A message from yLead CEO, Bel Yorston
yLead is unlike any community I’ve ever known. Our organisation means so much to so many, and has contributed to the person I am today, teaching me the skills I need to live and lead.
The Tree of Opportunity
On my very first full-time day at yLead, Monday 14th February 2011, I placed on my desk a steel structured tree and named it the ‘Tree of Opportunity’. On its branches hung handwritten notes that celebrated the specific friendships, travel experiences, opportunities and life lessons afforded to me because of my time involved in yLead.
Back then, I’d been with yLead only a few years as a volunteer. If I were to write these notes today, at the end of a thirteen-year tenure, the steel branches would bend from the weight of the immeasurable list of opportunities that I have experienced. I know many of you in the yLead community can relate and I encourage you to consider the impact that yLead has had on your life too – whether you are involved as a program participant, educator, volunteer, contractor or staff member.
I met yLead at Alexandra Hills State High School in 2002, when I attended the Australian Student Leadership Conference as school captain. In 2011, I joined yLead HQ as a full-time team member, working in a half-half role of sales and facilitation – combining my previous career skills in sales (from real estate) and performance (as a professional dancer) – to support our mission to impact as many young people as possible across Australia and New Zealand.
In 2018, I embraced the opportunity to step into a higher leadership role and took on the position of CEO of yLead. I’d like to thank those of you who were there by my side at this time. It is you I think of when I share…
My time at yLead has come to an end.
Together, the organisation and I have witnessed the profound experiences of exploration and growth. Each opportunity to deliver enables young leaders the chance to unlock their skills and confidence to lead. Each opportunity our team embraces takes our organisation from strength to strength.
Leadership, Life, Legacy
Handing over the custodianship of the organisation, having successfully fought and protected its future, is a moment of great pride for me.
Our recent celebration at ‘Back in Black’ was an intentional evening of legacy, which has been beautifully documented in this blog. It was an evening to celebrate yLead’s enduring spirit and resilience. I am proud that I have had the strength, bravery, grit and courage to lead and keep showing up, even when it was lonely, tough and hard.
Together, yLead and I have been through many phases. This chapter will no doubt become my most memorable.
I am not leaving because I have somewhere to go…
I am leaving because I have learnt that true leadership is building something to a place where you can slip out the backdoor without anyone noticing…
And that is where our community and business stand today. It is a huge honour, therefore, to be able to make the announcement of yLead’s new leadership.
Announcing yLead’s New CEO – Zoe Meredith-Brown
Zoe is a force to be reckoned with. Graduating from St John’s Anglican College, Queensland in 2015, her yLead journey commenced a few years prior. I vividly remember facilitating a day at her school, and her Deputy Principal, Robern Hinchliffe, pulling me aside to tell me: ‘that girl has something special’. Of course, Robern was right!
Our recent celebration of Zoe’s five years of service at yLead was an affirmation of her connection to our community and the capability of her skills and confidence to lead. In just five years, Zoe has developed faster than any facilitator we have witnessed and had exposure to nearly every role in our business.
Under her direction during the last eight weeks while I have been on long service leave, HQ has witnessed Zoe step into her power, reignite a deep motivation, and discover a new level of organisation that will continue to serve yLead into the future. Her facilitation is fearless, and she brings the energy and zest that our organisation needs.
This certainly has not been an overnight decision – for either of us. I want to thank Zo for all the bold conversations we have had along the way, the tears we have shared and the strategic dreaming we have made time for.
Leading yLead takes courage, passion, a deep-seated purpose, and a knowing that you are working for something bigger than yourself. Zoe has all of that and so much more! We are all behind her cheering her on, not just for us, but for the thousands of young people yet to discover the magic of yLead.
“This transition is exciting because at yLead we walk the talk. I am excited to respect the best of the past and honour the sacrifices of the leaders before me, knowing that the team and community around me has my back, encouraging me to add in my own flavour and lead authentically.” – Zoe
Announcing yLead’s New CFO – Martin Livingstone
Behind every successful business is a strong financial backbone. And although we are a registered charity, yLead is no different. Next week we celebrate having Marty on our team for twelve months. I pinch myself when I think of this, because it feels like he has been with us forever. His skill and drive to ‘Be Better Tomorrow Than We Are Today’ is executed in every financial report or end of month review he forwards to Zoe and me.
Without financial sustainability, we cannot reach and impact as many young people as we do. So, it is with a genuine and heartfelt thank you that I announce Marty has taken on additional commitment and responsibility with a promotion to Chief Financial Officer to be by Zoe’s side.
“I can’t wait to see Zoe flourish in her new role as CEO and continuing to empower students all around Australia and New Zealand. yLead has been strong for many years and we look set to continue the innovation and growth into the future with Zoe’s leadership.” – Marty
A Smooth Transition Has Already Begun
This transition has been developing for some time, which has allowed me great opportunity to mentor Zoe and pass over responsibilities in staggered stages. For the last eight weeks, yLead HQ has been running successfully under the leadership of Zoe Meredith-Brown and Martin Livingstone.
From July to September, I took six weeks’ long service leave. This opportunity provided Zoe with a chance to step up, resulting in a seamless transition and continuity for our team. The merged skills and experience that Zoe and Marty hold – alongside their undeniable passion for what we do – has formulated the perfect combination to lead our community and brand well into the future.
It is a very exciting time at yLead and we are so grateful you will form part of our future!
Recently, I publicly shared that I felt ‘to do great work’ is not enough; rather, the goal should be ‘to do great work alongside great people’. Our current committed team at yLead HQ are no exception. Cealè, George, Jack, Jon, Josh, Kris and Sarah have been pillars of support and strength through all the planning of this transition, allowing business to carry on as normal and for the smoothest CEO transition I could ever have hoped for.
For a long time, I have been concerned about the success of my leadership, basing it solely on the reliance of a comprehensive and seamless succession. Which means that this announcement and succession plan calms me. I know the future of yLead is bright!
With deep gratitude, shared belief in the power of leadership, and too many tears, I’m welcoming this new era.
Yours in leadership,