Award-winning journalist and author Leigh Sales has offered a candid insight into her life and career and what it has taught her about leadership, human nature and the power of community during CCIWA’s third Reset 2022 event.
In one of her first public appearances since leaving flagship ABC current affairs program 7.30 in July, Sales told a captivated room at Fraser’s Kings Park about her experiences interviewing everyone from prime ministers to celebrities such as Paul McCartney and Harrison Ford and ordinary people in extraordinary situations.
“Do I get nervous? Of course I do,” she said, before admitting that her nerves had made her physically ill before some of her biggest interviews.
But she had also learned over time that “the anticipation of doing something really scary is usually far worse than the actual doing of it”.
Sales’ distinguished career has taken her from Channel 9 in Brisbane to numerous roles at the ABC, including Washington Correspondent covering major events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and host of 7.30 for 12 years before deciding to leave the program and take a six-month break to “reset”.
She has also written two books, and co-hosts a popular podcast with fellow journalist Annabel Crabb called Chat 10 Looks 3 — all while raising two boys aged 8 and 10 as a single mother.
“If you want to be operating within the limits of your potential and pushing yourself to try new things and do interesting things, you don’t only have to be prepared for failure, you also have to embrace the feeling of being quite uncomfortable a fair bit of the time,” Sales said.
“That’s because pushing the boundaries of your capability is an uncomfortable place to be.”
Sales described how she has overcome adversity, including intense criticism on social media over the years, by concentrating on linking in with “people who care about you as well, and not the opinions of strangers”.
She also told how her first boss’ remarks that she didn’t have “the looks or voice for a career on television” drove her to prove him wrong, but also provided a life lesson that it was up to her to either take it personally or believe in herself.
“That’s an active decision I think that all of us can make, whether to actually take somebody else’s words on board and let them define you,” she said.
Sales said one of the most overlooked aspects of life was luck, and believed that often “life is not fair”.
“I think that genuinely if every business leader, if every politician understood that we would have a different society,” she said.
She added: “Why do we never talk about having a better character and being a better person?” “All these values of these people I’m talking about: generosity, kindness, loyalty, giving back to the community, integrity, showing goodwill … we just don’t talk about stuff like that very often these days.”
Her advice was “do what you say you’re going to do” to gain and maintain people’s trust.
Sales ended her keynote by sharing two pieces of wisdom from her life so far: kindness really mattered, and that ordinary days “aren’t so ordinary at all” and “it’s hindsight that can make them quite magical”.
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