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Australian Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh – Are leaders born or made?

Hanoi Times – At the event “The Changemakers Series 2: Are Leaders Born or Made?” organized by Swinburne Vietnam, Ms. Julianne Cowley – Consul General of Australia in Ho Chi Minh City shared with students about her experiences and lessons on becoming a great leader.

Julianne Cowley

“Are Leaders Born or Made” is the second event in The Changemakers Series – Swinburne Vietnam’s initiatives to connect students with global leaders and thinkers.

A great leader is someone who can inspire followers

According to Ms. Julianne Cowley, a good leader must be someone who can motivate team members and let them shine through their strengths.

“Motivation is an important catalyst to increase work efficiency,” Ms. Cowley emphasized. “Not only that, but inspiration also makes every day at work more enjoyable.”

“Loving the job is also an important factor to help employees complete their tasks well and actively improve their own qualifications.”

Observation and Communication – The Key to Understanding Leadership

Reflecting on her early career, Ms. Cowley finds inspirational leaders are both observant and adroit with their communication skills.

Leaders observe each individual in the team, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, assign people according to their personal experiences, and support their team members to achieve their goals. 

“You will feel valued and appreciated when you are in an organization where leadership cares about you as an individual and helps you develop and recognize your contributions. Not only are you helping your leaders, but they are also helping you to advance your career,” Ms. Cowley shared.

Julianne Cowley

“You will feel valued and appreciated when you are in an organization where leadership cares about you as an individual”

Ms. Cowley also said that communication is an essential skill for a leader. With good communication, leaders can create a welcoming, respectful, and inspiring atmosphere for the group. This will help team members feel safe and motivated to contribute good ideas to the team and work harder. 

One key element for creating a welcoming environment for employees is “paying attention to the little things in people’s lives,” a secret to Ms. Cowley’s effective leadership and good relationships with her colleagues. 

On top of that, leaders can help members in their team care for each other, which creates a strong caring culture within the group. 

How to lead in the time of COVID?

The COVID pandemic, working from home for long periods of time, and distance from your group can make teamwork quite daunting. These hardships affect everyone’s well-being and morale, which can seriously impact the efficiency and performance of the collective. 

To ensure the quality and performance of the work, the leader’s communication skills play a very important role. Ms. Cowley shared that she would take the time to update her greeting videos for her employees every day even though she never thought she would do so. She believes that this method helps keep the flow of communication between her and the team during times of social distancing. 

It is not enough for a leader to only manage

In this session, Ms. Cowley helped participants distinguish between leaders and managers, two concepts that are often confused. According to her, a manager is a person who controls the resources of the organization, such as human resources, money, products, warehouse, and so on. Meanwhile, a leader is the one who creates visions for the organization to move forward and inspire his/her followers to achieve that goal.

“However, these concepts may change in the time of Covid,” Ms. Cowley added. Not only managers but everyone needs skills like project management and using all the resources they have to work effectively.

At the end of the program, Ms. Cowley addressed young leaders: “The key to a happy life is to work with interesting people in a good environment. No matter what role you may have, you will fall in love with your work and find passion in everything that you do.”


The Changemakers Series is one of Swinburne Vietnam’s initiatives to connect young changemakers in Vietnam with global leaders and thinkers to encourage them to act and change for the better. Follow Swinburne Vietnam for more information about the next events of the series and be inspired. 


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