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. And, if you know of anyone who we should be speaking to in future, please get in touch.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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