Jodie Leonard: Have purpose - and know what motivates your fellow directors


Jodie Leonard shared learnings and lessons galore when she spoke at the WOB mid-year members lunch at the Alexandra Club in Melbourne last week.


Chief amongst these was the need for an individual purpose statement to provide clarity to yourself and to others that you know what you are looking for when it comes to board roles.  “This helps people in your networks know how and what to pitch to you,” Jodie said.

The experienced Non-Executive Director whose current portfolio includes X2M Connect (ASX:X2M) and the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority, generously shared her wisdom and expertise from a combined 30 years of board service on companies including: BWX (Sukin consumer brand), RACV, Flexi-group, Beyond Bank Australia, Racing Victoria and Kinetic Superannuation.

Jodie reminded the audience of experienced and aspiring board members at the 27 July lunch, that a board journey is not likely to be what you expect, telling a story of her time on Racing Victoria when she was asked for race tips; to which she would diplomatically reply “be nice to your mother!”

You need to see starting out on boards as an apprenticeship,” Jodie said, adding that at times “it can be uncomfortable."

She highlighted that an individual’s appetite for risk will influence their decisions and it is important to get out of your comfort zone and broaden your experiences. For Jodie, who came to boards from a professional career as a global marketing executive in tier 1 companies, this meant serving on audit committees and getting across risk management frameworks and finance – topics that initially made her want to “pick her eyes out with a fork.”

Now an experienced audit committee member and remuneration committee chair, Jodie spoke about the role of industry associations in being a good safe place to learn some of the finer skills of being a board member. She also said it was important to keep connected and current in the corporate world via consulting or advisory roles. 

Jodie’s board portfolio focuses on companies undergoing customer and digital transformation (including data management & AI), and she loves the variety, being part of a team and having more time to take on other projects.

One of the key aspects of a board process is the interview to determine ‘fit’. 

“Boards are looking for fit, so don’t be disheartened if you’re interviewed and don’t get the role. If you are interviewed, then you have the skills. If you don’t get the role, then it’s likely you’re not the right fit,” Jodie said. “Learn to embrace rejection and choose your roles wisely.”

Jodie stressed that you cannot do enough due diligence when considering a board role. Other than the usual list of activities, she said prospective candidates should also meet with former directors, company analysts, proxy advisors, remuneration consultants, and read all their reports to understand what’s really going on.

One of the biggest influences on your board experience is what motivates other directors to be there. What motivates them and their risk appetite?

Jodie said there are some key indicators that will define your experience on the board, including the culture that is set by the Chair and the ownership structure of the company – being a founder based, listed, mutual or public company can change the focus of the board and create different challenges.

“Choose your roles wisely,” she advised.

“Being a director is not for everyone. You need to open your mind, be prepared to get uncomfortable and network.”

Quote from participant who attended

“Thank you and congratulations on such a fantastic event yesterday in Melbourne. Such a lovely supportive and welcoming vibe. The venue did a superb job (that souffle!) - please pass on my feedback if you have the chance. Jodie Leonard was such an engaging, interesting and relevant speaker."

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