A keynote speech by Christina Chia at Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneur (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration on leadership and her version of living her very best life as we lead in constant change and in uncertain times!
On 12 November, Christina Chia delivered a keynote speech to Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneur (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration.
As a business leader and a community champion, Christina shared one of her favorite topics “leadership” – where she talked about her version of living her very best life as we lead in constant change and in uncertain times! This was based on her own personal experiences and it has worked for her especially during the very challenging phase over the last two & half years due to the pandemic.
A keynote speech by Christina Chia at Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneur (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration. It was a memorable night for ACME to re-connect again as a community and embracing multiculturalism as leaders, entrepreneurs & community champions!
Excerpts of Christina’s keynote speech
When I was asked to speak tonight, Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneur (ACME) 10th Anniversary celebration. I did some research – read your objectives & vision and I truly loved what it stood for.
It is such an encouraging organisation with the primary mission to encourage small business entrepreneurs from multicultural communities to form an effective advocacy and network. The Council also serves as link for mainstream Australian businesses to explore potential business opportunities in the countries where members originally come from. How awesome is this mission!
Let’s unpack this – a group of multicultural entrepreneurs coming together AND
building connection with mainstream Australian businesses to create opportunities for each other.
This is progressive thinking – ACME is a forward thinking organisation – this is because of good LEADERSHIP – an inclusive and collaborative leadership. And it truly resonates with me and is very relevant in today’s climate. As the Covid-19 Pandemic drags on, tight labour supply – shortage in staffing, rising inflation & rising costs of living, the global political instability & other factors – this makes us wonder and think how are we going to lead, survive & thrive? Let’s hold on to this.
I am Malaysian Chinese. I completed a Business degree & a Masters of Business Administration. I am the Chief Operating Officer of a national education business. And I am loving and living my very best life creating opportunities, normalising diversity, championing equality & fairness, supporting community, assisting others to enjoy a life of inclusivity and empowerment. I sit on several Not-for-profit boards and was recently awarded the Victorian Multicultural Commission Honour Roll.
What you don’t know about me is that – I married my first husband & that marriage ended up in a divorce after the birth of my 2 wonderful daughters. I then moved back to Melbourne as a single parent, very little money, low job prospects, 2 girls under 5 years old.
Throughout my journey, I experienced isolation issues as a migrant, bullied during school, anxiety, gender inequality & racism. And I share some of these examples during my work life:
- When I was hired as a Senior Executive, the CEO congratulated me and said: “You got the job but I need to let the Board and others know that you are Asian”.
- I was not given the Managerial role I applied for but was given the “second in command” role with feedback that being a migrant (Asian) would not be consistent with the organisation’s branding.
- I also had to contend with a recruiter who suggested I shouldn’t take a ‘big role’ (demanding) as I was a mother of two young children.
- I was given projects deemed as “female centric” by my bosses, such as PR, business development and fundraising – the “soft and light weight” ones, whilst “the boys will manage the ‘heavy’ ones, such as mergers/acquisitions, IT and finance.” Boy?! The list goes on and on!
So, why did I just tell you my story? Because of all my experiences over the past 20 years have shaped me to be the leader I am today.
So, today, in a room full of entrepreneurs and business leaders, I am really excited to share one of my favorite topics – my version of living my very best life as we lead in constant change and in uncertain times! This is based on my own personal experiences and it has worked for me especially during the very challenging phase over the last two & half years due to the pandemic.
My first point: Be Authentic!
You need to bring the best of who you are and play to your strengths. This means Leadership Emanates from the Depths of Who You Are.
I have now been in senior leadership roles for over 20 years, and in that time I have learnt that authenticity goes a really long way —
- Think first about a leader that you have always admired from a distance, but never known personally. Has their life had any real impact on the way that you live your life every day?
- Then think about a person who has really influenced you — your ways of being, your values, your life goals — and I would bet it is someone that you know well, someone that has let you know them as a real human being – that person is most impactful to you.
- So the story is that if you have any plans to truly influence people, especially in leading your organisation and in a multicultural workplace, you need to let people know – YOU. Be Authentic – be true to yourself, and allow others to know who you really are.
- It has worked for me as I managed to retain over 80% of my staff during the most challenging time of my career. Remember that one third of the economy is trust! You need to build that by being an authentic leader!
My second point – Lead with your heart & Know your ‘True North’
This is one of my favourite leadership values. Especially when we are leading in an ongoing crisis and in an environment of constant change.
Have you heard of Bill George’s concept of True North.
- Authentic leaders are driven by a moral and ethical purpose.
- They never lose sight of their core values and principles.
- They lead with their hearts, cultivate long-term relationships and demonstrate excellence through self-discipline.
- True North is your orientation point, your fixed point when there are uncertainties in your workplace; it helps you stay on track as a leader.
- True North is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level.
I remembered in March 2020 when our Premier announced a statewide lockdown. Boy, it was one of the toughest situations I have ever encountered in my career!
- We had a lot of uncertainty
- We had to shut our operations almost overnight.
- Hundreds of staff had to be stood down or repositioned.
- There was a lot of fear & anger
- And to be honest – I DIDN’T HAVE the answers!
So what did I do? I did what I do best – I walked my talk & led with my heart. “I rolled up my sleeves and wore my heart on them” so to speak
- Listen–really listen—listen with all my heart despite you do not have the answers at that point in time. Remember, sometimes it is not the words that you use, it is how you made them feel!
- Give them time – especially when you don’t have it. They will notice – especially in crisis mode.
- Keep your commitments – I could not provide further reassurance, but I did what I could do, – to continue communications regularly. That was what I promised. And I DID just that!
- Show appreciation, respect, encourage & empower
- this is particularly relevant especially in multicultural leadership teams.
- You need to make the effort to ensure your organisation recognizes and respects cultural differences,
- have continuous professional and personal reflection on the sensitivities and communication to ensure your staff feel valued and included!
My final point is ‘Leadership in living my very best life’ is about service through ‘giving’ – which I call leading with the ‘Circle of Abundance’
When you serve and give, you are making a positive impact to those around you. That person, who receives your goodness and kindness, will naturally feel good. When he / she feels good, those around him will feel it – the ripple effect of what you did, will continue to many more in your community.
I have always believed in the ‘Circle of Abundance’ and I am very happy to see that many of you have lived up to the ‘Circle of Abundance’ tonight. You took action – you came here tonight, you connected and you are keen to share your joy and goodness with your community.
And I can see that Australian Council of Multicultural Entrepreneurs (ACME) members and friends are embracing the ‘Circle of Abundance’ through community and connection!
- So remember, real leaders influence others, and influence only happens when you are known. Be authentic – Know your True North. Build Trust! It is leaders who are known that make others want to follow them and be better people.
- Lead with your heart – especially in multicultural teams. You need to recognize and respect cultural differences & the sensitivities to ensure your staff felt valued and included!
- And lead with the ‘Circle of Abundance’
And back to my story – did you want to know how my story ends?
- I am remarried again to my dearest soul mate, Roger (sitting over there)
- I succeeded in educating both girls in a prestigious private school despite migrating with very little money – that was one of my dreams!
- I’ve learnt that all of my experiences have shaped me but I am not limited by my trauma and my failure in my past.
- I learnt that it’s not what you succeed in doing but what you do to succeed.
Distinguished guests and friends, before I go, I’d like to share with you one of my favourite mantras “What is possible for the world is possible for me” and remember that this applies to you too! I wish you all the best in leading and living your very best life!
Christina’s keynote speech provided insights on leadership and her version of living her very best life as we lead in constant change and in uncertain times.
She shared three key points that has helped her during the most challenging time of my life as a business leader & community champion:
1. Be authentic! Real leaders influence others, and influence only happens when you are known by your people. Know your True North. Build Trust! Remember that one third of the economy is TRUST.
2. Lead with your heart – especially in multicultural teams where you need to recognise cultural differences & the sensitivities to make your staff feel valued and included!
3. And leadership is about service through ‘giving’ – which I call leading with the ‘Circle of Abundance’.
Christina is an award winning C-suite executive & a community champion. She is recognised as a leading authority in advocating multiculturalism and women empowerment in community and businesses.
Christina’s contributions include being President of the Asia Australian Family Association (AAFA); Co-founder of MYC Heart Connectors talk show; Executive Judge for 7News Young Achiever Awards & Community Awards; Multicultural Attaché for Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA); Board Director for Chinese Association of Victoria (CAV); President Elect of Women Chiefs of Enterprises International (WCEI).
Her contributions over the past decade has led her to be inducted onto the inaugural Victorian Multicultural Commission Honour Roll in 2022, highly commended recipient in Business Excellence awards by the Victorian Multicultural Commission in 2021, deserving recipient of awards such as the Skylark Foundation Inspirational Role Model in 2020, Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow for outstanding community contributions and philanthropy.
Born in Malaysia and having resided in Australia for 30 years, Christina is a migrant, multilingual, a married mother of two daughters. Christina is passionate in embracing diversity and is ambitious to create positive change in equity & inclusivity because we deserve better.
Christina says that:
“It is imperative for my daughters and future generations of women, that I contribute to reimagining possibilities for female Asian migrants. We need to own a vision of women who are successful in business, contribute to their community & retain their independent spirit.”