Award-winning leader

Commander Kelly Haywood still doesn’t know who nominated her for the ACT Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.

CAPTION: Women’s Strategic Advisor Commander Kelly Haywood meets with Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Christopher Smith. Story by Private Jacob Joseph. Photo by Private Jacob Joseph.

Despite winning the award for advancing equality in leadership, she said the fact someone took the time to write the nomination was more recognition than she needed.

“I could never have imagined that I’d see my name up there along with the other state and national winners,” Commander Haywood said.

“I almost feel guilty for being recognised for doing a job I’m so passionate about.”

She will receive the award at a ceremony in June.

Commander Haywood values approachability, authenticity and availability in leadership. In light of her achievements as the Navy Women’s Strategic Adviser, it is evident she values humility too.

Commander Haywood is the fifth Navy Women’s Strategic Adviser and considers the Navy Women’s Development Program, Navy Women Mentoring Program and Navy Maternity Management initiative milestone achievements of her tenure.

She is both a mentor and mentee of the mentoring program. An extension of the development program, it supports personnel throughout various stages of their career, including broader professional development, pre-and-postpartum and parenting.

More than 200 personnel joined the program in its first round in 2020. The second round will begin mid-2021.

“A lot of us leave to have children at the peak of our careers,” Commander Haywood said.

“You go on maternity leave and can feel a complete disconnect from the workplace. I felt completely isolated and wasn’t sure if I even wanted to come back to Navy after having our first son. I don’t want any of our people, women or men, to feel that way,” she said.

Commander Haywood has a close relationship with Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Christopher Smith in order to achieve Outcome Four of Plan Pelorus.

“The passion she has for her work creates a domino effect among our personnel,” Rear Admiral Smith said.

“Whether it’s through the mentoring programs, or by enabling junior members to feel inspired to lead others, she has shown us what a true leader is.”

Commander Haywood’s personal experiences have led to awards and recognition outside of Defence, including 2013 Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year and in 2015 being named one of Business News 40under40 Entrepreneurs.

She champions raising awareness about mental health through her Choose to Live, Love Your Life, initiative.

Commander Haywood is frank about dealing with generalised anxiety order and recently diagnosed complex PTSD. She believes it’s her humanity that makes her approachable, authentic and available.

“It’s okay to show your team your vulnerability,” she said.

“There are things that I am still unpacking from my childhood and from service life that I seek regular professional help for and I’m happy for my team and those around me to know that it’s a part of who I am.

“My mental health challenges don’t define me but it’s important for them to see that we’re all human and we all face challenges throughout our life.”





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