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Essendon Captain – Dyson Heppell

By STUFF Team |
Essendon Captain – Dyson Heppell

Real STUFF 101 from Hunter:

Breaking down what it means when we talk up good leadership, with Bombers Skipper Dyson Heppell

I was chuffed to sit down with a long-time role model of mine, Dyson Heppell, for a chat on the Real STUFF poddy. As a footy legend and dead set nice guy, Dyson has played nearly 200 games with Essendon, and is widely respected as an inspirational leader.

Dyson and his two brothers grew up with strong family values. That loving Leongatha upbringing continues to shape the way Dys shows up as the authentic and values-driven leader he's renowned for being today. Here we are going to dig deeper into a few of the ideas we throw around in the episode:

  • What does authentic leadership mean, actually? 
  • How does role modelling work?
  • What do we mean when we talk about a values-driven culture? 

    What does authentic leadership mean, actually?

    (Don't pretend like you're The Brad Pits when you're secretly a Spicy Starter)

    Authentic leadership has copped a bit of flack lately. During COVID people got confused about whether crying on zoom was authentic leadership or just someone losing their shit on camera.

    The thing about authentic leaders, is that while we all feel the pressure to conform to stereotypes, the authentic leader instead digs deeper in order to show up in a way that feels like they're staying true to themselves. Everyone experiences those moments where we start to play along with a way of acting that doesn't quite sit right... Well authenticity comes from the word 'author' and it's about having the courage to write your story, rather than reading from a script.

    Dyson gives a pretty good 101 on authenticity right here:

    When it comes to leading on the field or off, authentic leadership is not about shying away from outcomes, being soft, or taking more sick days because you're  feeling crap. It's about walking your own path in a way that inspires other people to walk theirs... all the while sharing enough of yourself and your vision that you get everyone heading in the same direction. 

    Dyson and I agree we've both felt the pressure as young leaders to be louder, more directive, more aggressive. We've both been in situations where we don't feel alpha enough to command respect... but respect is not something that responds to a command (that's obedience or submission), instead respect is earned. And most often by authenticity.

    How does role modelling work?

    (it's how fresh you roll, baby)

    A 'role model' in dictionary-land is a person 'looked to' by others 'as an example to be imitated'. What I like about Dyson's definition of Hirdy as a role model is that he takes us through the fundamentals of a great role model relationship:
    1. A great role model enables others to make a paradigm shift of some kind (like swinging from Cats to Bombers...huge!)
    2. A great role model is able to meet people on their level and challenge them to live a larger life 
    3. A great role model lives a larger life in a way that creates a safe space for others to grow
    4. A great role model empowers others by building the bridge between where they are and where they might stretch to
    5. A great model beats a pathway through the bush to follow, but encourages others to walk in their own shoes

     How do you know when you're an unofficial role model for others?

    1. You are a role model if you focus your attention on someone and they seem to light up and grow taller in front of your eyes
    2. You are a role model for someone if they are keen to throw support behind your new ideas
    3. You are likely a role model for someone if they seem nervous around you
    4. You are a role model if you give others permission to be the best version of themselves, by being the best version of yourself

    What do we mean by values-driven culture?

    (gotta val-YOU before others do!)

    Dyson gets vulnerable and dives into how values-driven leadership by Jobe Watson, the captain at the time of the Essendon saga, kept the whole team out of the limelight and focused on believing everything would be okay. Values-driven leadership is the only way to build a values-driven culture. And sometimes it means sacrificing the end result in order to keep the values intact along the way. 

    A values-driven culture is one where individuals feel aligned to the values of the organisation, and is often built on these 5 markers:

    1. Trust is key
    2. Relationships come before transaction
    3. A sense that people are coming from 'the right place'
    4. Values are aligned however diverse opinions are welcomed
    5. People lead according to a set of values, even when no one is looking

    A values driven culture is less about driving a culture to achieve value, and more about driving values to achieve a culture.

    Let us know if there were other bits and pieces through this Real STUFF podcast or any others that need some breaking open!

    Thanks for reading.


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