Max’s Road to Leadership

To be a great leader, start by leading yourself


Every leader is on a journey - a long and never-ending one, full of challenges, learnings, celebrations and joy. My development as a leader has been a rollercoaster that started with learning to lead myself through the guidance of great mentors.

If you’re ever thrust into a position of leadership to lead a team or an organisation, and you haven't quite mastered the skill of leading yourself, it’s going to be one almighty uphill battle.

Yes, experience comes with time in the role, but from my personal experience, understanding how to lead myself was the first step in making my role as a leader a whole lot easier to navigate. Try to understand how and what makes you tick, before trying to interpret what makes others tick.

So who am I, and what makes me, Max Gawn, tick?


I’m driven by my family's two core values - hard work and loyalty. I’m an extrovert that is more comfortable being introverted. I love the public eye, but hate the public scrutiny. According to my wife, I’m a sucker for routine. My love language is Acts of Service. I naturally try to hide behind humour and new environments scare me. I’m a soon to be father, a husband, a son, a brother, a mate, a team mate and a colleague.

"Over the years, this skill of learning to understand and lead myself, has been passed down and taught by many great leaders in my life - my mentors."

Turning back the clock to my adolescence years, I scoffed at the thought of leaders and the concept of leadership. I didn’t want or think I needed a mentor. But unknowingly, I had one from the day I was born - my brother. If he surfed, I surfed. If he dressed like Tony Hawk, I dressed like Tony Hawk. His favourite band was Blink 182, so I got a tee with "What's my age again?” written on it. You get the drift. Every decision I made was indirectly influenced by my older brother. And as an older brother does, he also led me in the wrong direction at times. My first drink was with him and he taught me the best exit plans to sneak out at night. But all in all, I owe a lot of my positive personality traits and values to him.


Of course, my mum and dad have also been two of my biggest mentors and pivotal in shaping my core values. Hard work and loyalty, although never pushed upon me, my parents demonstrated these two values in their behaviours. I don’t necessarily remember a list of do’s and don’t, but as a kid, I observed and mimicked their behaviours. Lead by example.

In my early AFL days, came one of the greatest mentors, Jim Stynes. He taught me about accepting the person you are and the importance of being different and unique. He taught me that trying to change the person that I am is a waste of energy and a blocker in fulfilling my potential. Jim was a preacher, though his actions were impeccable as well. He helped me realise who I am and how I wanted to go through life.


Last but not least, my wife Jess. This is where I truly learnt the meaning of leadership. How to listen, how to be present, how to show genuine passion and the ability to connect. To park your ego. To leave yourself momentarily and be present with someone else.

Every leader is on a journey and to have success in that journey, the first step is to learn how to lead yourself. Great mentors along the way will provide guidance and keep you on the right path to becoming a great leader.


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