“Entrepreneurial creativity — combined with passion and a desire to make the world a better place” — is where the magic happens.

That’s a key learning from my recent opportunity to hear from writer, comedian and actor Magda Szubanski in person. Surprised? Did you think of her first as her character Sharon in the sitcom Kath and Kim? I did – and my mind has firmly been changed.

Magda is a beloved Australian figure. Famous for roles such as Esme Hoggett in Babe – and of course as Sharon – she has, more recently, become a prominent voice for the LGBTI+ community, and renowned for her award-winning memoir Reckoning.

Maree Ferguson and I had the opportunity to hear from Magda at her recent Business Chicks breakfast in Brisbane. Indeed, she had us in stitches with her unique sense of humour, but also shared personal and professional insights reflective of her upbringing, her personal journey and her (more recent) role as a leader in the public arena.

Here’s what we learned from Magda:

 

    • Diversity powers innovation: Magda believed that “coming out” about her sexuality during her career would ruin it, since it challenged the status quo. Her more recent leadership role has reaffirmed that socially diverse groups of people (e.g., workplaces) are likely to outperform those that are homogenous. Read more on this from Harvard Business Review here. How can this help you in organizing your team, business or organization?

 

    • As a comedian and actor by profession, Magda believed that writing a literary memoir (which later earned her fame for entirely different reasons) would attract criticism. Her unexpected success taught her “the enormous creativity you can tap into when you’re not hiding who you are… we’re all hiding something.”

 

    • On the topic of switching direction, Magda remarked, “You don’t always know your why – you find it. Start anywhere. It’s in the doing of things.” She then talked about the setbacks during her life, and explained how she came to realise that “other people don’t focus on your failures… you do.”

 

    • Her various encounters as a comedian, in a male-dominated profession, taught her the power in empathy, or as Magda puts it, “softening up” rather than “hardening up.”

 

  • It might surprise you that Magda is an “ambivert” (an extroverted introvert). Now a leader in the public arena, her experiences have led to her to believe she “can’t afford to be an introvert;” they have shown her the strength in “lend[ing] your voice to the community” and that “you cannot outsource leadership, you have to take initiative.”

 

Most notably, Magda talked about her father’s work as an assassin in WWII, during her childhood. She talked about the courage, determination and bravery of those around her, and in how this informed her disposition. “Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s doing something brave that makes you brave.” And indeed, brave she is. Brave, and inspiring.

 

– By Kate Agnew
– Edited by Laura Byrne