active CEO Podcast #53 Leigh Russell Diving Into Human Potential

active CEO Podcast 53 Leigh Russell
Leigh Russell – CEO Swimming Australia

On this episode of the Sportspeople Recruitment active CEO Podcast, Craig Johns speaks with Leigh Russell about her fascination with human performance, being an authentic leader, the power of mentors and diving into human potential. We also delve into how career counselling at a school led to a role at AFL Players Association, thriving as a young CEO at Netball Victoria, working with Bianca Chatfield on the Ignition Project, the integrity and duty of care challenges as CEO of Swimming Australia, and how sleep is such a critical enabler of effective leadership.

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell is an accomplished sports leader, who thrives in challenging high performance environments, and is considered a collaborative, values driven and results focused leader. She is an authentic, ambitious and humble leader who has published ‘Game On’ and ‘Every Girl Needs a Plan’.

Her education includes a BA in Psychology & Sociology at Monash University, Postgraduate Diploma of Business from Swinburne University of Technology, Australian Institute of Company Directors, and has Graduate Diplomas in Education, Counselling and Career Counselling for Elite Performers.

Leigh has held National and General Manager roles at AFL Players Association, Gold Coast Football, Essendon Football Club and CEO of Netball Victoria; Director roles at The Ignition Project and Inspired Heads; and Chair positions on committees at Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia.

She was the first woman to hold a senior executive position within an AFL Club, the youngest ever CEO appointed in Netball Victoria’s history, and is currently the CEO of Swimming Australia, Australia’s most successful Olympic Sport.

Leigh talks about:

  • Creating a career that was about people.
  • Passion of the role that sport can play in people’s lives.
  • Diving into human potential and human performance.
  • Sociology in the nature and nurture of people.
  • Being a lifelong learner in leadership.
  • Telling it like it is and having those honest conversations.
  • How Change Our Game and Male Champions of Change are vital in accelerating diversity.
  • Sport being incredibly disrupted by E-sports and other entertainment.
  • Really traditional sporting base and the Australian federated model is under quite a lot of stress.
  • Getting people smarter than you, to sit at the table.
  • Think about careers as a patchwork quilt rather than a liner path.
  • How entrepreneurship allowed her to see things from a different angle.
  • Removing unconscious bias in a high performance environment.
  • The need to increase focus on the wellbeing of coaches and staff.
  • Using the DISC tool as a language system around behaviour.
  • What can we learn from the current integrity space and what is our duty of care.
  • It’s harder to work on active and healthy lifestyle as you take on larger roles.

Active CEO Performance Tip

Travel Agility – When you are travelling you have to be agile in your approach to ensuring you are getting in your daily exercise. It’s important to be flexible and be creative with what you have available. It might be using the hotel gym and throwing in some run shoes and running along the riverside paths.


“I absolutely perform and function so much better when I am in the zone of good sleep. ” Leigh Russell on taking care of herself, on the Sportspeople Recruitment active CEO Podcast.

“Having somebody in your corner, inner sanctum that is prepared to challenge and support you. Challenging to find the feedback you need to really start to think how you learn and think over time.” Leigh Russell speaks about the power of mentors, on the Sportspeople Recruitment active CEO Podcast.

Resources Mentioned in this show:

Leigh Russell Twitter
Leigh Russell LinkedIn
Leigh Russell Instagram
Swimming Australia
Craig Johns
Craig Johns LinkedIn

Recommended Reading:

Game On –  Bianca Chatfield and Leigh Russell
Every Girl Needs a Plan – Bianca Chatfield and Leigh Russell

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