How to Raise Great Leaders

When it comes to vulnerability, the world has Brene Brown. When it comes to authentic leadership, Australia has Maroba Caring Communities CEO, Viv Allanson. This month we talk to Viv about raising great leaders.

Viv Allanson has been at Maroba Caring Communities for 25 years and stepped into the role of CEO in 2000. “Leadership,” she says, “Is not rocket science, but not all managers are great leaders and not all leaders are great managers.” 

By nature, Viv is caring and candid. Despite a rocky start in her own life her approach to leadership  is lovingly raw and reassuringly honest.

“I had brokenness through my childhood,” she shares. “My twin brother and I were adopted out, so we were rejected, yet accepted, from the start. My adopted mother had a terrible journey with Breast Cancer and died close to my 12th birthday but she led me to believe, anything you turn your hand to, you can do it. She gave me great hope.” 

At a critical time, when leadership across the globe feels unpredictable, it’s a blessing to work closely with someone who values the opportunity to influence for good, lead authentically and honor human connection. Viv says her wholehearted goal is to make herself redundant. How does she do that? By raising as many mini CEO’s as she can. Drawing on her own experience, Viv shares seven insights on authentic leadership. Regardless of your role, or industry, if you’re here to make an impact, read on. 


“Leadership found its way into my life when I was very young, I just didn’t realise it at the time. My journey started as a volunteer – I was the youngest volunteer Pink lady, at Royal Newcastle Hospital when I was 15, and all I ever wanted to be was a nurse. Years later, I realised, imbedded in that was a great opportunity to lead. Every year, for International Nurses Day, they have a theme around Nursing: A Force To Lead

Many nurses don’t appreciate they have the most privileged position in society – to lead others in making good choices, live a good life and have good health. From early on I had the opportunity to influence others, which to me is the simplest, but most powerful, definition of leadership. Are you an influencer? If you are, you get to choose – are you an influencer for good or not for good?” 


“In all my roles I think, who can I help recognise their power to influence? When I got into Aged Care at Maroba, I was in a role that gave me a genuine opportunity to raise others up. When someone takes on a new role I say is, ‘Find your replacement and raise them up’. 

I create environments where the natural strengths and abilities of people are able to surface, and we empower people to lead. My goal is to make myself redundant and have multiple mini CEOs, and for everyone to have a company credit card just because we trust them.”  


“I train something into people early on in their career, to always see themselves as a role model. No matter what they’re doing, I say, ‘Be a role model and live at the next level’. People are always watching. If all you do is be a role model, you’ve been a positive influence.”   

Consistent authenticity has been the most powerful factor for me… people know my humanity will connect with theirs and they feel safe.”

– Viv Allanson, CEO, Maroba Caring Communities



“I always instil the importance of loving the people and this has worked for me because I genuinely love the people. I said something profound to my team recently. I said, ‘If we can’t love the people, I would say we have no right to lead them.’ Not everyone loves that statement. I shared it with our Chaplin and she said, ‘Is that possible?’ So here we have tension between, is that possible to, this is our aspiration. I always put the aspiration before the impossibility. 

If our aim is to truly love each other we think, how can I embrace them in their brokenness, their weaknesses and their failings? Because someone, at some point, embraced me in my weaknesses, my brokenness and my failings. Loving the people doesn’t mean you don’t bring correction or discipline – that’s really loving the people. When you’ve been forgiven much, you easily love much.”   


“Give people a chance. I look at my history and people tried to write me off so many times. They said, ‘We don’t want you. You’re a rebel. You’re not the type of person we want at our hospital.’ But there were two women at Royal Newcastle who were a great inspiration to me. They’re in their 80s now and I caught up with them recently. They still have an impact in my life because of the difference they made back then.

We’ve done some strengths profiling at Maroba and we are all very different and unique. Some people will be great managers but make hopeless leaders. Others will be great leaders and make hopeless managers. Some people will be great team members, doing what may appear to be insignificant tasks, but be the most powerful influence, and thus they are leading.” 

6. HAVE A SUCCESSION PLAN (Or, in Viv’s words, “Don’t be precious about your role”.) 

“I often ask CEOs, ‘Have you got a succession plan?’ And they say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve got a plan’. And I say, ‘OK, so when you go away do you pay someone to relieve you?’ And they say, ‘No”. At Maroba all our roles are relieved when people go away and I pay someone a significantly higher rate to relieve me. Do they have to do a lot? Possibly not, but there’s power in the empowering. 

The role of the CEO is very valuable to us, therefore we need to cover it plus it gives someone the opportunity to put that on their CV. To all the CEOs who say they have a magnificent succession plan I say, ‘Nonsense! You don’t until you’re replacing yourself when you’re on leave.”


“Consistent authenticity has been the most powerful factor for me because people know what to expect. If I’m having a bad day, my people see my tears and know when they’re having a bad day they can come and cry in my office. People know my humanity will connect with theirs and they feel safe. 

There was a comment from one of my peers in Aged Care, which was, ‘Don’t get to know the people because one day you’ll have to sack them’. I’d rather know what my people are going through before I sack them. I’ve sacked many people over the years but I get hugged and thanked because I know their circumstances. People can sniff out authenticity and they gravitate towards it.” 

How are you empowering people and inspiring authentic leadership in your organisation? We’d love to hear from you.