April 25, 2022

Shamsa Lea: On a mission

RAAF Veteran, documentary maker, mother, board director, leadership coach and Deloitte Senior Manager. For most of us, these are the experiences of several lifetimes, yet for Shamsa Lea, it feels like she’s only just getting started.

Her role on the Board of Carry On - the largest provider of crisis and financial housing assistance to veterans in Victoria - will bring new leadership and governance challenges as the organisation expands its services so to help upskill, Shamsa recently took part in the Centre for Social Impact’s and AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s Governance for Social Impact workshop - a two-day leadership course.

“I found the course so meaningful and it upscaled my professional development in a cost-effective way. The Company Directors Course keeps you out of jail, but Governance for Social Impact helps you change the world,” says Shamsa.

“What struck me from the course was that we don’t necessarily need more funding or more people, but better mechanisms.”

Despite the varied work Shamsa has taken on, a common thread emerges: a strong sense of social justice and a belief in the power of humanity to work together for the common good.

It was Shamsa’s deployments in Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and the Middle East that were the catalyst for her developing awareness of social impact and purpose driven leadership, and how she might combine the two.

“It got me thinking, that as humans, when you strip back all the ego we are all just trying to work together to make the world better at the heart of it.”

But perhaps her proudest achievement was launching Propel Her Australia, an online publishing hub and career development resource for women in Defence, which she co-founded in 2020 and which gained her the defence industry’s award for People and Culture Leaders of the Year in 2021 with her co-founder.

“We realised that we had created a psychologically safe space for women to say, ‘I’ve got a thing to say about leadership in the military’. Whereas traditionally in the male dominated professional military education space, that didn’t feel safe,” says Shamsa.

Fast-forward to the present, where Shamsa is charting a new role in the Workforce Transformation team at Deloitte. Initially, it was a career move that came as a surprise, even to herself, but Shamsa is excited because it combines her passion for equity, social justice and people - in a way that brings both commercial sense and systemic change.

“I’m a big believer that equitable and inclusive governance and operating models result in increased innovation which then enhances business value. Once we put that together - organisational justice becomes really, really powerful,” says Shamsa.

“I’m interested in the question, ‘how can we enhance social license in organisations?’ The challenge now is that our generation do not want to join some of the big multinationals. And the ones they do want to join are those that understand the link between ESG and creating inclusive career pathways, and putting their money where their mouth is.”

“It’s a privilege to be invited into the heart of an organisation - we are not in the spotlight, we are the lighting crew. And when you think about consulting like that, it becomes purpose driven. I’m really trying to chart the path in Deloitte by realising that I can use it as a vehicle to create social impact and I’m defining what that is for me.”

When reflecting on all that she has done and aspires to do, Shamsa is emphatic when asked about what and who inspires her the most:

“My inspiration is the women that publish on Propel Her, because we hear about their experiences. They’ve all got completely unique stories with their own challenges and they’re brave enough to write and publish them and put their vulnerability into the world. I’m so proud of those women.”

The Centre for Social Impact's Governance for Social Impact courses run a few times a year in various locations. Find out more.

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