Breaking gender norms is something Aurecon Group Chief Operating Officer Louise Adams is all too familiar with.
Paving the way for women in engineering, Adams has been at the company for the past 20 years – and she’s living out her childhood dream.
"I wanted to be a civil engineer for as long as I can remember," she tells The CEO Magazine. "I remember when I was quite young, I saw images of people living underneath a bridge on a flat plain in Bangladesh and found out that every year, their houses would be washed away.
"I asked what I would need to be when I grew up to help them. From that moment on, there was never going to be any career for me except as a civil engineer."
The newly appointed Group COO has led teams all over the world since she started her career in 2000.
Striving for inclusion, Adams finds value in collaborative success.
"I believe in the collective power of a whole team, so my leadership style focuses heavily on empowering people to add individual value for collective success," she explains. "I feel a large part of my role as a leader is to provide the necessary guidance and support and establish an environment in which they can succeed."
Celebrating achievements is something the leader finds important for future growth.
As the second female CEO to be crowned with the prestigious accolade of CEO of the Year in the Executive of the Year Awards’ history, Adams is lending her knowledge and expertise to the judging panel for 2021.
"I really feel we’re at an inflexion point in what good leadership needs to look like, not only to continue to lead us through the ongoing challenges of this pandemic, but into the future," she shares. "We need to continue to celebrate leadership and showcase what it looks like."
Sitting on the inspiring judging panel, Adams will be tasked with deciding which three talented CEOs will be recognised for their exceptional contributions to the corporate world.
As a trailblazer for gender equality, the Group COO has advanced the male dominated industry for decades.
"We often see what poor leadership looks like; however, we don’t often celebrate what good looks like … Now, more than ever, we need it." – Louise Adams
Adding to her list of firsts, Adams was the first female Executive Director on Aurecon’s Global Board in 2013. Advocating for women in leadership, the pioneer is passionate about organisational diversity and the role it plays in innovation and leadership within STEM.
"I’ve been very fortunate over the past few years to meet a handful of very inspiring leaders, in particular women, and I always try to walk away with some advice that helps me grow as a leader myself," she shares.
Having spent much of her career travelling overseas to countries including Iran, India, Malaysia, Laos, Pakistan, Libya and Qatar, it’s these moves that she ranks among some of her bravest decisions.
"Early in my career I packed my bags and moved to a new place where I’ve not known anyone, where I’ve had an opportunity that I’ve always just jumped into with both feet," Adams says. "Looking back now, that was always pretty brave, and it always paid off too."
Now the influential leader is encouraging Australia’s entrepreneurs, thought leaders and C-suite decision-makers to make their next brave move.
"With everything that is going on in the world, we need to be able to recognise and celebrate good leadership when we see it," Adams said during her acceptance speech in 2020. "The role that business leaders are going to have to play in creating a better world moving forward is considerable.
"We often see what poor leadership looks like; however, we don’t often celebrate what good looks like, especially at an individual level. Now, more than ever, we need it."
With applications for the 10th iteration of The CEO Magazine’s Executive of the Year Awards closing in just under a month’s time, the leader shares her words of wisdom with future trailblazers.
"Don’t try and be great at everything," Adams says. "Know your strengths and focus on developing them – but also surround yourself with people who complement you so that collectively you can be great."
Discover all the finalists for the 2021 Executive of the Year Awards and celebrate the winners at The Star, Sydney, during the black-tie gala dinner on 24 February 2022. Vaccination requirement to be confirmed.