AIB Featured Business Leader Gail Kelly

AIB Featured Business Leader  Gail Kelly


Born in South Africa in 1956, the career of businesswoman Gail Kelly has much to teach us. After undertaking an undergraduate degree in Arts followed by a Diploma in Education, Kelly began work as a teacher in Zimbabwe. Realising that teaching was not for her, she entered the banking industry in 1980 as a teller, and was fast-tracked into a training program. From there, she commenced an MBA, and graduated with high distinction in 1987. With a desire to move to Australia, Kelly attended an interview at the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney in 1997. Upon being offered the role, she made the move to Australia one month later with her husband Alan and their children.

After five successful years as the General Manager of Strategic Marketing at Commonwealth, Kelly was offered a big break in 2002 to become the new CEO of St George Bank. Exceeding expectations in areas of leadership and profitability growth, Kelly was considered to be one of the most successful CEOs the bank had recruited to date. Finally, in 2007, it was announced that Gail Kelly would commence the position of CEO of Westpac in February 2008.

What is most interesting about the career of Gail Kelly is not her gender or profound success, it is her leadership style. Described as the “banking CEO with a human touch”, Kelly is a great reminder of what a hardworking individual can achieve for both themselves and their employees. An advocate for work life balance, she was quoted to say “I’m a huge believer in flexibility. If you give an individual a sense of accountability to shape their own work life, their productivity shoots up”.

Gail Kelly is also a wonderful advocate for a positive attitude as a whole. Known for her strong sense of optimism, Kelly iterates the importance of enjoying what you do for work. She said “When we love what we do, it holds greater meaning for us. We care more. If you don’t love what you do, change it. You owe it to yourself to love your work”. Whilst it is not easy to find a job that you truly love, Kelly is a great reminder that our happiness is our number one priority. If we are happy in what we do, then success is bound to follow as we put more effort into our roles.

As the first female CEO of an Australian top 15 company, there is no doubt that Gail Kelly has achieved an admirable amount throughout her career. Aside from being named Forbes’ 56th most powerful woman in the world in 2014, Kelly also did some fantastic work for leadership equality at Westpac. Although she stepped down from her role as CEO of Westpac earlier this year, her achievements will continue to be admired for years to come.

Image Credit: ABC News

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: WikipediaBusiness Insider and The Age.

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