Inspiring leaders to be visionaries

Prof Brett Heyward at the Western Downs Regional Council workshop.

Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC) recognised that they needed some help to tackle future-orientated problems. They were looking to upskill their staff in a rapid way, to think more innovatively, and to commence developing a coaching culture for leadership. More than that, they wanted to do something cutting edge and needed to ensure a quality educational experience, and so they chose to partner with QUTeX.

The Challenge

QUTeX’s Professor of Practice, Dr Brett Heyward, engaged with WDRC Senior Executives in a number of strategic discussions to identify and explore core business challenges and opportunities, for example, organisational culture, business processes, and work environments. These discussions informed the program co-design process.

The Solution

Our QUTeX team then immersed themselves in the Western Downs environment to enable us to really understand the issues they were facing. The education response was then tailored to meet their needs, and delivered in their language. This meant that throughout the program they were dealing with examples that resonated strongly with them, we discovered these through the co-design, then applied them in the classroom and through active learning groups.

Members of the WDRC team in a workshop.

The Impact

The program provided the participants, and the organisation,  the ability to see new opportunities that were open to them. The program aimed to bring in an external agent to foster those ideas, the transition in idea generation confirmed our ability to stimulate new ways of working and thinking. Western Downs now has a highly engaged workforce focused on the issues of tomorrow not just what is coming through the door today.

The Highlights

The highlight for QUTeX was two-fold. Firstly, having the opportunity to work closely with people who have day-to-day challenges in their workplace,  and secondly, to see how they grow through those challenges, is always rewarding.

Bringing in a range of external material and speakers to challenge their thinking, was a hallmark of this program. The participants heard from high profile industry leaders who bought great insight to the group by sharing some of the challenges they have had to tackle in their personal careers. The inspirational speakers gave participants the confidence they were heading in the right direction, through confirmation that they had experienced a similar journey.

Members of the WDRC team in a workshop.

What to think about when looking to upskill your team?

It is important to think through where you want to be in 5 – 10 years time.

Having a Senior Leadership Team that can see the compelling future vision provides a foundation for success.”

Development programs work well in aligning people to the vision. In the co-design we pick up elements of the organisations strategy and incorporate into the program, so the resulting program is seen as something that is part of the organisation, not separate to it. The development process makes sense to the individuals involved when the strategy is incorporated and they can see where it is going.

QUT Professors of Practice, like Dr Heyward, can relate strongly to organisational challenges as they have strong industry experience not just academic experience. They understand business and want to partner with organisations to be part of the strategic direction that the organisation is heading in. Professors of Practice straddle both worlds, bringing education into the practical environment.

For more information, see the Case Study: Inspiring Leadership Transformation 

QUTeX customised executive education


Emma is a dynamic, experienced and respected executive leader with a highly regarded ability to develop, drive and support business outcomes. Emma has considerable experience as the state leader of member based, professional associations, providing her with an extensive background in working with individuals and organisations to maximise their investment in customised and open enrolment executive education programs. In her prior roles Emma managed a diverse portfolio of program delivery for government, corporate and not-for-profit clients throughout Queensland and New South Wales. Within the Graduate School of Business and QUTeX, Emma manages Government partnerships throughout Queensland in relation to leadership development; taking the time to understand the organisation’s workforce capability and provide solutions accordingly. Prior to joining QUT, Emma held the position of State Director at Governance Institute of Australia; with a focus on management of Governance Institute activities in Queensland to ensure that the strategic direction were executed and that superior quality services were provided to members, students and customers. Before that Emma was the State Executive Officer for the Financial Planning Association where she managed and administered the service delivery and business of the Financial Planning Association in Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

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