Colleen  Callander: Leaving A Mark Through Leadership.

As a teenager, Colleen Callander’s career aspirations changed frequently. She considered being a vet, a hairstylist, and even a lawyer. But none of those paths were meant for her she chuckles. At the age of 16, she entered the fashion industry as a sales assistant. She quickly climbed the ladder through her sheer hard work. At the age of 20, she became one of the youngest area managers and at the age of 24, she took on the role of Victorian Sales Manager for four years.

She joined the Sportsgirl team in June 1999 which she shares was a dream come true for her.  The next 20 years of her career were dedicated to the Sussan/Sportsgirl Group, contributing to the growth and success of these brands.

After reaching the milestone of 20 years in March 2020, she felt it was time for a new chapter in her life. In an interview with CIO Global, she talks about her major decision to explore new opportunities, pushing herself further and the thrill of embarking on a new adventure.

I was born into a hard-working, business-focused family, where the concept of work permeated every aspect of our lives. Growing up, I was surrounded by the bustling activity of family businesses, witnessing first-hand the dedication and effort it took to build something meaningful. It was in this environment that I began my journey into the world of work, starting from as early as I can remember. At 16, I got a summer job at a Just Jeans store, which kick-started my retail career that lasted over 30 years.


CG: Thank you for doing this with us Colleen . Can you please share with us a few insights about your book Leader by Design.What motivated you to write this book?

Colleen  Callander:
In 2007, I faced a significant challenge: burnout. Like many women I know, I was trying to balance a high-profile career and three young children. I constantly put others before myself, seeking to please everyone and ignoring my well-being. Burnout taught me the importance of self-care, implementing boundaries and finding balance in life. Now, I share my strategies in my book – ‘Leader By Design’ and the mentorship program to help women prioritize themselves and live fulfilling lives without burning out.

At Callander & Co, we prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We believe in creating a welcoming environment that values different backgrounds and perspectives. To promote these values, we focus on diverse hiring, provide training on inclusion, encourage open communication, support employee groups, and regularly review our policies. Our goal is to foster an inclusive culture where everyone feels respected and valued.

Colleen  Callander

CG: Can you please give us a gist of the strategies mentioned in the book you follow to strike a personal-professional life balance?

To balance my personal life with my professional commitments, I implement several strategies.

First, I set strong boundaries by separating my work from my home life and dedicating specific time to each. I’ve learned to get comfortable saying ‘no’ when necessary to protect my time and well-being.

Additionally, I have established strong rituals in my life that help maintain balance and keep me grounded. Overall, I prioritise maintaining a “life in balance” rather than pursuing a traditional “work-life balance.” This mindset, combined with the 80/20 rule I follow, allows me to experience calmness, control, routine, and happiness in the majority of my life, while also embracing a bit of chaos that fosters resilience, strength, and gratitude.

CG: “All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.” What’s your motivational goal to reach the pinnacle of success?

When I established Callander & Co in early 2020, my vision encompassed two important goals.

Firstly, I aimed to empower women, enabling them to embrace their potential, find their voice, and live purposefully both in their professional and personal lives. This included instilling the confidence to pursue career advancements, excel in boardroom settings, establish healthy boundaries for a balanced life, and take control of their destinies.

Secondly, I set out to inspire organisations to embrace a new era of leadership. This involved cultivating kindness, compassion, collaboration, trust, and authenticity as foundational values within leadership practices. Additionally, I sought to encourage greater representation of women in leadership positions.

Callander & Co has successfully translated these goals into reality by implementing various strategies and initiatives like the “Mentor Me Women” program, which empowers women to excel in their personal and professional lives. Leadership and Business Coaching deliver valuable guidance and support to individuals and organisations seeking to thrive in their respective fields. Through engaging Keynote Speaking engagements, I can share insights and inspire others with my experiences and knowledge. Additionally, my book, ‘Leader By Design’ serves as a valuable resource for individuals looking to enhance their life and leadership.

Colleen  Callander

CG: What variations would Colleen  Callander the leader like to see over the years?

CC: The traditional leadership approach, with its focus on status, power, and control, is no longer effective. Instead, I promote a new era of leadership based on kindness, compassion, authenticity, collaboration, and trust. This approach encourages people to choose to follow a leader, fosters a safe environment where individuals can speak up and contribute innovative ideas, and prioritises the well-being of all team members.

I advocate for changing the rules of leadership. I envision a world that embraces inclusivity, equality, and diversity, where women hold more senior leadership positions and the gender pay gap is bridged.

In this world, women feel empowered to share their voices, challenge the status quo, and feel safe and supported and where kindness is seen as a strength, not a weakness. Leading with kindness is a core value for me, both in my professional and personal life. I have always strived to create a workplace where people feel safe, supported, and confident to challenge the norm and bring their authentic selves to work. By setting clear expectations, establishing boundaries, and providing honest and open feedback, leaders can create an environment that nurtures connection, fulfilment, and success.

Success holds different meanings for different individuals. While some associate it with wealth, others view it as freedom or power. I define success as leaving a positive mark on this world. My goal is to challenge the status quo, empower women to find their voice and foster genuine confidence. I strive for more women to have equal opportunities and representation. In my view, leadership means making a positive difference in the lives of others, inspiring them to lead with confidence both in business and in life, enabling them to reach their full potential.

Success, for me, also begins at home. As a parent to three remarkable individuals, I have the privilege of guiding them in shaping their values, discovering their purpose, and evolving into compassionate and caring individuals. By instilling these qualities, I aim to empower them to make positive impacts on those around them through their unique passions.

-Colleen  Callander