active CEO Podcast #21 Bridie O’Donnell Leadership Driven by Authenticity

Bridie O’Donnell – CEO Office for Women in Sport (Victorian Govt)

On this episode of the active CEO Podcast, we get an intricate look inside the energetic life of Bridie O’Donnell, changing careers, her highs and lows as an athlete, the lessons learnt on the bike that have transferred to her role as a CEO, and the mindfulness required to claim a world record. We delve into her work as a CEO and the This Girl Can campaign, leveling the playing field for women and girls in sport and her view on leadership.


Bridie O’Donnell is driven to positively change they way we think, believe and act. Growing up in the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands of Australia, she transformed her career from improving the wellbeing and health of people as a doctor in the medical industry, to being a professional athlete racing to put food on her plate, and now as an up-and-coming leader in the sport industry.

Her medical career included being a physician at Epworth Healthcheck and Epworth Breast Service, as well as paving her way to be a medical expert on Network Ten’s “The Project”, a co-host on Everyday Health, Doctor on the AFL Injury Report, and tutor at Deakin University Medical School.

Not only is she well educated, a talented physician and an astute businesswoman, but she is also an impressive cyclist setting the UCI women’s hour record of 46.882km at sea level, 2008 Australian Road Cycle Time Trial Champion and a 3x Australian representative at the World Road Cycling Championships, she is also completed the Ironman Hawaii Ironman World Championships and is a 7x gold medallist Australian Masters Rowing Championships.

She is clearing the fields and creating new pavements as the first ever CEO for the Office For Women in Sport and Recreation at the Victorian Government. This year, she wrote a book: Life and Death: a cycling memoir.

Bridie talks about:

  • The beginning phase of your life and the parents you choose, are keys to success.
  • Getting the most out of your body as an athlete and the most out of your mind as a student.
  • People who aren’t good at choosing active transport are very good at finding reasons not too.
  • Going sub 11hrs at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, but not being happy as she wanted to be winning and being on the podium.
  • Being extensively ignored by coaches as she didn’t start rowing until she was 26.
  • Going from 0 to winning the Australian Time Trial Champs in 1 year.
  • Being coached by Donna Razer Lynskey.
  • A lot of athletes overtrain, they do too much, think more is better, or they don’t train specifically enough.  
  • Riding in support of Commonwealth Games Gold medalist Chloe Hosking.
  • The mind games and staying focused for nearly 200 laps when she claimed the world hour cycle record.
  • The challenges during her first year as a CEO.
  • Decline in female sport participation and the lack of female leaders.
  • People keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
  • Life & Death – A Cycling Memoir, her recently released book.
  • Being CEO at the Office for Women in Sport & Recreation
  • Her job being in equal parts a privilege, thrilling & completely terrifying
  • Going surfing for the first time last week.
  •  “Why wouldn’t you do that?”

Active CEO Wellness Tip

 3 C’s to Success –At least once in a CEO’s career they will have a goal to lose weight. It can be a real challenge to maintain a healthy weight if you are constantly travelling, having dinner meetings, socialising with your clients, working long hours, sitting at a desk and under high levels of stress. To break the model you need COMMITMENT, CONSISTENCY and CONTROL. Commitment to healthy lifestyle is about 80% mental and without mental strength and commitment your life change is unlikely to last. Any type of success requires consistency over a long period of time, even when you feel tired, frustrated and cranky. You need the self-control to say no to a beer, calorie-filled deserts, a second take at the buffet and the burger bar. Control the forces in your life to ensure you have time to sleep, rest, exercise and enjoy the basic human rights of eating, resting and exercising. 


“As a road cyclist, when you race, you very rarely win, so you have to start to manage your disappointment or your failure by determining what impact you might be able to have through your performance.” Life on the bike with Bridie O’Donnell on the active CEO Podcast.

“Where you see dysfunction is where the leader does not acknowledge it, assign roles properly, where people don’t commit and aren’t accountable, or where there is undermining and people are desperately thinking of themselves over the wellbeing of the team.” Talking about dysfunctional teams with Bridie O’Donnell on the active CEO Podcast.

“People want leaders to be authentic these days, people who have lived experiences that can be flawed and difficult. No one wants to be lead by a person who behaves as though they have never had hardship and doesn’t feel challenges.” Bridie O’Donnell speaking on Leadership in 2019 on the active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Bridie O’Donnell LinkedIn
Bridie O’Donnell Website
Bridie O’Donnell Instagram
Bridie O’Donnell Wikipedia
This Girl Can
Craig Johns LinkedIn
Ben Gathercole LinkedIn
Ben Gathercole Performance Coaching

Recommended Reading:

Life & Death – A Cycling Memoir By Bridie O’Donnell Link
Better Than Winning – Ben Gathercoles’s best selling book Link

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