Genuine leadership is a quality that very few people possess.
Despite the copious amount of people who are giving orders and making important decisions on a daily basis, there are actually very few people who have the natural ability to make you want to follow their lead.
Born-leaders are so rare in fact, that people who genuinely have these characteristics stand out amongst the rest of us, and the conviction and passion with which they speak has the ability to incite change and inspire people to think and act differently.
Early this past December I had the honour of sitting down and having a conversation with one of Australia’s most unique and inspiring leaders, and if smiling is a measure to go by, she definitely made an impression on me.
Tenacious, outspoken, and brave are not words that are synonymous with many 87-year-old women, but when it comes to NSW’s longest-serving female mayor, Lilliane Brady, these words are apt, and they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Ms. Brady made the move to a rural NSW mining town called Cobar, alongside her husband Dr. Allan ‘Doc’ Brady, and their children in the late 1960s and no one in town could have imagined the impact that she was going to have.
In 1982, roughly 15 years after her arrival in Cobar, her determination and unwillingness to take ‘no’ for an answer resulted in Cobar getting a newly built, 34-bed, not-for-profit nursing home, called the Lilliane Brady Village.
“My husband came home one day and told me that the dear old man that used to bring us veggies from his garden had been sent to a nursing home in Orange and died all alone by himself.,” said Ms. Brady.
“So I went to the people running our local hospital and asked why he was sent away from his hometown in order to be cared for, and they told me that it was the procedure. So I told that person to ‘stick it,’ and decided that we had to build our own nursing home.”
“It was a fight at state and federal level that went on for three years but we got there in the end. We had a team of 14 ladies that we called the ‘geriatric fundraising committee,’ and the whole town really got behind us to make it happen,” she said.
With a career that includes over 35 years as a local councilor and her current term of over 18 years as the mayor of Cobar, Ms. Brady is not an average person by any stretch of the imagination.
While there is no denying the tenacity and drive that she has, it’s the combination of a hard-lined approach mixed with the quick-witted charm that lets you know just how special she is.
This is not someone who was made to take orders, this was someone who was made to give them.
Ms. Brady is definitely not your average 87-year-old, and her advice for the elderly people of Australia is forged from decades worth of negative opinions regarding her own abilities.
“Everyone has told me that I should retire over the years, and plenty of other things that they think that I should have done in my life, but luckily I’m good at getting money from the government and I will not take ‘no’ from a politician, even though there’s usually some swearing that goes on,” said Ms. Brady
“Older people can do so much, but they’ve got to be willing to show what they can do. This business of sitting in a chair all day and feeling sorry for yourself is bullshit. Get out there and really live your life. Every day that you’re alive is a good day,”.
“The people that are in nursing homes who can’t get out and about, need the community to step in and help. There are a large number of people in their 50’s and 60’s who are lonely that would really benefit from getting out and helping the older ones in the homes. And these older people need that interaction to know that they are loved and valued.”
“These families also have a lot to answer for. You can’t just put a family member in a home, visit them once a week, and think that they’re going to be happy. That’s just not good enough,” she said.
While there are a number of well known negative stigmas and that are associated with ageing, Ms. Brady views these stereotypes as opportunities to prove people wrong, rather than roadblocks to her own success.
“I don’t tolerate idiots. I’m too outspoken and I’ve got far too much to do. The only time I really deal with ageism is when I wake up in the morning and get outta bed. Then I just say ‘suck it up princess,’ and then I get up and get on with things.”
“All this time in government hasn’t given me the opportunity to get old yet. But people need to stop treating older people differently because of their age. Just treat people like people,” she said.
When asked about her plans for the future, Ms. Brady was quick to point out that she does actually plan to retire in the future, and that she will use retirement as a way to catch up on a few things that she may have missed out on along the way.
“I’m going to retire in two years. I’m 88 next month and I’m still getting about flying on planes regularly, which will give me 20 years serving as mayor of Cobar. I have a beautiful family, with a granddaughter who is getting married in 18 months, so I have a whole lot to live for. I also have six or seven racehorses that I own, and I haven’t even had a chance to give one of them a pat yet.”
When asked what the chances were of seeing Ms. Brady in her retirement years; flying down the home straight on race-day on one of her horses as the first 90-year-old jockey.
Ms. Brady couldn’t hide the quick-witted humour and drive that has served her and the people of Cobar so well over the years.
“Darling, I only weigh about 41 kilograms, so you just might see me out there one day,” said Ms. Brady.
And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t bet against her if she was serious about it.
Photo Credit: The Senior – Photo: Jacky Ghossein