Experience can come in many forms and Arabella Gibson is undoubtedly one of the most multi-faceted CEOs to take the title of Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year. Being a former corporate leader for numerous companies as well as a doting mother of twins hasn’t stopped Gibson from owning the top role as CEO of the Gidget Foundation Australia for the past five years.
"I love that every single day we do make a difference to someone else’s life," Gibson told The CEO Magazine after claiming her inspiring accolade. "I feel genuinely so proud of my incredible team because every day we change lives.
"We make people’s lives better in the sense that we can support them with free mental health support they may not have otherwise had. That is something I’m hugely passionate about."
Her wealth of experience was honed in the media and marketing industries across Australia and the United Kingdom – the latter most recently saw her as the General Manager of London-based online magazine subscription business, iSUBSCRiBE. Gibson’s other stints include being the Director of Communications for Australian media entity PBL Media as well as its subsidiary businesses the Nine Network Australia and Bauer Media (formerly ACP Magazines). Prior to that, she was the Global General Manager in marketing and sales for the iconic Australian shoe brand, RM Williams.
She also further utilises her leadership skills to be a driving force for women, where she is the Non-Executive Director of Future Women an organisation that supports the advancement of women in connecting, learning and leading.
"A good leader is one that leads truly by example," she says. "They are loyal to their staff and show integrity and empathy. Motivating staff is key to being a strong leader as well as ensuring that a clear vision exists to achieve strategic objectives as a team.
"A good leader makes firm, prompt but consultative decisions – where necessary – so that stakeholders feel there is defined and clear direction. They are fearless and calm but can show their humanity and vulnerability without feeling threatened."
Gibson only has one name when it comes to her own inspiration.
"Allan Sparkes, CV OAM VA FRSN, regularly inspires me," she says of one of Australia’s most highly decorated citizens.
"One of only five Australians in the past 44 years to be awarded the Cross of Valour (CV), Australia's highest bravery decoration," she adds.
"He is also the only Australian to be awarded the Cross of Valour and a subsequent National bravery decoration, the Commendation for Brave Conduct, along with other significant awards for bravery and service including the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to Mental Health Organisations and the Community. And he is one of only 10 Australians to receive the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal."
Gibson also highlights Sparkes’ role as a powerful advocate for mental health who has worked on countless philanthropic programs across the country.
"Most importantly, Allan is a spectacular human and I am so lucky that he has joined our board as a Non-Executive Director and is a wonderful mentor for me in my role as CEO," she adds.
"We also regularly do boxing together as he takes an interest in ensuring my mental health and wellbeing is balanced alongside the work of leading the Gidget Foundation."
Gibson says the Executive of the Year Awards is a unique way to drive excellence in the community by ensuring executives are recognised and empowered to positively progress within their area of expertise.
"The CEO Magazine has excellent content, first and foremost. Covering a great mix of interests, I enjoy reading it and feel it reflects many topics of interest to me, often representing a truly global viewpoint," Gibson says.
"I'd love to see more social responsibility content included too, of course. I particularly like the magazine's support of small business."
Additionally, the awards can help raise awareness about the cause she feels most passionate about.
"Being the 2021 Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year winner helps to spread awareness on this particular issue," she says. "Twenty years ago perinatal depression and anxiety was very hidden – even now there’s a certain amount of stigma attached to it. So many mothers and fathers are nervous, they feel fear and shame and denial around what they’re experiencing. But it’s OK to embrace our imperfections.
"If we do that we’re going to have a better society and a better generation to come."