Bernadette Smyth is a CPA qualified finance professional with over fifteen years’ experience across public practice, commercial and for purpose (not-for-profit) organisations. Her love of continuous improvement is evident in her daily work as she constantly strives for the best outcomes for her clients.
Previously held roles in charitable organisations have seen her function across finance operations, fundraising, procurement, marketing and systems.
A philanthropist at heart, Bernadette is the Chair of the CPA Australia Newcastle & Hunter Branch and Chair of the Bean Counters Ball committee. She also holds a position on the CPA Australia Global NFP Network.
- What makes a good leader?
I think there’s a few things that make a good leader. As a leader it’s really important that you’re really passionate about what you’re doing. If you lead with passion, then that becomes really infectious for the people around you.
I think communication is really important and to be really fair and just so that you can be really firm where you need to be, but also be empathetic towards your staff, towards stakeholders, whoever that may be.
And I think another really important part is being able to walk the walk and talk the talk. There’s no point in being a leader of an organisation and saying that you stand for flexibility and open communication, and then not upholding those values yourself. So, I think that’s also really important
- How would you like to be seen as a leader in your industry?
I’d like to be seen as quite courageous. I have a vision for the accounting profession where we are a lot more human than we have been traditionally.
We’ve been a very transactional industry, so I think it’s quite courageous to come out and be a lot more human in our interactions and embrace some more soft skills that haven’t previously being supported by the profession.
I think, as I said previously, walking the walk and talking the talk is really important, so for me it’s leading by example. And kind of taking a stand and really running with that.
And just being a passionate leader as well. I’m very passionate about what I do and hopefully that becomes infectious for those who are around me.
- What motivates and drives you?
For me it’s making a positive contribution to the world, our community, clients, whoever that may be.
I have that approach in my working life, so when I have client interactions it’s how I can make a positive contribution to them, so that might be just empowering them with information that they didn’t have before.
And aside from my working life, my philanthropy is all around making a positive contribution through my role with CPA Australia. And as the chair of the Bean Counters’ ball committee it’s really important to me to make a positive contribution to the lives of other people, and that’s what gets me up and out of bed every day. My get up and go is what can I do today that’s going to leave a lasting impact.
- What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?
So, for me it’s a little exercise around gratitude and positive reflection. I try to every day or at least every other day do three things that I am, and three things that I am grateful for.
And it’s just a great way to bring myself back to the present moment, reflect on the things that I stand for that are good about me, and just be really grateful for the life that I have, the little things in life that we often overlook.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
I’d have to say Michelle McPherson of MIB health funds.
I worked for Michelle many years ago. For about five years I was in MIB. And I guess when I started there she was an executive who I thought was someone who I had no access to, but she’s a really great example of a leader. She’s very firm and decisive, but she’s also very capable of showing emotion and being empathetic, and sharing vulnerability with her staff.
And we had a team-building day at one point and she shared some of her journey, her career and personal life. And it was a really beautiful moment that has stuck with me and shown me that life is about making choices and making decisions that sometimes it’s quite hard to weigh up personal versus work, and there’s always got to be a bit of give. And I’ve never forgotten that.
She’s still there and doing great things, and she’s a great role model for women in positions of power as well.